Friday, May 1, 2015

Shakespeare Read No Crap and So Should You

Let's pause at the outset to consider the grammar of my title. Admire, admire! Grammar's not everything, but it's the start of everything. Writing well begins with knowing how to write grammatically. Don't break the rules of grammar because you have no choice. Break them for some other reason (if you must).

Now you're expecting me to say Shakespeare wrote grammatically. The truth is, I don't know whether he did or not. The rules seem to have been a little different then, back in fifteen-ninety-something. There were fewer of them (rules). Shakespeare didn't even spell his own name the same way every time. He wrote, "Who does the wolf love?" because "whom" hadn't been invented yet, luckily for the Elizabethans. As for subject-verb agreement, forget about it. "These high wild hills and rough uneven ways / Draws out our miles." What's that, the more "s"s, the better? "Their encounters . . . hath been royally attorneyed." Hmm. Let's forget about "attorney" as a verb. It's "encounters hath" I find unsettling. I give it a big "nay," and I blame it on the printer. Then there's

Thursday, April 23, 2015

A Shakespeare's Birthday Salute to Will, Cervantes, and Sancho Panza

It's Shakespeare's birthday again, and to celebrate, my students are taking a test on The Tempest. Lest they be less than enthused, when they finish it I will present them with "Shakespeare cookies," decorated with the faces of characters in the plays we have read this semester.

Here is Petruchio:


 And shrew Kate:

And The Tempest's Ariel.


I went with a basic frog-Caliban in forest green.





Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Bold Plantagenet Director To Present Hamlet as a Renaissance Prince



 Kalamazoo Community Playhouse director Jerry Eaton is all about pushing the envelope. This man of the theater -- whom DNA evidence has shown to be a twenty-sixth cousin to Richard Plantagenet, or King Richard III  -- was the driving force behind his company’s 2010 post-nuclear, dystopian Annie, 2012’s all-female La Cage Aux Folles, and the controversial 2013 Arcadia Elementary School production of Full Metal Jacket. This time, however, he’s got Shakespeare companies from Chicago to New York sitting up and taking notice. 

He''s chosen to set Hamlet in late-sixteenth-century Denmark, and to cast a 30-year-old man in the title role.

“It took a while to convince the cast,” Eaton confesses. “When I sprang it on them at the first read-through, they were incredulous. Several stormed out. Our key actress had of course assumed she

Sunday, March 1, 2015

First Amendment Shakespeare


I've taught at four universities – two private, two public – over a period of almost thirty years, and during this time I've encountered some "liberal" humanities colleagues who are no more interested in freedom of speech than they are in the nocturnal habits of the African land snail. In fact, on a few occasions I’ve seen instructors take active steps, with an air of righteousness, to shut down, in their classrooms or at panel discussions, the expression of views unwelcome to them. Such teachers and scholars – with whose social and political opinions I often agree – can be vocal when describing how crucial the humanities are to the very existence of critical thinking and to the open sharing of ideas. Yet such behavior reveals that what they are truly committed to is

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Shakespeare Invented Your Name!

Hosts of BBC television programs about Shakespeare love to list words Shakespeare supposedly made up ("assassinate," "accommodation," "lonely," etc.). Sometimes these lists only show us that someone has not consulted his Oxford English Dictionary, because many of the "new" coinages actually appeared before Shakespeare used them. Likewise, many proverbs for which Shakespeare gets credit have the distinct ring of general use, like "He who is giddy thinks the world turns 'round," which is said by a snide bride in The Taming of the Shrew.  Probably the only reason we know this saying, or that some of us do, is that Shakespeare stuck it into a soon-to-be-famous scene, but it sure sounds like it was a common proverb. And it's a pretty good one, except for the fact that the world actually does turn 'round, so he who is giddy would be right, at least in this instance -- though most Elizabethans

Thursday, January 1, 2015

On Being Written About and Through

When I was in graduate school studying the English and American novel, I had a fantasy. I imagined being a novelist myself. I idolized Joyce, Dickens, Beckett, Melville, Hawthorne, and short-story writers like Poe and Flannery O'Connor. My professors, who gave access to these authors' mysteries, seemed like priests. (This was at Notre Dame, by the way.) Because of this, nothing was more ego-flattering to me than to imagine a book of mine as the subject of scholarly scrutiny, a thing deemed worthy of mention in an academic journal or book, or of critical discussion in a seminar.

And now, it has happened! Yet not, overall, in a way that fulfills my grad student dreams.

Here's the story. I was accidentally Googling my name on the Internet, when I came across two references to  my fiction. The first concerned a novel I'd written

Monday, December 1, 2014

A Rambling Discourse on Shakespeare and the Tower of London

Last month was red poppy season, with countries on both sides of the Atlantic "celebrating" the centennial anniversary of the start of World War I. The most striking commemorative image was the monument to the slain at the Tower of London, where hundreds of thousands of ceramic flowers were placed to honor the British soldiers who died in the poppied fields of Flanders and on other WWI battlegrounds.

The poppies spilling from the dark Tower like a tide of blood brought to mind the number of bloody deaths that took place there during the Renaissance. Thomas More, Anne Boleyn, Thomas Cromwell, Jane Howard, Jane Grey, Robert Devereux, and Walter Raleigh took their axe strokes there, as did quite a few other hapless