May the Fourth Be WIth thee- here’s why Falstaff is like Boba Fett

In 1978, a “holiday special’ was released under the Star Wars umbrella. Today it is universally panned as the worst Star Wars product ever conceived. It is tonally completely different from Star Wars and it spends most of its time either in a bar on Tatooine or on Kashik with Chewbacca’s family; characters we don’t know, can’t understand, and have no influence on the larger Star Wars Universe!

The only bright spot in this tragic black hole of a time-wasting special, (at least according to most of the internet), was that this special brought back the character of Boba Fett, the cool, anti-heroic bounty hunter who is constantly deceiving our heroes. As you can see, they changed the format into a cartoon, so that’s a little bizarre, but it was nice to see an old friend in this otherwise who’s who of lame new characters.

THIS WAS NOT A NEW IDEA, EVEN FOR 1978,

In around 1598 (allegedly), Queen Elizabeth the first asked William Shakespeare to write a comedy about Sir John Falstaff, the fat cowardly comic center of the Henry IV plays. The Queen wanted to see a comedy about Falstaff in love, which Shakespeare allegedly completed in a few short weeks.

Ant the result, was the Star Wars Holiday Special of the Shakespearean Cannon.

Unlike Henry IV, which is a complex history play about rebels going up against an empire (Henry IV claimed part of France so that counts :), Merry Wives a silly comedy set in the country town of Windsor. Just like the Holiday Special, Shakespeare’s comedy has a totally different tone than the other plays that feature Falstaff.

I think Shakespeare wisely didn’t try to make Falstaff a romantic figure- that would be absolute character assassination. What he does instead is take Falstaff’s ability to sweet-talk women and his penchant for thievery, and make the play about his attempts to seduce two virtuous housewives and steal their money. Just like how Boba Fett was not changed into a good-guy to pander to audiences (yet), but instead, Lucas made him a cunning deceiver who tries to sell out our heroes to Darth Vader.

Though Falstaff himself works within the context of the play, most of the new comic characters are very dated and not very funny. Dr. Caius and the Welshman are written with outrageous accents making them as incomprehensible as alien bit players in Star Wars. Frankly, I’d rather kiss a Wookie than listen to these losers try to woo Mistress Page’s daughter. It’s like Shakespeare cut and pasted the worst scenes from Taming Of The Shrew and added a French accent.

Even more boring are the scenes at the Garter Inn- a place that must’ve had significance for knights in the 1590s, but nowadays is somewhat forgettable, (like the Cantina, deal with it NERDS!)

The one really good part of the play is this scene in Act II, Scene I where Mistress Page and Mistress Ford simultaneously receive letters of “love,” (which really means ‘I want sex and your money), from Falstaff. The ladies are incensed for a couple of really good reasons:

A. It’s Falstaff- a fat, old, penniless knight who is well known as a drunk.

B. They’re already married, and he has the pudding guts to assume they’d betray their husbands.

C. If they were to cheat on their husbands, THEY WOULDN’T DO IT WITH FALSTAFF

D. The love poem he writes them is terrible. If he wanted these virtuous wives to cheat on their husbands for someone as completely undeserving as him, he could’ve at least put some effort into it!

I would also argue that the worst thing about the Holiday Special became the best thing about Merry Wives: the songs!

The most egregious change to the tone of Star Wars that the Holiday Special made was putting in a bunch of terrible musical performances by people like Jefferson Starship (get it?) to make the special more of a variety show with the Star Wars characters slapped on top of it like a sticker on a lunch box. Now we know what it sounds like when Princess Leia sings a song that clearly required a second draft:

Luckily for Shakespeare, instead of Jefferson Starship, he got opera composer Otto Nikoli, who saved this mostly terrible play by turning it into a charming opera! Look at this duet from Act I!

A lot of the more absurd plot points of Merry Wives work extremely well as musical comedy shtick, and Falstaff himself works very well as a big basso profundo

So if you go to see Merry Wives, know that it’s not a very good play by Shakespearean standards. It’s silly, kind of pointless, and not a very good addition to the story of Falstaff, but much like the Star Wars Holiday Special, it’s sure to make you laugh:

What Shakespeare play are you?

