New Outschool Course: Macbeth

Just in time for October, I’m offering an online class for kids ages 13-18 about Shakespeare’s most spooky and cursed play:

If you follow this blog you know I’ve written a lot about this play before. Though this class will be more like a game where I teach the class using multimedia, games, and a digital escape room!

Me in my Shakespeare gatb

I’ll start by speaking to the students in character as Shakespeare, and tell them the story of Macbeth using a multimedia presentation.

I will then test the students’ knowledge with a fun quiz that was inspired by the popular mobile game Among Us. As you know, the game is similar to a scene from the play, so I thought it would be an appropriate way to test the kids’ knowledge.

Screenshot from the Gimkit game “Trust No One.” Like Among Us, players need to figure out who the Imposter is, but they greatly increase the chances of surviving if they answer the quiz questions correctly.

The final part of the class is a digital escape room I’ve created. I don’t want to give too much away, and you can’t play it unless you sign up for the class, but let’s just say it’s fun, spooky, educational, and challenging!

Screenshot from my Macbeth Escape Room.

If you want to sign up now, the course is available every weekend in October, and then by request after that. Register now at Outschool.com. if you take the course, please leave me a good review.

Hope to see you soon!

Summer Shakespeare Academy!

I’m working this summer with the good people at Outschool, an online learning platform for kids ages 3-18. I’m designing a series of Shakespeare classes that you can sign up for. We’ll be doing acting exercises, reading Shakespeare’s text, and making Shakespeare props Cost is $3 per child.

The course is ala carte, that is, you can sign up for as many courses as you like. Each course builds on the last one, but you don’t have to have taken the previous ones to enjoy any one particular course Let me know in the comments which class(es) you are interested in, and/or what suggestions you might have. I can’t wait to hear what you think about these summer Shakespeare courses, and I hope to see you online soon!

1. Introduction to Shakespeare- (enrollment here: https://outschool.com/classes/introduction-to-shakespeare-or-how-i-learned-to-love-the-bard-UoHH5fes?sectionUid=973060db-f857-461a-a23a-f1476203a544&showDetails=true) We’ll talk about why Shakespeare is so famous and learn about his life and career. Then we’ll do some fun quizzes that you can earn prizes based on how well you pay attention!
2. How to write ✍ like Shakespeare (Enrollment here: https://outschool.com/classes/how-to-write-like-shakespeare-0HuPq1Cg?sectionUid=4243af25-ba41-4724-82a2-61bd7c7d862e&showDetails=true) Have you ever wanted to woo your sweetheart or write the next bestselling play? Well, this course will cover the secrets of Shakespeare’s writing. We’ll cover how to write romantic poems, the structure of Shakespeare’s plays, and you’ll get to write your own Shakespearean speeches!
3. Intro to Shakespearean acting Practical tips and tricks for your next Shakespeare audition.
4. Shakespeare’s villains
We’ll look at the darkest and creepiest Shakespearean characters and see why they still fascinate us today!
5. The Violent Rhetoric Of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar (Registration Here: https://outschool.com/classes/the-violent-rhetoric-of-julius-caesar-fkMLbAtA?sectionUid=1f9220cd-8c28-438d-9799-8479494353a4&showDetails=true#usMaRDyJ13) In this one-time course, students will analyze the rhetoric and persuasive power in two speeches from Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar”
6. Intro to Romeo and Juliet – Get a leg up on your next English class with this fun, frenetic look through the characters, themes, and story of Shakespeare’s most popular, and most-taught play.
7. Basics Of Stage Combat (Registration here: https://outschool.com/classes/1120ada2-047d-4b0f-84f6-5eb4b0f7dc66/schedule#usMaRDyJ13 I’ll teach the kids about Elizabethan street fighting, and the basics of stage combat.
8. The Balcony Scene of Romeo and Juliet– It’s been called the greatest love scene of all time, but why? I’ll explain the imagery, the poetic language, and give you a chance to make your own love poetry!
9. Insults and Shakespeare You’ll craft your own Shakespeare insults and engage in a (respectful), beat down with your classmates! Along the way, we’ll talk about how insults escalate to violence in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.
10. The Iconic imagery of Romeo and Juliet We’ll look at some beautiful paintings, songs, and other works of art that build on Shakespeare’s poetic imagery.
11. Romeo and Juliet and pedagogy Shakespeare is uniquely challenging to get kids to engage with. I’ll give you some of my resources, games, and activities to help you delve into the play in your next class.

If you like these courses, let me know by leaving a comment below. If you’re interested in signing up, visit my teacher profile page: https://outschool.com/teachers/The-Shakespearean-Student. New classes will be added every week, and I’ll work around your schedule when planning the dates and times. Hopefully this will be a great chance for me to share my expertise with a young group of future Shakespearean students!

Why Among US Is Like “Macbeth,”

Intro game play video from “Among Us”

My family is quickly falling in love with the hugely popular online gaming sensation “Among Us,” which if you don’t know, is a strategy game similar to the game “Werewolf,” where a lone player, (known as The Impostor), tries to ‘kill’ a group of people without arousing suspicion. Just like the kids game in “Among Us,” whenever someone gets murdered, the others try to figure out the identity of the murderer.

The fun and drama of the game definitely comes from the paranoia that the players inevitably experience, not knowing whom to trust. Is the murderer over there? Was she the murderer? Is she lying about where she was just now? And most importantly, who is next?

Shakespeare’s Macbeth taps into the paranoia not just of people afraid of being murdered, but even the paranoia of the murderer himself!

“Lady Macbeth and the Daggers” by Henry Fuseli, 1812.

