Thursday, January 26, 2012

"A stage where every man must play a part"-Pop Culture and Shakespeare

Alright! A few things to update for you. I received an e-mail from Professor Davies here at BYU (he was one of the creators of the corpora found at ) that SADLY he informed me that there wasn't a corpus specifically tailored to Shakespeare that he knew of (sad sad day).

Fear not though! I'm still searching. I'm hoping to find something as I continue to search. And, if I cannot find anything I will start researching as much as I can on the Corpora that are currently available. And who knows? I may just fight to have a corpus constructed that IS tailored to Shakespeare!


My research led me down a different avenue that I'd like to share. I've noticed a whole phenomenon of Shakespeare in modern forms. It was astonishing to learn just how many different ways Shakespeare has influenced our culture.

For instance:


Who doesn't love the Beatles? I'm a big fan. And, I've learned a few things.

Like the fact that they performed a piece from "Midsummer Night's Dream" for the Bard's 400th birthday!

I also discovered, through some digging, that a performance of "King Lear" is the background radio noise at the end their song I am the Walrus:

Here's the performance they used. The lines come from Act IV Scene VI:


If that doesn't tickle your fancy, there are several MOVIES/MUSICALS that reference Shakespeare as well. Here are just as few:

"Taming of the Shrew"

"Hamlet" (among other things...but more on that later perhaps?)
"Romeo and Juliet"


If you're interested in how to entertain your family other than watching movies, there are a variety of ways in which you can incorporate Shakespeare into your Family Nights. The website is wonderful to peruse items that reflect the Shakespeare lover in all of us! They have ACTION FIGURES, MUGS, QUILLS....but more importantly for your intelligent family, eager to incorporate Shakespeare into the household they have THESE:

These kits are a complete set of scripts, "costumes" and acting directions to perform the play in your household, at a game night, or even if you are merely bored!

Shakespeare in a Box – Taming of the Shrew Description - click to enlarge

MAN! I can't believe how many different ways Shakespeare has imbedded itself into our culture!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

"Words, words, mere words..."-Grammar and Shakespeare

Last semester I took a class on grammar, word origins and the like. So that got me thinking, just how much influence has Shakespeare had on our language today. How many words did he actually introduce into the English language?

I'm currently in the process of trying to determine if anyone has created a database or corpus of Shakespeare's language. A corpus is a list of words (nouns, verbs, etc.) in a particular language and how they function within phrases and different methods of presentation (written, spoken, etc.). BYU has a couple of corpus databases that you can view by going to the website:

My hope is to find a corpus similar to the one created by BYU specifically for Shakespeare. So far I've not had much luck, but I will continue to search! Who knows, that may be an excellent project!

Wish me luck!

"I am Sir Oracle, and when I ope my lips, let no dog bark!"- Speaking Shakespeare

Okay so the blog title isn't exactly accurate. I am not "sir oracle," nor am I so puffed up as to think that when I speak people will just stop everything and listen. But it's a fun quote eh?

The purpose of this fabulous quote, taken from the first act of "The Merchant of Venice," is to help relate my learning process for this play. What I've decided to do is embark on a journey of acting out the play. Believe it or not I love acting. I was involved in acting during my high school years and I was enamoured with it! This may seem odd because I'm immensely shy. I am not an excellent public speaker (I shake horrendously!), however, there is something about dressing in costume and portraying a different person that seems to set me at ease. Is that weird?

Anyway I digress...

So, what I've done is I've gotten a hold of an audio version of the play and I've attempt to become a part of the audio production by taking on the role of Portia. Whenever she speaks I speak. It's a lot of fun, even if I get strange looks from my husband when I speak the part while listening to the play through headphones.

By doing this I've really gotten to know the characters better. My imagination has started to go into hyperdrive and I am beginning to see the production in my head (do I sound crazy here?).

I also think that this is a great way to understand the dynamics of the relationships between characters as well. I'm picking up on a lot more of the humor as well as the sinister, bitter nature of some of the characters that I may not have completely understood by simply reading it silently.

Shakespeare is truly an art form that must be read and heard (and observed if possible) in order to experience the full effect. Don't you agree?

Lynn Collins as Portia in the 2004 movie "The Merchant of Venice."