I found this awesome flowchart/ personality quiz on the website goodreads.com that helps you determine what is your perfect Shakespeare play:

Which Shakespeare play Should I Read from Goodreads.org

https://www.goodreads.com/blog/show/415-what-shakespeare-play-should-i-read-an-infographic

So now I want to hear from you! I want you to take the quiz and tell me what play you get! You can respond to me via the comments on www.shakespeareanstudent.com, or on Twitter at @shakestud. Can’t wait to hear from you!

2/2/22- Double TROUBLE!

Happy Groundhog’s Day Everybody. Since today is all about doubling and big realizations (seeing your shadow, meeting your long-lost twin), I thought I’d repost my old post on “The Comedy Of Errors,” the definition of Double Trouble!

Play of the Month: Comedy of Errors

Activities for Teachers and Students: The Comedy Of Errors

Have a good groundhog’s day, and remember, spring will be here before you know it!

Have a good groundhog’s day, and remember, spring will be here before you know it!

Have a good groundhog’s day, and remember, spring will be here before you know it!

Have a good groundhog’s day, and remember, spring will be here before you know it!Have a good groundhog’s day, and remember, spring will be here before you know it!Have a good groundhog’s day, and remember, spring will be here before you know it!Have a good groundhog’s day, and remember, spring will be here before you know it!Have a good groundhog’s day, and remember, spring will be here before you know it!Have a good groundhog’s day, and remember, spring will be here before you know it!Have a good groundhog’s day, and remember, spring will be here before you know it!Have a good groundhog’s day, and remember, spring will be here before you know it!Have a good groundhog’s day, and remember, spring will be here before you know it!Have a good groundhog’s day, and remember, spring will be here before you know it!Have a good groundhog’s day, and remember, spring will be here before you know it!Have a good groundhog’s day, and remember, spring will be here before you know it!Have a good groundhog’s day, and remember, spring will be here before you know it!Have a good groundhog’s day, and remember, spring will be here before you know it!

Happy Twelfth Day Of Christmas!

Happy Twelfth Night and farewell to the Christmas season!

This weekend I am offering a special discount on my class on Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night! You can take the course at a $5 discount with coupon code HTHESNIF6B5 until Jan 13, 2022. Go to   https://outschool.com/classes/what-was-christmas-like-for-william-shakespeare-BwVLyBPp?usid=MaRDyJ13&signup=true&utm_campaign=share_activity_link and enter the coupon code at checkout.

Finally, here’s a short musical interlude from the movie version of Twelfth Night: Ben Kingsley singing “O Mistress Mine,” from Twelfth Night:

Happy Twelfth Night, and enjoy your cakes and ale responsibly!

More Twelfth Night Posts:

1. Play of the Month: Twelfth Night

2. Creating a Character: Malvolio

3. The duelling scene in Twelfth Night

4. The Fashion is the Fashion: Twelfth Night

Special Discounts on my Outschool Classes!

I'm teaching two great classes today. Spaces are available!

From now to January 13th, I’m offering a $5 discount for any class that is $10 or more! You can take my Shakespeare classes for as little as $4! Go to my Outschool.com class and enter the coupon code: HTHESNIF6B5 at checkout!

https://outschool.com/teachers/c9bc565b-71e9-44c9-894a-921c472f4a37#usMaRDyJ13

If you’re new to Outschool, use the referral code below when you sign up. You’ll automatically get $20 USD off  as a thank you to use on future classes! My referral code is: MaRDyJ13

Hope to see you on my Outschool page!

Review: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, (2021)

Trailer for Globe Theater’s 2021 production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream

What do you think of when you think of “Shakespeare?” What do you think of when you think of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream?” 

    Ruffs and Tights?

    Mostly white dudes?

    Elizabethan music?

    Dark night and moon?

This production, directed by Michelle Terry, is gleefully throwing out every preconceived notion of what A Midsummer Night’s Dream can or should be. In terms of design, casting, music, and interpretation, it breaks all the rules, while still remaining true to the text. This allows the production to appeal to not only hard-core Shakespeare fans, but first time audiences and children too!