Analysis of the scene: Act II, Scene iii:https://youtu.be/Pr4KmK9eXO0

Reddit thread comparing Among Us to Macbeth

After Macbeth kills the king and he and his wife cover up the blood, there is a council meeting where Ross, Macduff, Malcom, and Donaldbane try to figure out what happened. Macbeth and Lennox accuse the sleeping guards, but not everyone is sure. Watch this “interview” with the character Malcom, the crown prince, who suspects foul play: https://youtu.be/LIWjh59oBS4

While Malcom is nervous and suspicious, Lady Macbeth is the picture of composure, and grief (at least, while in public): https://youtu.be/yFJ5HYWdeMo

Macbeth’s strategy is pretty clever: blame someone else, then get them killed before anyone can question them. Very similar to the strategy I’ve seen impostors try in the game. In fact, there’s even a player who goes by the username: “King Macbeth.” He then justifies killing the guards by claiming that seeing them there threw him into a murderous rage, and he killed them to avenge Duncan’s death:


Macbeth
O, yet I do repent me of my fury,
That I did kill them.
Macduff
Wherefore did you so?
Macbeth
Who can be wise, amazed, temperate and furious,
Loyal and neutral, in a moment? No man.
The expedition of my violent love

Outran the pauser, reason. Here lay Duncan,
His silver skin laced with his golden blood;
And his gashed stabs looked like a breach in nature
For ruin’s wasteful entrance — there, the murderers,
Steeped in the colors of their trade, their daggers
Unmannerly breeched with gore. Who could refrain
That had a heart to love, and in that heart
Courage to make’s love known?

As a final bonus, here’s the entire play summarized through Among Us gameplay: https://youtu.be/HIp9MI5jpeI

Thanks very much for reading! If you liked this post, please consider signing up for my new “Macbeth” online class via Outschool.com. One really fun part of the class will be a quiz on “Macbeth,” inspired by Among Us!

How to Throw a Fairies Themed Midsummer Night Dream Party (Quarantine Safe Edition)

Happy Midsummer everyone! Wednesday June 24rth is the Midsummer festival, which means as you go to sleep that night, I wish you all Midsummer Night Dreams! Before that though, I welcome you to party like it’s the court of King Oberon, and here are some ideas:

Background: What Are Fairies?

The story of Fairies has many authors that come from multiple folkloric traditions. The Greeks had nymphs, the Romans had cupid, and the English and Germans had…



1.  According to Paracelsus, fairies are elemental spirits that help control the Earth’s four elements: Silfs (air), gnomes (Earth), Salamanders (fire), and  Undines (water).
2. In some versions, they are household creatures that interact with humans
3. Some cultures call them demoted Angels, not good enough for Heaven, but not bad enough for Hell.

So you can see there are lots of traditions that contribute to our modern concept of the fairy, and plenty of ideas to adapt into your party!

Part One: The Invitation:

There’s a ton of free fairy clip art and fairy designs online. Below is an invitation I created for free with an app called Canva and a parchment background picture I found online.

1. Pixie invitations
2. Immortal Longings

Second card design I created on Canva.

You probably also know that I am a huge fan of the website Immortal Longings because of their excellent Shakespearean art and they sell cards too. You can buy the cards or download the pictures on their website.

Shakespearean Greeting Cards from Immortal Longings.com


Part Two: Decorations
Fairy

Fairy Dens Right now the Royal Shakespeare Company is making DIY Fairy decorations including a Fairy Den that you can share with your family and friends:

What is a Fairy Den? Fairies in folklore are closely tied to the Ancient Celts and Druids, who believed that Fairies live in hollow places underground. A fairy den is a homemade den that imitates the ancient fairy hollows.

Workshop on Fairy Dens and Fairy Lanterns: https://youtu.be/KC7CbPPIrjs

Fairy lights from IKEA

In addition to fairy dens, there are tons of fairy lights, fairy coloring books, and other fairy crafts you can find. Here is a fairy lantern my wife made using pickle jars!

First paint the jars with white paint and cut out paper fairies to paste around the inside of the jar (we used tackey glue). You can also stick star stickers on the inside of the jars.
For added realism, you can glue fake moss to the bottom of the jar. We got this from our local dollar store.
Put a small battery powered LED light inside.
Turn on the LED lights and take the lanterns somewhere dark.
Detail of the fairy lights.



Part ThreeThe Feast

Since the Fairies in Midsummer are woodland spirits, almost any forest or camping themed recipes can be adapted. Here are some ideas that my wife and I made for our own fairy themed party.

Snail sandwiches

Hedgehog cheese ball.


Hedgehog cheese ball:

Fruit wands with yogurt dip


Dessert

Chocolate GardenCake from How to Cook That: https://youtu.be/JidhdxiSsnQ

Fairy bread: For those of you who don’t live in Australia or New Zealand, Fairy bread is white bread covered in

https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/80934/fairy-bread/

Homemade Fairy bread

 

Music

  • Dance of the Sugarplum Fairies

Games

1.  Pin the tail on the Bottom.

2. Love potion: Similar to follow the leader or musical chairs. A group of people lie down and pretend to sleep. Then someone plays Puck by putting a real or pretend flower in one of the player’s hands. The Puck then yells “Awake,” and sets a timer or plays some music. The object of the game is for everyone to chase after the flower and get it before time runs out.

Costumes:

Make some printable donkey masks for Bottom, flower crowns for the fairies, and don’t forget your wings!

Well, that’s my advice, happy  Midsummer everyone!

Sources:
Tolkein, JRR. On Fairy Stories

Teaching Titus through creepy cooking

Titus Andronicus is one of the most bloody, disgusting plays in Shakespeare. As this infographic from the Royal Shakespeare Company shows, there are tons of deaths and some of them are even the result of cannibalism!

