July 1st is the beginning of a new month, and you know what that means: A new play to talk about: Much Ado About Nothing! I’ve worked on this play professionally so I have a lot of content for you. The first thing I have is an entire website I created when I was working as a dramaturg (professional theater researcher) for Open Air Shakespeare NRV. It has pictures, games, and info on the characters and plot.
I wanted to do something a bit special for the tenth cartoon in the series, so here is Zounds’ first sonnet, and the return of Will himself to centre stage.
I performed sonnet 29 as part of a Shakespeare’s birthday performance last year, and as the Zounds project developed, seized on the idea of doing an illustrated version. I just loved the idea that even Shakespeare needed someone to screw his courage to the sticking place now and again (although thankfully without the accompanying regicide). I know that I certainly do.
This was actually the first time I’d drawn Shakespeare for the series, although I’d already had the idea for his first appearance. (Which I sneakily inserted his lady friend into when the time came to draw it. I think we might see more of her in the future…) It definitely marked the point where I decided this was something worth making public.
Today, June 24rth, is the ancient Roman festival of Fortuna, the goddess of luck and worldly fortunes. I’ve chosen to use this opportunity to explain a little bit about the concept of Fortune, which Shakespeare uses frequently in his tragedies. But first, a short musical interlude:
Does this song sound familiar? You’ve probably heard it underscored in hundreds of commercials, TV shows, maybe even in concerts, it’s a song composed by composer Carl Orff called “O Fortuna.”
In Roman mythology, Fortuna was the goddess of luck, wealth, and fertility. If you listen to the lyrics of the song above, you can see that for centuries, people chose to represent Fortune as a fickle, changeable, and irresponsible goddess. Unfortunately, one of the reasons she’s personified as a woman is the long-held prejudice that women are weak, have frequent changes of mind and mood, and can’t commit to one person, (a view of women that I and Shakespeare believe to not be true). However, based on his writing he does seem to think Fortune fits these characteristics:
“I am Fortune’s fool” –Romeo and Juliet
O fortune, fortune! all men call thee fickle:If thou art fickle, what dost thou with him. That is renown’d for faith? Be fickle, fortune; For then, I hope, thou wilt not keep him long, But send him back. –Romeo and Juliet
“When Fortune means to men most good, She looks upon them with a threatening eye.” –King John
Out, out, thou strumpet, Fortune! All you gods,
In general synod ‘take away her power;
Break all the spokes and fellies from her wheel,
And bowl the round nave down the hill of heaven,
As low as to the fiends! -Hamlet
In Dante’s Inferno, Fortuna lives in the Underworld with Plutus the god of gold, helping to distribute the god’s wealth to people above ground. In the Middle ages she was an explanation for why some people have good luck, some have bad, and why luck frequently changes.
The Wheel of Fortune.
Fortuna’s most recognizable symbol is her wheel; the symbol of how luck can change; just when you think your life is perfect, the wheel turns and you find yourself on the bottom. Frequently in tragedy when things go wrong, the characters blame Fortune, such as when the Lord of Kent finds himself put in the stocks like a common thief and gripes: “Fortune good night, smile once more, turn thy wheel,” King Lear, Act II, Scene ii. And yes, the real game show was partially inspired by the goddess’ most famous symbol.
Fortuna In Tragedies
Shakespeare mentions fortune over 500 times in his plays and frequently in his tragedies. Characters in Shakespearean tragedy frequently single out Fortuna as the cause of their unhappiness and curse her as a liar and a strumpet. In a Christian society, it was a lot more appealing to blame a pagan goddess than a loving, Christian god, (which would probably be considered blasphemous). Now you see why she has become a popular scapegoat for misfortune in tragedy. At the same time, all tragedy raises questions about the nature of free will; how much of bad fortune is the result of fate, and how much is a direct result of the character’s bad choices? Edmund in King Lear laughs at the notion of any kind of fate, and accuses all of humanity of shirking responsibility in this speech:
This is the excellent foppery of the world, that, when we are sick in fortune,–often the surfeit of our own behavior,–we make guilty of our disasters the sun, the moon, and the stars: as if we were villains by necessity; fools by heavenly compulsion; knaves, thieves, and treachers, by spherical predominance; drunkards, liars, and adulterers, by an enforced obedience of planetary influence; and all that we are evil in, by a divine thrusting on: an admirable evasion of whoremaster man, to lay his goatish disposition to the charge of a star! (King Lear, Act I, Scene ii).
