Monday, February 5, 2018

February 2018

The shortest month starts with what might prove to be the year’s longest monthly report. A lot has been happening with Shakespeare in our lives. The most exciting is of course that we have booked our tickets at the Globe for Hamlet together with our oldest Shakespeare friends, EG and EG. We’re so happy that we will be able to spend time together with them in London. And how incredibly lucky we are that Hamlet is playing at the Globe!

As always, I will once again mention to visitors of this blog that Shakespeare Calling – the book is available for purchase. Please help promote the book by buying it, of course, and telling your friends about it, by liking and sharing it on Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Bokus…. And please encourage your local book shops and libraries to buy it.  Thank you. Your support is needed to keep this project alive.

FINALLY easily available for those of you in Great Britain and Europe on this site:

or Adlibris. Or contact the publisher

Shakespeare Calling – the book is promoted by

Shakespeare sightings:
  • In the novel A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara there is only one mention of Shakespeare in all the 800+ pages: someone sketched designs for a production of The Tempest. Fewer pages and more Shakespeare might have made this somewhat good novel the great novel some already think it is.
  • In the witches-coming-of-age YA novel Half Bad by Sally Green the author starts with one of my favourite quotes: ‘There is neither good or bad, but thinking makes it so’ from Hamlet. In her acknowledgements the author admits that she hasn’t read a lot of Shakespeare, but this quote was pivotal in her writing of this novel.
  • The title of Anita Shreve’s The Stars Are Fire is a quote from Hamlet which she includes before the novel starts but no mention is thereafter made of Shakespeare.
  • In The Night Is for Hunting, by John Marsden, Ellie compares herself to ‘that guy in Shakespeare who’s turned into an ass’ because she was listening so hard that she felt her ears were growing.
  • In Diane Setterfield’s The Thirteenth Tale the book lover narrator, when presented with the theoretical question of whether to save her beloved books or a human life concludes, ‘Of course all of Shakespeare was worth more than a human life.’ Oh dear! I hope we are never faced with that choice!
  • On the first page of Moi qui n’ai pas connue les hommes by Jacqueline Harpman (in English I Who Have Never Known Men, read in the Swedish Hon som aldrig kände männen) the narrator writes that she has started reading the introductions of books where, for example, it might be explained why a new translation of Shakespeare is needed. Further on in the novel
    • she considers that her story is as important as Hamlet’s or King Lear’s ‘as that Shakespeare has taken the bother to relate in detail’ (translated from the Swedish)
    • near the end of the book she wonders if she has understood Shakespeare
    • and as she lays dying, in pain, at the end, she asks, ‘How can prince Hamlet’s father appear and talk to him if he’s dead?’
  • Yuval Noah Harari mentions Shakespeare three times in his Sapiens – A Brief History of Humankind
    • ‘…even if a Neanderthal Romeo and a Sapiens Juliet fell in love, they could not produce fertile children, because the genetic gulf separating the two populations was already unbridgeable.’ Well, that, and being they were Romeo and Juliet they would die before they got that far….
    • ‘Attending gruesome executions was a favourite pastime for Londoners and Parisians in the era of Shakespeare and Molière.’
    • ‘Producing a film about the life of some super-cyborg is akin to producing Hamlet for an audience of Neanderthals.’
  • In Solaris, the sci fi classic by Stanislaw Lem, Snow, one of the astronauts/researchers on the space station studying the mystical planet Solaris, says to the narrator Kelvin, about fetishes, ‘the feeling he has for it is perhaps as overwhelming as Romeo’s feelings for Juliet.’
  • Margaret Atwood’s Hag-Seed has now been translated into Swedish. The review of it in Dagens Nyheter calls it a dark comedy and delightful interpretation of Shakespeare’s masterpiece (The Tempest). I couldn’t agree more.
  • In an interview with Carole Ann Ford, who played Susan, the first Doctor Who’s granddaughter, she said that though she has taught Shakespeare, she has never played Shakespeare but would love to.
  • In an interview with another Doctor Who actor, William Russell, he mentions that he played Lancelot in a school production of The Merchant of Venice and Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet at Oxford.
  • In describing two of the main characters in Erin Kelly’s The Poison Tree a minor character compares the brother and sister as lookalikes in a bizarre Shakespearean comedy. Later, the narrator comments that her friend, the actor Bibi, would have said that the run-down theatre in which she was performing would not matter because the language of Shakespeare or Ibsen is so powerful that the venue is unimportant.
  • In the film Their Finest the minister of war, Jeremy Irons, recites the ‘We few we happy few’ monolog to pep his staff.
  • In the novel Dust by Elizabeth Bear the author uses Shakespeare quotes to head some of her chapters. Sadly, it didn’t help. I gave up after about 50 pages. Just didn’t grab my attention.
  • In the TV series with Robert Carlyle Hamish Macbeth (bought both for the title and for Robert Carlyle), some smirks and giggles have met him when he introduces himself, but it is not until season three episode three that a clear reference is made. Says the villain: ‘Macbeth, eh?  To be or not to be, that is the question.’ Replies Hamish: ‘That’s Constable Hamlet. He’s up in the next village.’ 

Further since last time:
  • Read aloud with Hal: Twelfth Night.
  • Started writing: a text on Twelfth Night
  • Watched: the BBC and Branagh versions of same.
  • Played again with friends EG + EG: ‘Shakespeare – the Bard Game.’
  • Booked tickets for Hamlet at the Globe in July! Oh yes!
  • The insult for today, 5 February 2018, in our calendar of Shakespeare insults, a gift from JS, is ‘What a pied ninny’s this! Thou scurvy patch! From The Tempest. But who speaking to whom? Caliban? To Caliban? I’ll google it. Right, Caliban to Stephano and Trinculo. 
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