One way to capture the macabre nature of this play in the classroom, (which some scholars see as a horror comedy), is to characterize it through cooking, after all, revenge is a dish best served cold.

Me in costume as Titus Androgynous, a crazy cooking show host who butchers two people in the same manner as Titus

So here are some ghoulish gourmet dishes and revolting recipes that you can share with your students to help them get into this tragic tale of violence, revenge, and cooking:

Idea 1: recipe cards

Design a recipe card like the ones in cooking magazines based on Titus speech where he murders Chiron and Demetrius

Idea 2: Create a menu that summarizes the play:

Act I:

Starter: Caesar Salad, toad in the hole

As the play begins, Caesar has died and Saturnine wants to devour his father’s empire. Enjoy this light salad in anticipation of far more bloody feasts to come.https://youtu.be/UxZ5NOkRwj0

Act II Scene 3: Breakfast:

Lamb Benedict

Lamb Benedict recipe I found on Reddit

While on an early morning hunting trip, Bassianus is slaughtered like a lamb by his own nephews. Enjoy this sweet treachery with a golden egg in the hole.

Act II, Scene 4: Main course:

Roast venison with all the trimmings

“As the deer that hath some unrecuring wound.”

“She was washed and cut and trimmed.”

Titus compares his daughter to a deer or welkin, and in the play’s most barbaric scene, the emperor’s sons ravish her and cut out her tongue. They enjoy the cruel rape and mutilation just like two starving lions enjoying their prey.

Act V:

Just desserts: people pot pie.

“More stern and bloody than the centaur’s feast,” A truly unforgettable dessert for this feast of carnage. The cook, Titus, reinvents the term rich food by cooking two emperor’s sons into pies.

Served cold, like revenge!

“Set him breast deep in Earth and famish him.”

Idea 3: Real Titus foods inspired by my favorite Halloween diy recipes

1. Lavinia’s tongue and hands

• horrific Halloween punch with ice cold hand cubes: https://youtu.be/XLYwcX7Ud-E

• Bloody lady fingers https://pin.it/xbnfxcs4bxbhsq

2. Titus hand: Hot dog fingers for Titus’ hand.

https://pin.it/ofn6cotybnvn4n

Or this grisly appetizer: cheese hand in prosciutto

3.

People Pies:

There are many horrific pie recipes on the internet, but for a busy teacher on a budget, I’m adapting this one from the YouTube channel Threadbanger: https://youtu.be/E6U6xUl3A5M. Don’t show this video to your students because there’s far too much cursing. That said this recipe is very cheap and it’s easy. He used only store bought items and no fancy cooking techniques, which means if you choose to bake it as a classroom activity, even your students can help make it. Here are some tips from the video to get the most horrible ppeople pie you can make:

• Use red filling like cherry or strawberry for filling.

• Use excess dough for a nose.

• Cut out little pieces of apple to make teeth

• Cut holes for the eyes and mouth

• The bloodier, the better!

Bone appetit!

What to Get A Shakespeare Nerd For Christmas

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!

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For 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

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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!

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. 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:

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!

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

Here’s one more gift that you could give a Shakespeare nerd ages 13-18: A class from ME!

Go to my Outschool profile and Get $5 off the following classes:

  1. Wizard Science for Kids!
  2. What Was Christmas Like for William Shakespeare?
  3. The Violent Rhetoric of Julius Caesar
  4. Stars and Constellations for Kids
  5. Romeo and Juliet: Why Do We Still Read This Play?
  6. Macbeth: An Immersive Learning Experience
  7. Love Poetry- Shakespeare Style!An Interactive Guide to Shakespeare’s London
  8. An Immersive Guide to “Romeo and Juliet”
  9. A Child Astronomer’s Christmas!

Get started at https://outschool.com/classes/a-child-astronomers-christmas-bhmPRpND and enter the coupon code at checkout. My classes are available for as low as $4 apiece! Get started at https://outschool.com/classes/a-child-astronomers-christmas-bhmPRpND and enter the coupon HTHESNIF6B5 code at checkout.

Course image: "The Violent Rhetoric Of Julius Caesar"
Course title image for my Outschool course, 2021

How Game Of Thrones is like a Shakespearean Play

I love Game Of Thrones! If you’ve ever read the books or seen the series on HBO, like me you might be amazed by the scale and complexity of the world author George RR Martin created. He wove together a rich tapestry of medieval history, legends, and yes, Shakespeare. He used some of Shakespeare’s plots, commented and expanded on his themes, and adapted some of his iconic characters into a very rich and in a way, very modern story. Today I’m going to examine the components of Martin’s narrative that he embroidered off of Shakespeare’s plots, themes, and characters. If you like my take on this, or if you disagree, please leave a comment below! If you have any suggestions for other popular works adapted from Shakespeare, let me know and I’ll review them on the blog!

Part I: Story

Shakespeare wrote four plays that chronicle a series of civil wars where powerful families battled each other for the crown of England. Like Game of Thrones, the conflict was mainly between the kingdoms in the North and South:

game-of-thrones-westeros-map-17x11-poster1

Shakespeare’s three parts of King Henry VI and Richard III chronicle the real struggle between the Yorkists in the north to take the crown from the Lancastrians in London in the South.

kmmap_final2-toponlyforfeaturedimageweb

Part II: Themes

Power corrupts, especially those who go seeking it.

The death of chivalry and honor in favor of political backstabbing.

King Henry VI has a speech where he watches a great battle while sitting on a molehill, watching the tide turn back and forth between his soldiers and the Yorkists. As with Game Of Thrones, the more blood each side has on its hands, the harder it becomes to decide whom to truly root for. In the end, it doesn’t seem to matter- kingdoms are won and lost as arbitrarily as a game. All it takes is time, and a good player to win.