Friday, January 20, 2012

"Les langues des hommes sont pleines de tromperies"

O bon Dieu! les langues des hommes sont pleines de
What says she, fair one? that the tongues of men
are full of deceits?
Oui, dat de tongues of de mans is be full of
deceits: dat is de princess.

I love that line from Katherine! I cracked up when I read it. And it also made me think about Shakespeare's possible intentions when he wrote this little interaction between Katherine and Henry. Several of you awesome bloggers have been delving into the possibilities of what the langauge of Shakespeare means, so if you notice further in the conversation it states this:

Is it possible dat I sould love de enemy of France?
No; it is not possible you should love the enemy of
France, Kate: but, in loving me, you should love
the friend of France; for I love France so well that
I will not part with a village of it; I will have it
all mine: and, Kate, when France is mine and I am
yours, then yours is France and you are mine.
Now how can Hal claim that he is the friend to France when he is waging a war against it? Hmm...
Interesting isn't it...What do you think?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

"Tennis Balls"

Since we read the scene about the tennis balls in class on Wednesday I couldn't get the Henry's speech out of my head. Someone made the suggestion to go onto Youtube to look up portions of the play/movie.

So that's what I did.

I looked up Kenneth Branagh's movie of "Henry V" and found the scene about tennis balls. Classic! I also learned that Mrb Branagh played Henry V in 1985 on stage, a few years before this awesome movie adaptation. :) I loved his intonation in this speech. It really took the play to a whole new level for me hearing someone as talented as Branagh perform it.

Enjoy the awesomeness of Hal!

"Prave passage"-Scholarly Insight

There are just so many things to talk about with "Henry V." I'm a big fan of history so I'm geeking out a lot reading this play. I love looking at the historical background of the characters and seeing the real historical accounts for Henry V. It's fascinating to say the least!

For instance, did you know that St. Crispin's Day is October 25th? I sure didn't!

I also especially love looking at paintings and pictures of old documents. Here are a few for you:

This is a picture of the original Quarto version, also known as the "Bad Quarto" because it was a shortened version of the play.'s "handsome" Hal for you! This painting was done by an unknown artist.

Personally, I like this version better, a still from the movie adaptation by Kenneth Branagh Makes Hal look much more intimidating and very much the "dashing army king," eh?

Another thing that I've been researching is what scholars have been saying about Shakespeare's interesting word choice of the play. While searching at the BYU Library I came across an interesting article by Brian Roberts. In his article he discusses Fluellen's speech patterns to King Henry. In Act III Scene VI Fluellen states in his Welsh accent that they, "maintain'd the pridge"-really meaning that they maintained the BRIDGE.

However, Roberts states that this "accent" had a distinctive purpose and held darker, more condescending meanings. Connecting the 'pridge' (bridge) to Henry's marriage to Katherine, Roberts states that:

"As this marriage symbolizes the nature of England's union with France, and as Fluellen's words may be interpreted as commentary on that union, the union at first seems admirable. Fluellen, in fact, celebrates Henry's transgression of boundaries, calling the king's imminent efforts "gallant and most [b]rave passages" (93). As Fluellen's Welsh accent changes his pronunciation of the word brave to prave, however, English advancement toward union acquires sinister nuances. Stemming from the Latin pravus, meaning "crooked, perverse, [or] vicious," the word prave for Shakespeare's contemporaries brought with it the following definitions: "vicious, evil, [or] depraved" (OED, Def. 1.1). Thus, as prave modifies passages, Henry's entire enterprise--culminating in his marriage to Katherine--is cast in crooked light."

Isn't that fascinating? I never would have even thought to research something like that! It really makes me wonder just how much I truly understand about Shakespeare's language and how many hidden meanings I'm completely overlooking!

What say you? Do you support Roberts' theories? Do you think their interesting? What have you noticed about the play that may not be completely obvious? I would love to hear your theories and insight!

Friday, January 13, 2012

'Brave new world'-Digital Shakespeare Community

I loved the Tempest! I found it to be unique and fun to read. Having never read this play before it was an interesting experience. I love the character dynamics and the witty speakers. It was great.

Taking things a step further I came across this website/blog a few days ago that I thought I'd share with you:

This this place is awesome! This website/blog thing was instituted by the "Shakespeare Birthplace Trust" and it promotes getting into the conversation. We actually have an opportunity to promote our "conversation" to this blog and share our conversation with other scholars around the world. Pretty cool right? People even have the ability to blog for this digital Shakespeare community (Dr. Burton!).