I got to see this production thanks to the Globe’s online streaming library. My mother kindly shared me a link to this recording from the summer of 2021. You can watch it yourself on: https://www.shakespearesglobe.com/watch/#full-length-productions

I would describe the concept behind the show as “Suggestive,” that is, it doesn’t belong to a literal time and place. Even though the play is set in Ancient Greece, the play refuses to be constrained by historical accuracy, which arguably, fits nicely with Shakespeare in particular, and the Globe itself; a modern building in a modern city, based on a 400-year-old building.

The music and costumes evoke a New Orleans Mardis Gras, a Pride parade, or a Spanish pinata with its bright colors, heavy use of fringes, and bright, energetic jazz music. The only people who don’t wear bright colors are the four lovers, which reflects their continuous frustration with being unable to marry the person they really want.

The show is also Color blind and gender blind, with women playing men’s parts and a cast with black, white, and mixed race actors. Terry’s direction also calls attention to the patriarchial, racist, and sexist elements of Athens which are often overlooked in other interpretations of Dream that I’ve seen or read about. Rather than being a hero, Theseus is a horny old man in a ludicrous pink uniform, looking like a cross between M. Bison and a Christmas nutcracker. To reinforce this point, the actor chose to perform one of Theseus’ most patriarchial speeches as a joke:

Theseus. What say you, Hermia? be advised fair maid:50
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, Act I, Scene i.

I’ve seen this speech heavily cut and played seriously, but never till now did I see it played to ridicule the ludicrous notion that women are in any way bound to worship their fathers.

In another nod to contemporary gender politics, the actress who plays Hippolyta and Titania chose to perform her role on crutches. As far as I can tell, this was a deliberate choice and not a result of real injury. There is a precedent for this: In 1984, Sir Antony Sher performed Richard iii on crutches because it highlighted the cruelty people with disabilities often suffer.

I could be wrong, but I think that the reason the actress was on crutches was a symbolic way of confronting the way gender politics can cripple women.

Many scholars have pointed out how Hippolyta rarely speaks despite the fact that she is supposed to be the powerful Queen of the Amazons, and Theseus’ fiance besides. Shakespeare makes it clear that their marriage was arranged as a political alliance after the Amazons lost to Athens in a war:

Hippolyta, I woo'd thee with my sword,
And won thy love, doing thee injuries;20
But I will wed thee in another key,
With pomp, with triumph and with revelling.

With this in mind, it makes sense to have Hippolyta on crutches as a result of her injuries. Those injuries might also explain her silence; she has lost her agency now that she is essentially Theseus’ prisoner. One might think of any number of war atrocious where women have been sold to powerful men over the centuries. In short, by putting Hippolyta on crutches, we see a glimpse into her tragic story that most productions just gloss over- that she has lost a war, been separated from her people, and is now her enemies’ prisoner through marriage.

I’ve come to expect high quality acting from The Globe Theater Company and this cast did not disappoint. As we watched it together, my family concluded that this was one of the best acted productions of Dream that we’ve ever seen, which between us has to be over 30 plus productions.

The delivery is crisp and fast paced. Every actor has taken these words and made them their own. They speak them as if they were written yesterday. One thing I love about the Globe is that the directors encourage this kind of fast paced delivery; with no distracting special effects or sets, the actors have to captivate the audience with their delivery of Shakespeare’s text, without being melodramatic or self-indulgent. I’m pleased to say that this cast does a fantastic job of telling this magical story in a compelling and very modern way.

I’ve shown my recording to kids, teens, adults, and my family, and everyone has a different reaction to the show. Maybe this isn’t quite your cup of tea, but the concept is sound, the acting is high caliber, and it utilizes the Globe’s unique qualities extremely well. 




I personally didn’t care for Bottom just because I felt the actress was playing a very energetic part with too much sarcasm and tongue in cheek, but that’s mostly personal preference. I did however love Peter Quince, Snout, Snug, and the rest of the Mechanicals. Peter Quince is a rather thankless part but it’s great to see someone balance being a straight man trying to reign in Bottom’s antics. and an idiot who has no idea how to direct a company of actors, which the actress playing Quince did very well.