The silence of the Gods. Shakespeare’s King Lear is constantly making oaths to his gods and asking them to punish his enemies. Likewise, Lear’s friend the Duke Of Gloucester, places his faith in the gods to protect Lear and punish the usurpers Goneril and Regan. Nevertheless, the action of King Lear doesn’t show any kind of divine judgement- Lear is exiled, goes mad, is sent to prison, and finally dies. Gloucester loses his sight, his lands, and dies randomly right after he is re-united with his son Edgar. In both King Lear and Game Of Thrones, there is a persistent question as to the nature of the gods, or even the surety of their existence.

King Lear mourns Cordelia’s death by

James Barry, c. 1786.

No where is this more apparent than at the end of the play King Lear, when, just as it seems that the Duke of Albany is about to reward the good people and punish the wicked, King Lear arrives howling, with the dead Cordelia in his arms. “Is this the promised end?” in horror at the gods’ apparent cruelty. https://youtu.be/7acLWsal1FU

In Game Of Thrones, the good characters pray to their old gods and new, but never seem to hear from them or sense their influence. Osha, the Wildling even suggests that the gods have no power in King’s Landing, where the special God’s Wood trees have been cut down.

Part III: Characters

Below is a list of my favorite GOT characters, with my interpretation of their Shakespearean roots.

Direwolf Logo

Ned Stark- Humphrey Duke of Gloucester from Henry VI, Part II

Duke Humphrey is a Yorkist from the north of England, just as Ned is Lord of Winterfell, a powerful kingdom in the north of Westeros. King Robert makes Ned Protector Of the Realm when he dies, which makes him king in all but name, and tasked with taking care of Robert’s young son Joffrey until he comes of age.

Portrait of the historical Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester from the National Portrait Gallery, artist unknown.

In Shakespeare’s Henry VI trilogy, King Henry the Fifth makes his brother Humphrey Lord Protector before he dies, to take care of England until his infant son Henry VI comes of age to rule. Like Ned, Humphrey is loyal, blunt, and only interested in keeping the realm at peace. In both Westminster and the Red Keep, all the lords are conniving and ambitious, and only interested in advancing themselves politically. These two lord protectors are the only ones with the good of the kingdom in mind.

Both Ned and Humphrey are betrayed and executed by those ambitious lords around them for the same reason; they stand in the way of the lords in their quest for power. In Henry VI, Part II, Henry’s ambitious queen Margaret starts a smear campaign against Humphrey’s wife, then pressures the King to force Gloucester to resign. As if that weren’t enough, Margaret also secretly conspires to murder the noble duke. Similarly, In Game of Thrones (Spoiler Alert), queen Circe puts her son on the throne and proclaims Ned a traitor. In both cases though, once the Lord Protector dies, the whole kingdom erupts in fights and arguments for the crown on all sides.

game-of-thrones

Ned Stark also resembles the heroes of Shakespeare’s Roman plays. He is cold and stoic as Brutus, and a devoted soldier like Titus Andronicus. Ned’s dire wolf is another connection with Shakespeare’s Roman plays; the wolf 🐺 is the symbol of the Roman Empire; packs of cold hunters who depend on each other for the survival of the family.

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King Joffrey- Saturnine from Titus Andronicus– Joffrey is like the worst kind of tyrant- rash, proud, violent, and cruel. He lacks the maturity to make wise decisions and because of his privileged upbringing, he takes even the tiniest slight against him as an act of treason, and leaves a trail of heads in his wake. Worse still, he is easily manipulated by his mother Circe, who teaches him to act and feel superior to everyone else, and never care for the good of anyone but himself. In that way, he is very much like a Roman Emperor like Nero or Caligula, the real people whom Shakespeare adapted into the character of Emperor Saturnine in his play Titus Andronicus.

Joffrey

When we first meet Saturnine, he leads an angry mob into the streets of Rome, demanding to be made emperor, and threatening all out war if he doesn’t get his way. He also turns on the loyal soldier Titus, (who helped him win a war and win his crown), just because Titus wouldn’t give Saturnine his daughter in marriage. In the clip below from the 1999 movie Titus, Emperor Saturnine (Alan Cummings) is furious just because Titus wrote some mean scrolls about him, after Saturnine killed two of Titus’ sons, and banished a third.

Baratheon Stag

King Robert Baratheon- Edward IV from Richard III.

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◦ In the first book of the Game of Thrones series, Robert is the King of the Seven Kingdoms, having won a civil war to take it away from the Mad King Araes Targaryen. Edward in the play Richard III has just won the crown of England after a civil war against the mad King Henry VI. Both men were powerful warriors and used to be strong and handsome. People loved and feared him, but now the pressures of keeping the throne has literally consumed them.

Robert_slays_Rhaegar

P. 53

Next had come King Robert himself, with Lady Stark on his arm. The King was a great disappointment to Jon. His father had talked of him often: the peerless Robert Baratheon, demon of the Trident, the fiercest warrior of the realm, a giant among princes. Jon only saw a fat man, red-faced under his beard, sweating through his silks.

Jon had noticed that too. A bastard had to learn o notice things, to read the truth that people hid behind their eyes. Two seats away, the king had been drinking heavily all night. His broad face was flushed behind his black beard.

In this passage from Thomas More’s History Of Richard III, (Shakespeare’s primary source for the play), More chronicles how Edward went from a handsome young king, loved and feared by all, into a gluttonous, lecherous, sick old man, who was consumed by care.