I really enjoyed the search engine because it brought me to subject matter specirfically tailored to Shakespeare (duh right?). The search engine will take you to blogposts by contributors (each is highly educated and works for the Shakespeare Trust). It is fascinating to see what scholars have to say about Shakespeare and his works.

As I searched through the blog, specifically about "The Tempest," I came across this interesting post by Elizabeth Dollimore on the villain Caliban.

It is intersting to see how other scholars interpret Shakespeare's works.

This picture is a "lovely" rendition of Caliban. Handsome right?

'Brave New World'-Referencing Shakespeare

Alright, quick little revelation for you guys. I realized that Shakespeare has been quoted so many times by a variety of different authors. Even in America we have references to Shakespeare that extend into our history. What I want to share is a quote from "Legend of Sleepy Hollow" by Washington Irving:

"They are given to all kinds of marvellous beliefs; are subject to trances and visions; and frequently see strange sights, and hear music and voices in the air."

Irving makes several references in his folkloric tale to plays by Shakespeare, including Hamlet. But, this little piece of writing was a clear allusion to "The Tempest." Obviously, he understood how influential Shakespeare had been to people since the Bard's lifetime. I thought it was fascinating! Where have you noticed references to Shakespeare recently?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

'Your tale, sir, would cure deafness'-The Visual inspiration and Musicality of "The Tempest"

I'm absolutely loving "The Tempest" aren't you? I've never read it before, so this is a great experience for me. I love navigating the text and trying to piece together the plot as I go. And the fact that it isn't in our modern dialogue makes it all the more exciting don't you think? I mean don't you feel smart reading Shakespeare?! Even if you don't completely understand it, isn't it exciting to attempt to read text like this?

The reason for my blog title is quite simple. Something that I'm really interested in is history. And it just so happens that this play really piqued my interest. I wanted to understand it better. Specifically, I wanted to understand the history of creative adaptations that have been pursued by artists throughout the years. And boy did I find a lot! There were so many artists who created paintings and musical interpretations of Shakespeare's famous work. One painting that really struck me was:

 "O, the cry did knock against my very heart. Poor souls, they perish'd"- Miranda

Created by Frederick Goodall in 1888 this painting was part of a series of 21 paintings, entitled "Shakespeare's Heroines" exhibited by the London newspaper The Graphic. I love the attention to detail and the contrasting colors that Goodall employs in creating his imagery.

You can see most of the other paintings here:

I also investigated musical interpretations of Shakespeare's moving work. Initially, I was impressed by the fluidity and musicality of the text:

To every article.
I boarded the king's ship; now on the beak,
Now in the waist, the deck, in every cabin,
I flamed amazement: sometime I'ld divide,
And burn in many places; on the topmast,
The yards and bowsprit, would I flame distinctly,
Then meet and join. Jove's lightnings, the precursors
O' the dreadful thunder-claps, more momentary
And sight-outrunning were not; the fire and cracks
Of sulphurous roaring the most mighty Neptune
Seem to besiege and make his bold waves tremble,
Yea, his dread trident shake.
Can you hear the music in your mind when you read those words or is it just me?

I was curious to see how composers may have interpreted words into music. Did you know that Tchaikovsky wrote several pieces inspired by Shakespeare, including "Hamlet" "Romeo and Juliet" and "The Tempest?" I knew about "Romeo and Juliet" but I didn't know about "The Tempest." Apparently, it is not played frequently, which is a shame because it is beautiful. I loved what Gustavo Dudamel (Conductor of the L.A. Philharmonic) had to say about Tchaikovsky and Shakespeare:

And it wouldn't be fair to talk about how amazing Tchaikovsky's "The Tempest" is without giving you a small taste of what it actually sounds like!  I hope you enjoy!
Seriously isn't that and awesome boat in the video?!

Alright, I have a few questions for you to think about! Is there anything interesting that you've disovered about the history of the text? And, do you think that these composers and artists stay true to Shakespeare's words? Let me know what you think!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

"Method In the Madness"-Quick Little Blurb

     Alright, geeking out yet again. Really quickly, if you are trying to add a blog that doesn't have a "followers" link to it, all you need to do is copy their address and paste it into the add column of the window as shown, rather than clicking on the "add from blogs I'm following" link. Does that make sense?