At the same time, the audience also knows that Edmund was cursed by Fortune from the beginning, since he is the illegitimate child of the Duke of Gloucester, which might prove exactly the opposite point of his speech. He may act like he is absolute in his free will, but his behavior and his violent end suggests otherwise. So when characters curse Fortune or Fortuna in Shakespeare’s plays, take a look at the language they use to characterize this abstract concept. The way we think about luck or fate helps shape our perspective of our own lives, and therefore how playwrights depict this mysterious goddess helps us see the possibilities of human choice, and maybe help us make better choices than the tragic men who slander her in these plays!
I realize Father’s day was last weekend, but I thought I’d like to cap off that week of posts with one final insight into Shakespearean fathers, only today they won’t be fictional! Today I’ll be sharing with you some details from the lives of William Shakespeare and his father, John Shakespeare. We’ve been talking about good, bad, and dad dads, so after reading this post, what do you think- were these men good fathers, or not?
-Bio of John Shakespeare c1530—to 1601
John Shakespeare was born around the year 1530 (exact records no longer exist). He came from a long line of prominent farmers in Snitterfield, and moved to Stratford Upon Avon in Warwickshire, in the year 1557 John married Mary Arden, who also came from pretty posh country stock; records trace the Arden family back before the Norman conquest in 1066!
John and Mary’s children
Altogether, John and Mary had 8 children (see the family tree above.)
Sadly, their 2 eldest daughters Margaret and Anne died in infancy, making William the eldest child, and the son and heir of his father’s wealth.
William’s brother Edmund became an actor, while his sister Joan took over John’s old house.
Shakespeare was born in 1564 in a modest house on Henley Street, which still stands today!
Mayor, Bailiff, Glover When John and Mary moved to Stratford, John established himself as a great fixture of the community- he started as the local glover, and rose to the highly respected office of town ale taster (no, I’m not kidding). At the height of his career, John became Mayor of Stratford, and an Alderman- a town counsilor who helped make decisions like whether or not to let local theater troupes come to town! Maybe John took his young son to watch the travelling players and helped inspire Will’s lifelong love of theater.
Teach Your Children Well Shakespeare got to go to one of the first ever public schools in England, where he learned English history, poetry, and the art of persuasive speech, everything he needed to become the great writer he would become.
Brogger not Blogger As I mentioned in my first post, Shakespeare’s dad had an illegal side business as a wool dealer. All wool was controlled by the English government, so selling it directly to people was a crime, and eventually John Shakespeare was caught. Fortunately, the fine he paid wasn’t enough to ruin him financially…yet.
Closet Catholic The biggest financial problem John Shakespeare faced was his religious beliefs. In 1757, archeologists unearthed a pamphlet where John confessed to be a secret Catholic in a society where the Church of England was the national religion. Scholar Michael Wood believes that John’s Catholicism led to financial ruin; he refused to go to Episcopal church and had to pay crippling fines every time he failed to appear.
John’s Descent At the same time, John’s debts kept mounting and he was afraid to go to the town council house for fear of more collectors, even though he was the mayor. The final blow came in 1576, when John was booted off the town council.
Son of Fortune John’s son William would eventually repair the family dignity when he became a success. In 1596, William made himself, and all the male members of his family gentlemen, by applying for a coat of arms. Below is a picture of Shakespeare’s family crest.
John Shakespeare died in 1601, shortly after his son’s play Hamlet was published. Willmight have honored his father’s memory by playing the Ghost of Hamlet’s father.
-Bio of William Shakespeare as a Father 1564-1616.
Roger Dunn BA
Wedding Bells In 1582,Will married Anne Hathaway (not the Oscar winning actress from Les Miserables, although that one has shown some love for Shakespeare too. Based on the timeline, it’s very likely that Anne was already pregnant when William married her. Some claim that the Bard was basically in a “shotgun” marriage, but nobody has proven otherwise. We do know that he wrote a sonnet to her on their wedding day, click here to read it!
Shakespeare’s Children Shakespeare and Anne had three kids (Judith, Susanna, Hamnet) Susanna was born in 1583, while the twins were born 5 years later.
Hit the Road! Sometime around 1590, Shakespeare moved to London and must’ve gotten a job with a theater company. Unfortunately, no records survive between the birth of Shakespeare’s children, and his first success as a playwright in 1592, which is why scholars refer to this period as “The Lost Years.” It was probably a tough life for the Shakespeares, with the father away in the city while they were cooped up in Stratford with their grandparents.