He was a goodly personage, and very princely to behold: of heart, courageous; politic in counsel; in adversity nothing abashed; in prosperity, rather joyful than proud; in peace, just and merciful; in war, sharp and fierce; in the field, bold and hardy, and nevertheless, no further than wisdom would, adventurous. Whose wars whosoever would well consider, he shall no less commend his wisdom when he withdrew than his manhood when he vanquished. He was of visage lovely, of body mighty, strong, and clean made; however, in his latter days with over-liberal diet [1], he became somewhat corpulent and burly, and nonetheless not uncomely; he was of youth greatly given to fleshly wantonness, from which health of body in great prosperity and fortune, without a special grace, hardly refrains. This fault not greatly grieved the people, for one man’s pleasure could not stretch and extend to the displeasure of very many, and the fault was without violence, and besides that, in his latter days, it lessened and well left.

-Thomas More, History Of Richard III, c. 1513

There are also similarities in how the characters died. King Robert was killed by a wild boar, while King Edward was killed by his brother Richard, whose sign was a white boar. As a bonus, the stag that is the sigil of House Baratheon, is also the seal of King Richard II, the king who, in the Shakespearean tragedy that bears his name, started the civil war when he was murdered in the Tower Of London. Below is a picture of the famous Wilton Diptych, (Richard the Second’s private alter piece), which depicts the king and all the angels in heaven wearing a badge with a white stag on it.

wilton diptych

I’m not actually the first person to mention this connection between Robert Baratheon and Edward IV. In the British newspaper, The Guardian, the author compares several characters from Game Of Thrones, to historical English events: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/tv/0/game-of-thrones-vs-history-which-real-characters-and-events-insp/robert-baratheon-and-edward-iv/

littlefinger

Little Finger -Lucio from Measure For Measure, Iachimo from Cymbeline, Bawd from Pericles, etc. Shakespeare has a host of character like this lord of Westeros, the Master of Coin. He is cowardly and cynical, but he is also very clever and understands people’s weaknesses, especially sex. Like Bawd from Pericles, Little Finger has grown rich off brothels, and like many real life governments, he turns his prostitutes into spies. This gives him not only cash, but dirt on every lord in the 7 kingdoms. He only worries about Ned Stark, (who can’t be bought), and Vares the eunuch, who can’t be seduced. Little Finger is basically an oily politician and exploits the power of lust in the men of King’s Landing.

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Jon Snow– Edgar and Edmund in King Lear Philip the Bastard in King John.

◦ Snow is the illegitimate son of Ned Stark. He’s aware of what he is, so he joins thieves and rapers as a knight of the Night Watch to make a life for himself, just as Edgar becomes a mad beggar in King Lear once he is accused of attempted murder. He has few illusions and like all the base-born children in Shakespeare:

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He was who he was, Jon Snow, bastard oath breaker motherless, friendless, and damned. For the rest of his life, however long that might be- he would be condemned to be an outsider, the silent man standing in the shadows who dares not speak his true name.”

◦ Shakespeare wrote several characters born out of wedlock such as Phillip Falconbridge in King John, and Edmund from King Lear.

Unlike Jon Snow, Edmund in King Lear uses deceitful and cruel cunning in order to advance his position in life. Snow doesn’t try to change the rules, but both of them know that no one is going to give them anything. Early in book one, Jon learns to accept the cruelty of the world, and to accept what he is:

Let me give you some council, bastard, never forget what you are, for surely the world will not. Make it your strength. Then it can never be your weakness. Armor yourself in it, and it will never be used to hurt you.

Song Of Ice And Fire, p. 57.

🦁 Tyrian Lannister –

Obviously he shares some parallels with Richard III, with his small size and the fact that he is the most hated member of a powerful family. In fact, Peter Dinklage who plays Tyrion played Richard the Third back in 2004.

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In terms of his personality however, Tyrion has neither the cruelty, nor the bitterness of Richard. For this reason, I would argue that Tyrion more closely resembles Sir John Falstaff.

Tyrion

◦ Like Falstaff, Tyrion laughs at his physical form as a way of disarming his enemies.

◦ Both Characters are famous for talking their way out of anything.

◦ Both characters are down on their luck for most of the books

Both characters are, ahem, fond of drink. Falstaff even has a beer named after him:

◦ Most Of all, Tyrion and Falstaff are survivors – they will do anything to stay alive, good or bad. They are also unapologetic about acting cowardly and deceitfully to avoid death. In Falstaff’s famous ‘Catechism speech,’ he mocks the concept of honor and how it frequently gets men killed.

FALSTAFF

‘Tis not due yet; I would be loath to pay him before
his day. What need I be so forward with him that
calls not on me? Well, ’tis no matter; honour pricks
me on. Yea, but how if honour prick me off when I
come on? how then? Can honour set to a leg? no: or
an arm? no: or take away the grief of a wound? no.
Honour hath no skill in surgery, then? no. What is
honour? a word. What is in that word honour? what
is that honour? air. A trim reckoning! Who hath it?
he that died o’ Wednesday. Doth he feel it? no.
Doth he hear it? no. ‘Tis insensible, then. Yea,
to the dead. But will it not live with the living?
no. Why? detraction will not suffer it. Therefore
I’ll none of it. Honour is a mere scutcheon: and so
ends my catechism.

Now observe this passage where Tyrion reacts to the death of a noble knight who was foolish enough to wear armor while crossing a river on a raft.

“Good my lord,” the messenger said. “Lord Brax was clad in plate-and-mail when his raft overturned. He was so gallant.” “He was a fool,” Tyrion thought, willing his cup and staring down into the wind depths. Crossing a river at night on a crude raft, wearing armor, with an enemy waiting on the other side–if that was gallantry, he would take cowardice every time. Song of Ice and Fire, 765.