   Okay I'll leave you alone now! :)

Friday, January 6, 2012

'Method in The Madness'-A Blogger Tutorial

Alright, I'm geeking out for a little bit. This post will be about the different ways you can connect to other blogs and stay up to date on posts that a published. Specifically, I'll focus on the ways you can employ the "Blogger" website to follow blogs.

So what are the steps?

Step 1:
     Simply go to the blog that you want to follow and click on the "Join this site button" underneath the "Followers" widget.

Step 2:
     Once you click on the tab, you'll see a pop-ut. Click on the "Follow this blog" button. You can either follow publically or privately.

 Step 3:
     Next, you'll return to your blogger dashboard. You can get there by typing in: and logging in if necessary. You'll see your reading list, which will display the blogs that you currently follow and the most recent updates for each blog. Voila one way to keep track of everything!

Step 4:
     While still on the dashboard page, you'll click on the dropdown box of the blog you want to add your list of blogs you follow. You'll click on the layout tab and will be taken to the layout of your blog.

Step 5:
     From that point you'll click on the "Add a gadget" link on the sidebar of your blog layout. It will allow a pop-up window to appear. You'll scroll down to the app. called "Blog list" and click the add button.

From here you'll see another pop-up window where you can configure you're list. You'll click on the "Add to list" button.

You'll see yet another pop-up window where you can add links to your blog list. To make things easy, simply click on the "Blogs I'm following" tab and a list of the blogs in your reading list will appear. Then all you have to do is click on the blogs you want in your list and hit "Add"!

After that window closes, make sure you hit the "Save" button. 

And Voila! You have a widget of all the blogs you follow available on your blog!

Alternative Following Methods:
     There are several other ways to follow blogs as well and I'll go over them quickly. You can scroll to the bottom of someone's blog and select the "subscribe" link available there. This will allow you to see updates they make. You can receive updates in your e-mail and even on your desktop! Or, you can share your blogs on Facebook and Twitter by having the link to your blog exported after you post! Further, you can also use the "Networkedblogs" app. available through Facebook.

Pretty cool right?! Maybe? Sorta?

Thursday, January 5, 2012

'My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun'...yet...'Haply I think of thee'


     Okay I'll be honest, I haven't read many of the sonnets by Shakespeare. Horrified? Well, it's the truth. But, this attempt to read the sonnets was a delightful experience for me. I now have a new appreciation and love for sonnets and I think they will be a staple in my reading from now on.

     There are two sonnets specifically that have really amazed me: Sonnet 130 and Sonnet 29.

Sonnet 130:

     This was an amazing sonnet to read. I will confess that this is one of the few sonnets that I've heard before, but reading it on my own really gave me a whole new appreciation for it. In order to understand the power of this sonnet it is best to break it down piece by piece:

The Text:

In searching out the sonnets, I came across a wonderful website,, which displays sonnets for easy reading. Here I have posted the 1609 version.

 The 1609 Quarto Version
MY Miſtres eyes are nothing like the Sunne,
Currall is farre more red,then her lips red,
If ſnow be white,why then her breſts are dun:
If haires be wiers,black wiers grow on her head:
I haue ſeene Roſes damaskt,red and white,
But no ſuch Roſes ſee I in her cheekes,
And in ſome perfumes is there more delight,
Then in the breath that from my Miſtres reekes.
I loue to heare her ſpeake,yet well I know,
That Muſicke hath a farre more pleaſing ſound:
I graunt I neuer ſaw a goddeſſe goe,
My Miſtres when ſhee walkes treads on the ground.
And yet by heauen I thinke my loue as rare,
As any ſhe beli'd with falſe compare.

Form and Theme:

     I confess, figuring out the form of a poem/sonnet takes me a little time. But, the form, to an inexperienced sonnet reader like myself, seems to be a traditional Shakespearean sonnet in Iambic Pentameter with the five pairs (feet) of syllables per line with the pattern following the unstressed-stressed pattern for each pair. Further, the structure seems to follow the pattern:


Not bad for a novice poetry reader right?