RIP Hamnet. Shakespeare’s only son died August 9th He was away in London at the time, and undoubtedly the news was a terrible shock.
Will’s daughters Shakespeare had two girls, Judith and Susanna. Naturally, it’s hard to tell anything about Shakespeare’s personal feelings, but looking at his plays and his future actions, Shakespeare must have really loved his girls. Many of his later plays explore the relationships between fathers and daughters, and as you’ve probably noticed, most of the fathers on my previous countdowns have at least 1 girl. Shakespeare was preoccupied with his daughter’s futures and helped them find husbands, Susanna Shakespeare was arrested for refusing to take protestant communion Susannah married Dr. John Hall, a respected puritan physician. She also bore William his only grandchild, Elizabeth Barnard (pictured below).
Will clearly loved his daughters, especially his daughter Susanna. His last 5 plays were about fathers trying their best to improve their daughter’s lives. In his will he gave his daughter Susannah 100 pounds of English money, as well as a dowry To his other daughter Judith he left 30 pounds, all of his silver, and permitted her to live in one of his houses on Henley street.
by Michael Wood: A fantastic documentary/ book/ website, which looks at the life of William Shakespeare and his work. On this website is an interactive timeline that shows pictures of the places Shakespeare lived and worked, and the documents with his name on them: http://www.pbs.org/shakespeare/events/
The good people at “Zounds, Alack, and By My Troth,” have posted this cartoon that perfectly portrays the relationship between two of Shakespeare’s most troubled fathers and sons, Henry IV, and Prince Hal. Enjoy and Happy Father’s Day!
Shakespeare himself was a father, and he frequently wrote about the dynamic between fathers and their children. There are many different types of fathers in Shakespeare’s 40 plus plays, and this week I’m ranking them in terms of three categories: Good Dads, Bad Dads, and “Dad Dads.” You’ve probably already read the “Worst Dad” post, so now we’re looking at the good, and the not so good. I used the following criteria when choosing the top 5 dads in each categories:
The Good Dads
Are supportive for their kids
Try to keep their children happy
Offer help and advice, especially on their children’s future.
Are willing to sacrifice themselves
They let their children become their own people.
The Bad Dads
Treat their children as property
Have little to no interest in their children
Put their children in danger
Subject their children to abuse
In some cases, they murder them!
The “Dad” Dads
Are basically good hearted, but they have some kind of flaw that prevents them from becoming really good parents.
In my view, are the most human, modern dads on the list.
I’ve chosen to award these dads a necktie, something every ok dad needs.
Now, onto the Dad Dads:
5. Aegean from The Comedy Of Errors. Aegean wonders around for 20 years looking for his lost children, which I call devoted parenting, but a little aimless and undisciplined. I therefore award Aegean two ties with little anchors on them, to remind him to stay in one place and wait for his sons to find him!
4. Lord Talbott from Henry the Sixth Part I. Talbott is the hero of the English fight against the French at the close of the Hundred Years War. He goes toe to toe with Joan of Arc on numerous occasions. He also raises a fine and valliant son, John Talbott who is also a warrior. The two die bravely in a siege against the French, rather than surrendering, or leaving the other to die. Talbott is clearly also devoted to his child, but his career choice doesn’t allow his son to grow up in a safe environment! I therefore award Talbott two ties with little English and French flags on them.
3. The Ghost Of Hamlet’s Father from Hamlet/ Portia’s Dad from Merchant Of Venice. Both these parents die before their plays begin, yet they still try to improve their children’s lives from beyond the grave! The Ghost helps Hamlet become king of Denmark, and Portia’s dad tries to help her find a good husband, (one who will love her for something besides her beauty or riches). Although these parents achieve their goals, waiting this long to help their kids seems a bit like absentee parenting! I therefore award these posthumous parents ties with little skulls on them.
. King Henry IV, from King Henry IV King Henry is the classic career dad, one who wants his son Hal (the future King Henry V), to follow in his footsteps. The two have a terrible fight when Henry thinks Hal is trying to steal his crown on his deathbed! Eventually though, father and son reconcile, and dad even gives the future king some last minute advice; if you fight a war with France it’ll help secure your crown, which Hal does and succeeds! I therefore award King Henry a tie with little crowns on it, hoping that nobody with a dagger ties tries to steal it when he’s sleeping!