My favorite part of the books is the way Martin writes the female characters. All the female characters are dealing with the fact that women have very little power or say in their society and they all use Shakespearean means or methods to get what they want.

🦁 Circe- Tamara and Lady Macbeth

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Circe

Just as her son Joffrey has the arrogance and sadistic cruelty of a Roman emperor, Circe is a mirror image of the cruel empress Tamara, Queen Of Goths in Titus Andronicus. Both women are attracted to power and motivated by revenge. Tamara wants revenge against General Titus, who executed her son in the war. After seducing and marrying the emperor, she uses her influence to execute two of Titus’ sons. She then uses her lover Aaron the Moor (with Whom she secretly has a child), to concoct a plot to rape and mutilate Titus’ daughter. And if that weren’t enough, she tries to drive him mad by appearing at his home dressed as the Roman goddess Revenge. In short, Tamara is a classic femme fatale, who raises above the social oppression of her sex by seducing powerful men, and stabbing them in the back.

Circe is also a femme fatale, though Martin gives her more time to explain her motivations than Shakespeare gives Tamara. Like the Queen Of Goths, Circe marries King Robert Baratheon, while secretly having a taboo affair, this time with her brother Jamie. The difference is that Circe kills not strictly for vengeance, but mainly to conceal the fact that her son Joffrey is actually the product of her incest in order to protect him and eventually make him king. This is why Circe kills Ned Stark, Jon Aron, and consents to the murder of all or Robert Baratheon’s true born sons.

Circe does desire revenge, but not against anyone in particular. Instead, she wants to repay the patriarchy that keeps her down simply because she is a woman. Quote about Circe when she talks about how jealous she is of Jamie. In that chapter we get a great sense of who Circe really is. Because she’s a twin, she compares herself to her brother, observing how Jamie was given on her glory and respect when he became a knight and a member of the King’s Guard, while she was sold off to king Robert at the age of twelve like a slave or a common whore. Why, Circe asks, if she looks so much like him and acts so much like him, is she treated so differently just because she’s a woman? In a perverse sort of way, her incest might be a misguided attempt to claim part of Jamie’s honor and power through sexual conquest. Both Tamara and Circe show how an oppressive patriarchy can plant truly destructive thorns in the hearts of women, and these two queens reap that bitter harvest by cutting down the men in power one by one.

like camera Circe is driven by her love for her children and her desire and her pride and desire for vengeance. She spends the first half of the place seducing the emperor to gain his favor and then when she is made empress she uses her power to systematically destroy Titus and his family. Similarly, Circe marries king Robert and then when he dies she makes her son she then kills Ned Stark guy in prisons his daughter tries to kill the second of and

Catelyn-

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Hermione From The Winters Tale ❄️ 🐺

◦ Pious

◦ Kindness and mercy are her weapons as well as her will and devotion to her friends and family. Even Tyrion is impressed by her integrity.

🐺 Aria- Imogen from Cymbeline

◦ If it’s a mans world, pretend you are one! She learns to use a sword ⚔️ and uses her small size and gender to sneak away from her enemies.

🐉 Daenerys Targaryen- Cleopatra!

◦ Crafty and beautiful

◦ Uses her sexuality to gain a powerful man’s protection

◦ Her dragons 🐉 make her a goddess, elevating her beyond a woman and even a queen. In a society that opposed and ignored women, female monarchs needed to practically deify themselves in order to get the same respect as their male counterparts.

Just as the real Cleopatra claimed to be a descendant of the goddess Isis and Elizabeth I was part of the cult of the virgin queen, The Mother Of Dragons has a mythic power that commands fear and adoration.

Spoiler Alert

In the final chapter of book one, Daenerys tries to simultaneously say goodbye to her warrior husband Khal Drogo, and to get her few remaining soldiers to swear loyalty to her. She dresses him, she braids his hair, she puts him atop a pyre, and waits for a star to pass overhead to give his funeral a cosmic significance:

“This is a wedding too.”

The pyre shifted and the logs exploded as the fire touched their secret hearts. She could hear the screams of frighten horses and the voices of the Dothraki. “No,” she wanted to shout to him, “No my good knight, do not fear for me. The fire is mine. I am Daenerys Stormborn, daughter of dragons, bride of Dragons, Mother Of Dragons.”

This mirrors how, once Cleopatra loses Antony and knows that the Romans are coming to capture her, she says goodbye to Antony, and asserts herself as queen.

CLEOPATRA

Give me my robe, put on my crown; I have
Immortal longings in me: now no more
The juice of Egypt’s grape shall moist this lip:
Yare, yare, good Iras; quick. Methinks I hear
Antony call; I see him rouse himself
To praise my noble act; I hear him mock
The luck of Caesar, which the gods give men
To excuse their after wrath: husband, I come:
Now to that name my courage prove my title!
I am fire and air; my other elements
I give to baser life.

Have I the aspic in my lips? Dost fall?
If thou and nature can so gently part,
The stroke of death is as a lover’s pinch,
Which hurts, and is desired. Dost thou lie still?
If thus thou vanishest, thou tell’st the world
It is not worth leave-taking. Antony and Cleopatra, Act V, Scene ii.

Dany does the same thing. She lights the pyre to help her husband ascend to the heavens, taking his place among the stars. Then, she sits on top of the pyre along with her three dragon eggs. Miraculously, she survives the fire and the dragons hatch, thus establishing her as the true heir of House Targarean and the Mother Of Dragons.

After witnessing the queen embracing her serpentine children, the blood riders that swore oaths to defend her husband swear again to defend her, promising to help her win the Iron Throne. Her power to command loyalty can win her the throne, and unlike Robert, keep it!