     And the theme? Well, it appears that the theme of this sonnet (to me at least) seems to a be a refutation of the generic comparisons that someone might make to describe their lover. Each line debunks the seemingly trite compliments: 'Your eyes are like the sun!' or 'You have coral colored lips!' No, it seems that the speaker is trying to delve deeper. What may seem as an insult initially by stating what this woman is NOT, is actually displaying that she is so much more. To the speaker her beauty is still something otherworldly. It transcends beyond the seemingly simplistic comparisons that most other poets would fall back on. This, in my opinion, makes the sonnet extremely powerful. The beauty the speaker describes, extends beyond the surface. It's kind of inspiring.

For your viewing and listening pleasure:

     I'm a person who loves to listen to someone speak a piece of text, so I investigated on various websites to try and find someone remarkable to recite this lovely sonnet for you. And wouldn't you know it I hit the jackpot! For your viewing and listening pleasure I present a recitation of Sonnet 130 by Alan Rickman himself! *sigh* I love this video and his voice is simply divine.

Sonnet 29:

     I was blown away by this sonnet. As I was reading it I couldn't help but identify with those emotions and feelings within the text. I loved it. I may or may not have swooned just a little bit....

Anyway I digress...

Traditional Text:

     I went to the same website mentioned above and read the sonnet in the original form. I really love doing this.

The 1609 Quarto Version
When in diſgrace with Fortune and mens eyes,
I all alone beweepe my out-caſt ſtate,
And trouble deafe heauen with my bootleſſe cries,
And looke vpon my ſelfe and curſe my fate.
Wiſhing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featur'd like him,like him with friends poſſeſt,
Deſiring this mans art,and that mans skope,
With what I moſt inioy contented leaſt,
Yet in theſe thoughts my ſelfe almoft deſpiſing,
Haplye I thinke on thee, and then my ſtate,
(Like to the Larke at breake of daye ariſing)
From ſullen earth ſings himns at Heauens gate,
For thy ſweet loue remembred ſuch welth brings,
That then I skorne to change my ſtate with Kings.

Form and Theme:

     The form for this particular sonnet kind of threw me for a loop. I noticed a few things about it. For instance, while the sonnet is written in Iambic Pentameter, there seems to be a slight variation taken to it. If you notice, the word 'state' is mentioned more than once. This alters the rhyme scheme to make it look like this:


     This structure does something really interesting. When reading the sonnet, I noticed that there seems to be a poem within a poem here. The use of 'state' (though defining different things) allows for a rhyme scheme to lace itself throughout a the larger rhyme scheme. Powerful stuff guys!
     I'm also inclined to think that Shakespeare used the word 'state' to show a comparison between two different thought processes. This in turn lends itself to the theme of the sonnet, which would be the contemplation of two very powerful emotions: sadness/longing as well as joy/love. The structure and form shows the shift in these two ideals as the speaker contemplates his misfortunes and disgrace, only to recall fondly at the end the joy he feels because of another and how he would not change his 'state with kings.' This seems to be Shakespeare's attempt at displaying the power of emotional connections to a person's perspective.


     Yep, you read it right! I love music and I puruse Youtube quite often. Fortunately for me I found this amazing video that combined two of my favorite things: music and Mr. Darcy. *sigh* Rufus Wainwright performed Sonnet 29 to music and some genius created an utterly fabulous video of scenes from the most recent film adaptation of "Pride and Prejudice." My hopelessly romantic side died a little from sheer joy.

"In Time we Hate That Which We Often Fear"

     Shakespeare can be intimidating! But, just because it is intimidating, we should not fear it. The difficulty we may have in understanding something should clue us into the importance of Shakespeare. Nothing easy is ever as memorable as the moment when the sonnets start to click or when we feel a connection to characters such as Hamlet or Othello and we find ourselves wrapped up in the themes and settings and plots.
     I love Shakespeare. I don't understand it completely but I love it. There are so many people I know that despise the difficulty of texts or claim that there is nothing of significance in his plays or poetry. I believe their dislike stems, partially, from the mere fact that they are afraid. Tackling Shakespeare is no easy task! But, it can be done. Don't fear the task! Rather, tackle it head on and embrace the learning process.
     The goal of this blog is to share my attempts to understand Shakespeare, his life, his works, and how he has influenced people through the ages. Why hasn't his popularity subsided? Those are all difficult questions that I hope to gain answers to as I read, research, observe and listen to the thoughts of others.

Let the challenge begin!