1. Prince Pericles from Pericles Pericles is another busy dad- King Antiocus tries to murder him, and he has to leave his own kingdom. Then he gets shipwrecked 3 times! In fact, his only daughter is born onboard a ship in the middle of a storm! Pericles raises the girl for a number of years, but then has to leave again, and guess what, he gets shipwrecked AGAIN! He eventually finds his daughter and they live happily ever after, but you kind of get the idea that Pericles is a little accident-prone, which keeps him from being on the Best Dads list. Sorry Pericles, but at least you get a tie with, what else, Boats on it! Maybe next Fathers Day, someone will get you a life preserver.
And now at Long LAST, the BEST Dads in Shakespeare!
5. Aaron the Moor from Titus Andronicus. Ironically, one of the worst villains in Shakespeare is also one of the best fathers. Aaron is fiercely protective of his child, even threatening people at sword point if they dare come near his baby. He also plans out the child’s future and is willing to give his own life for a promise that Lucius will protect and nourish his son. He may be a monster to everyone else, but to his baby, Aaron is simply, a good dad!
4. The Old Shepherd from The Winter’s Tale. This character is a very mirror of generosity and kindness; not only does he take care of his son The Clown, he adopts a poor discarded child, the princess Perdita, with no obligation to do so. He raises her for 16 years and constantly brags about her to the entire town. She becomes a beautiful, wise, and modest girl who fills her adopted father with pride because of his good parenting. Even when Perdita meets her real father, she speaks of The Old Shepherd with real filial affection “Oh my poor father.”
Lord Capulet, from Romeo and Juliet. I know this was a controversial choice, and I discuss my choice in detail on my podcast, but I’ll sum up my major arguments here:
Even though a lot of actors choose to have him smack Juliet around, there’s no mention of it in Shakespeare’s text. The most he ever does is threaten to strike her, but the stage directions never indicate he does it. Capulet is clearly more bark than bite.
From the very beginning of the play, Capulet has shown that he cares about Juliet, and wants her to marry for love, not money.
Lord Capulet hovers and frets constantly when Juliet tells him she will marry Paris, staying up late to plan the wedding! I ask you, does that sound like a tyrannical father? I wonder sometimes if Lord Capulet would’ve forgiven Juliet for marrying Romeo if she had just told him. In any case, based on my criteria above, Capulet is a good dad, bad tempered, yes, but fundamentally concerned for the welfare of his children.
3. Prospero fromThe Tempest I chose this high spot for Prospero mainly because he seems to have the most success of any other dad in the cannon. Like Pericles, he too is shipwrecked with his daughter, but Prospero stays with Miranda, raises her alone, teaches her everything she knows, and calls her an angel that helped preserve his life. Prospero cares so much for his daughter that he refuses to give into despair, even though he’s lost his wife, his dukedom, and his home.
Prospero also hatches a plan to get him and Miranda off the island, to get his dukedom back, and to get her married to a handsome prince name Ferdinand, and he succeeds with every one of these endeavors, even though it takes 12 years. Prospero gets extra points for his patience and his wisdom, but I have to admit he’s a bit of a control freak; he demands that Miranda listen to him and obey him no matter what, and he warns Ferdinand that there will be dire consequences if he dare try to do anything illicit with his daughter before the wedding. In addition, there’s no denying that Prospero is also acting out of self interest- he wants to become duke again, and he wants revenge against his enemies and that’s partially why he raises a tempest, (or a huge storm), instead of just sending a message back to Milan.
King Simonedes from Pericles, Prince Of Tyre You might forget this character because he only has a short time onstage, but I defy anyone to come up with a better father. He’s kind, supportive, stable, funny, and has a wonderful relationship with his daughter Thaisa. Above all, Simonedes actually listens to his child and does everything in his power to help her when she decides she wants to marry Pericles. Also, like Prospero, Simonedes pretends to object to the marriage, but you kind of get the sense that, rather than testing the affection of the couple, he’s actually just playing a joke on them. You can hear a “gotcha” and a fatherly wink in the final line of the speech in Act II, where he pretends to object to their marriage:
Congratulations to all our fabulous fictional fathers! Thank you for reading, and see you soon!
Parenting is tough! Parents have to sacrifice so much to make sure their kids grow up happy, healthy, and prepared for life. Not everyone can do it, but if Shakespeare has taught us anything, it’s that there’s always someone doing a worse job than you. So for all you dads out there, enjoy this list of my top 5 worst dads in Shakespeare, lovingly made to remind you that whatever kind of father you are, at least you’re not these baddies!