There are enough comparisons between Shakespeare and GOt that one playwright even adapted Shakespeare to resemble a Game Of Thrones story. Below is a poster of

Play Of Thrones, an adaption Of The Henry VI plays that, as I’ve mentioned, are full of characters and scenes similar to Game Of Thrones:

http://philwillmott.org/play-of-thrones-shakespeare-that-inspired-game-of-thrones.html

In conclusion, these two works prove that Shakespeare has a timeless appeal that has inspired countless writers to adapt his stories and characters.

Benedick and Beatrice’s Infinite Playlist, Part 2

Posted on May 8, 2012

Hello loyal subscribers and first time visitors!

If you missed my earlier post, this week I’ve created a little game for you to play at home: you try to match up the songs that express a fictional character’s personality with the events that happen to him/her through the course of play. Yesterday I posted a playlist for Benedick from Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, and today I’m going to post one for Beatrice. Your mission is to read the events that happen to Beatrice below, and figure out which songs on the playlist below correspond to these events. If you want to suggest more songs, please leave a comment below and I’ll create an extended playlist for the end of the week!  I’ll also post the correct results so you can see how well you did. Enjoy the game and, as Shakespeare said: “Play on!”

Paul Rycik 5/9/12

Events For Beatrice (Match these with the songs from the playlist below)

  1. Benedick and Beatrice have a brief fling and break up before the play begins

  2. Beatrice sees Benedick again at Leonato’s house and blows a flurry of words at him.

  3. Beatrice advises Hero not to worry about her wedding, but instead tells her to “Dance out your answer.”

  4. Beatrice dances with Benedick and pretends not to recognize him.

  5. Beatrice overhears Margaret, Hero, and Ursula ‘secretly confessing’ Benedick’s love for Beatrice.

  6. Beatrice is thunderstruck to discover that not only does Benedick love her, she loves him.

  7. Beatrice is furious at Claudio’s treatment of Hero, and the way men in general treat women.

  8. Beatrice challenges Benedick to prove his love to her by killing Claudio

  9. After soul searching and after Benedick challenges Claudio, Beatrice is on the mend.

  10. Having proved his worthiness to her like a chivalric soldier, Beatrice marries Benedick.

Play Review: “William Shakespeare’s Star Wars”

Illustration from William Shakespeare's Star Wars
Illustration from “William Shakespeare’s Star Wars”

Play review: William Shakespeare’s Star Wars

Since Monday was May the Fourth, and since I got some encouraging comments about the previous post, I’m happy to review one of the most interesting Shakespeare spin-offs I’ve ever encountered: William Shakespeare’s Star Wars by Ian Doescher. For those of you who haven’t heard of this play, it’s basically the script of Star Wars put into Shakespearean verse. The writer clearly loves both Shakespeare and Star Wars, and puts lots of cheeky Shakespearean references in the text, such as Luke Skywalker parodying Hamlet as he steals a Stormtrooper’s uniform and Yorrick-like, holds up the helmet to his face:

“Alas poor Stormtrooper, I knew ye not,” (Doescher IV, vi, 1) The play lends itself perfectly for performance in an Elizabethan playhouse with its sparse stage directions and an Elizabethan chorus that comments on the action and tells the audience whenever action occurs offstage, such as when the Death Star gunners prepare their mighty laser to destroy the planet Alderon. I certainly got a kick out of reading this play since I too am a huge Shakespeare/ Star Wars fan. However, since this blog is meant to help us learn and appreciate Shakespeare, the question is, does this play have any value to Shakespearean students? At first I wasn’t sure, but now I say yes!

Before I read the play, I was a little apprehensive as I’ve seen Shakespearean gimmicks fall flat before; I once saw a dreadful production of Macbeth where the whole cast was made up to look like zombies for absolutely no purpose except to cash in on the zombie fad. So at first, I wondered, “Why bother translate Star Wars into Shakespearean language”? As I read on though, I realized what the author had done was give readers a rare glimpse into how Shakespeare himself wrote.

This helps prove one thing I’ve always felt about teaching Shakespeare- parody and gentle satire are a great way to deconstruct his plays into something a little easier to grasp. As I said before, Doescher’s play is full of tiny bite-size portions of real Shakespearean dialogue that allow you to digest some of The Bard’s most famous lines. Also, he’s following the same ‘recipe’ Shakespeare used in his plays and speeches, so I’m going to deconstruct some of the Shakespearean elements that Doescher employed to concoct this Shakespeare/Sci-fi classic hybrid. I’ll focus on the first play in the series: Verily A New Hope, but you can find these components in all of the plays in the Star Wars Saga.

  1. Iambic pentameter- the most obvious difference between the original Star wars is that Doescher took the dialogue and put it into the same poetic meter Shakespeare used. For those who don’t know, Iambic pentameter is a kind of unrhymed poetry with 10 syllables per line. Each line also has 5 stressed beats that strike like a heart beat- Da DUM Da DUM Da DUM Da DUM Da DUM. To keep the emphasis on the right syllables, sometimes the writer has to shift the syntax or add and subtract words to get them to fit. This is why instead of the famous: “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away,” the Prologue at the beginning says:

“ In time so long ago begins our play,

In star-crossed galaxy far, far away.”

Doescher’s time-consuming process of translating a prose movie script into blank verse poetry is exactly Shakespeare did when he wrote his plays, only instead of movie scripts, he took the chronicles of English history to become Hamlet, Macbeth, Lear, and many others. With all the work involved in crafting poetry like this, it’s no wonder he didn’t have time to think up an original story!

  1. Telling the audience what you’re doing- As I said last week, one thing to keep in mind when you read Shakespeare is that his plays were performed outdoors with no microphones, in an audience of nearly 3,000 people! It must have been extremely hard to see or hear the action onstage. Shakespeare tried to solve this problem by having characters announce what they’re doing, which would be tedious, if he didn’t also know how to spice up the dialogue with lines that reveal the character’s emotional state, like when Lord Capulet says: “My fingers itch,” to warn his daughter he’s about to hit her. Doescher captures this extremely well in the speech where Vader lifts up the Rebel Leader and begins to choke him to death:

I turn to thee, thou rebel. Aye, I lift

Thy head above my own. Thou canst now choose

To keep thy secrets lock’d safe in that head

Or else to keep thy head, and thus thy life (Doescher I, ii 6-10).

This passage explains to the reader or playgoer that Vader has lifted the man over his head, (demonstrating his cruelty and his strength), and subtly plays on the fact that Vader is looking at his head, wants the knowledge in his head, and will crush his head if the Rebel doesn’t cooperate. Shakespeare’s Richard III makes a similar threat: “Villain, set down the corpse, or by St. Paul, I’ll make a corpse of him that disobeys!”

  1. The Aside One thing Shakespeare does that few modern writers ever do is have characters talk directly to the audience; thus establishing an intimate relationship between you and a person who is confiding their secrets in you. The most striking example of this in Shakespeare’s Star Wars is R2D2, who in the movie never spoke at all, but made cute little electronic beeps and whirrs. Having R2 speak gives the reader an unexpected closeness because R2 never speaks to anyone else.
  2. Personification Shakespeare is really good at finding a clever visual metaphor for an abstract idea, and will write speeches or dialogue where characters explore the nature of that idea, a meditation if you will. One of my favorite examples from Shakespeare’s Star Wars is the scene in which Luke and his uncle debate about whether Luke will stay on the farm. Luke compares himself to a bird that’s trying to fly away, while his uncle uses farm metaphors to try and keep him to stay:

OWEN: Wilt thou here in the desert yet desert? Tis only one more season.

LUKE: Now cracks a hopeful heart, when by the land,

A man’s ambitions firmly grounded are:

So shall a bird ne’er learn to fly or soar

When wings are clipp’d by crops and roots and soil.

It’s really very clever the way Doescher mimicks Shakespeare’s wordplay here. Luke is like a bird because he’s a pilot and longs to fly. Owen is a farmer on a desert and is worried about Luke deserting him. We get a clear picture of their relationship from this scene.

  1. Chorus Shakespeare sometimes uses a Chorus to tell us what is going on in plays where the location shifts from place to place- it’s a time honored device in epic storytelling. Nowadays we use a Chorus too, we just call it a Narrator. The difference is that a Chorus also can explain the tone and the mood of the action onstage, so that you can imagine it in your own mind. Take a look at this passage where the chorus describes the famous Star Wars Cantina:

Now mark thee well, good viewer, what you see,

The creatures gather round the central bar

While hammerheads and hornéd monsters talk.

A band composed of aliens bizarre:

This is the great cantina- thou may’st gawk! (III, I, 45-49).

You can see how, unlike a narrator who would just tell you there are a bunch of aliens here, the Chorus describes the sights and sounds of the bar so you can imagine it yourself. The Chorus in Shakespeare’s Henry the Fifth explicitly states that the audience needs to use their imagination to fill out the story of Henry’s conquest of France.

  1. The soliloquy A soliloquy is a speech spoken by a character alone on stage. It often has to do with a complex dilemma such as Hamlet’s “To Be Or Not To Be.”
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In Shakespeare’s Star Wars, Luke and Vader have the most soliloquis and with good reason- they have the most complicated emotional journeys- Luke goes from a simple farmboy from Tatooine to a Jedi Knight, while Vader goes from a Jedi to a Sith to a father. Shakespeare’s greatest power is his ability to put complex emotional journeys like these into speeches that the characters share right with us. I loved both these speeches too much to choose, so I’m going to talk about of both. The first is a soliloquy Vader speaks after he kills the Rebel leader:

And so another dies by my own hand,

This hand, which now encas’d in blackness is

O that the fingers of this wretched hand

Had not the pain of suffring ever known. Droescher I.ii, 27-30

This speech reminds me very much of Richard III, one of Shakespeare’s greatest villains. Richard, like Vader, has his life story told in 6 installments where he slowly becomes an evil mastermind. The images of this speech conjure up parts of Vader’s life story: how he lost his hand in Episode II and now has a robotic hand in a black glove. The speech also conjures the fact that his master the Emperor is able to shoot lightning from his hands, and of course, how Vader himself is able to kill by merely gesturing with his hand. Richard has a speech where he talks about all the people he’s killed to become king, and how he now has to kill even more to stay king:

I must be married to my brother’s daughter,
Or else my kingdom stands on brittle glass.
Murder her brothers, and then marry her!
Uncertain way of gain! But I am in
So far in blood that sin will pluck on sin:
Tear-falling pity dwells not in this eye (Richard III, Act IV, Scene i)

Luke has another speech where he talks about his destiny staring at the twin suns of Tatooine, but I won’t spoil that one for you! Needless to say, it’s awesome. I bring it up because In the movie, it was John Williams’ job to literally underscore Luke’s emotions as the music swelled. Shakespeare’s gift on the other hand was to put powerful emotions and thoughts into carefully composed soliloquys that sound like music when spoken well.

So as you can see, the author’s loving parody of Shakespeare allows us a rare glimpse of how the Bard wrote; his cleverness at adapting stories, his use of verse, wordplay, metaphor, personification, choruses, and his unique ability to write characters that talk to us as if we were in on their deepest secrets.

By the way, if you’re still unconvinced on this play’s educational value, check out this link to their educational website: http://www.iandoescher.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/ShakespeareStarWars_EducatorsGuide.pdf