If you’d like to listen along to my podcat about this topic while you read, here’s the latest episode here:
Do you agree with my list? Leave me a comment below! Tomorrow I’ll continue my list with the top 5 Dad Dads; guys who are good, but have modern problems that keep them from being truly great. Then we’ll take it home with the best of the best. Hope you enjoy them!
In the spirit of Father’s Day, I thought I’d give you some ideas on how to create some Shakespearean Father’s Day Cards for the Shakespeare Nut Dad in your life. If you want to tell your dad how much you care about him, here are some quotes from Shakespeare that might help, arranged in no particular order, with ideas as to who might want to use them:
Part I: Quotes about Fathers from Shakespeare
From multiple kids: “Father, soul and substance of us all” (Titus Andronicus, I,i)
From a daughter:To you your father should be as a god;
One that composed your beauties, yea, and one
To whom you are but as a form in wax
By him imprinted and within his power
To leave the figure or disfigure it. (Midsummer Night’s Dream I.i).
From a Daughter 2:
Sir, I love you more than words can wield the matter;
Dearer than eye-sight, space, and liberty;
Beyond what can be valued, rich or rare;
No less than life, with grace, health, beauty, honour;
As much as child e’er loved, or father found;
A love that makes breath poor, and speech unable;
Beyond all manner of so much I love you. (King Lear Act I, Scene i)
From a Daughter 3:
Good my lord, You have begot me, bred me, loved me: I Return those duties back as are right fit, Obey you, love you, and most honour you. (King Lear Act I, Scene i)
Youth, thou bear’st thy father’s face;
Frank nature, rather curious than in haste,
Hath well composed thee. Thy father’s moral parts
Mayst thou inherit too! (All’s Well I, ii)
From Anyone 2:
The king, your father, was reputed for
A prince most prudent, of an excellent
And unmatch’d wit and judgment. (Henry VII, Act II, Scene iv).
“To his father, that so tenderly and entirely loves him.” (King Lear, I, ii)
“You have show’d a tender fatherly regard.” Taming of the Shrew, Act II, Scene
My favorite quotes of all, are the ones Hamlet gave in honor of his own father:
“He was a man, take him for all in all, I shall not look upon his like again.” (Hamlet, I, ii)
See, what a grace was seated on this brow;
Hyperion’s curls; the front of Jove himself;
An eye like Mars, to threaten and command;
A station like the herald Mercury
New-lighted on a heaven-kissing hill;
A combination and a form indeed,
Where every god did seem to set his seal, To give the world assurance of a man (Hamlet, III, iv)
Part II: How to find good Shakespearean Cards. If you’ve taken a look at my “Play of the Month” page, you’ll see artwork from Elizabeth Schuch and her website: “Immortal Longings.” She creates some of the best contemporary Shakespearean art I’ve ever seen, and guess, what, they do greeting cards too! If you click this link, you can get some Shakespearean cards for dad before Father’s Day. Then, use one of the quotes above and customize your Father’s Day greeting.
Another option is to make a card yourself! If you want to make it look really Elizabethan, follow the steps below:
1. Download a parchment JPEG like the one I have posted below. Paste this into Microsoft Word Or Publisher as your Elizabethan parchment paper. If you prefer, you can also buy parchment colored paper in a stationary store or print shop. I get mine at Staples
3. Write your message in a neat old fashioned font. I recommend Garamond because it’s the font clerks used most often in Elizabethan printing. You can find it on most editions of Microsoft Word. Just FYI, it’s also the font JK Rowling used in the last Harry Potter book! You can also use Old English or Lucinda Blackletter.
So enjoy your Shakespearean Father’s Day cards and check back tomorrow for more fun on The Shakespearean Student!
Thanks for liking and commenting on my last few posts. I feel this website is starting to hit its stride and I have all of you to thank! This week, because Father’s Day is coming up (June 21st), I’m devoting an entire week to posts and podcasts related to fathers. Here’s a sample of some of the topics I’ll be covering:
Shakespearean Father’s Day Cards: Find some nice Shakespearean sentiment to show your Shakespearean dad how much you care.
Bios of William Shakespeare and John Shakespeare Both Shakespeare and his father had children, and both worked hard to make a better life for their offspring, so I thought I’d tell you some of their life stories so you can learn more about these great men.
My Picks For Top 5 Best and Worst Dads in Shakespeare I’ve gone through the entire cannon from As You Like It to Alls Well That Ends Well, and picked out the dads whom I think deserve recognition either as great or terrible parents. Who will take the coveted #1 Shakespeare Dad prize? Stay tuned to find out!
Join me for all the fun this week, and also check out my podcast!