Monday, February 4, 2013

Monday February 4 2013

We’ve finished Hamlet and have watched two of the eight movies. I’m thinking about what to write about it.  My thoughts are never far from Hamlet.  But there is more out there than Hamlet. Here goes for this week:

From Gregory Doran's Shakespeare Almanac:
  • On January 30, 1607, a tsunami in Bristol Channel killed more than 2,000 people.
  • On February 2, 1585, Anne Hathaway and William Shakespeare became the parents of twins, Hamnet and Judith.
  • On February 2, 1600, Twelfth Night, about another set of twins, was performed at Middle Temple. John Manningham, who saw the play wrote: “…A good practice is it to make the steward believe his Lady widow [sic?] was in love with him.”  The twins are not mentioned here.  Of the real twins, Shakespeare’s and Hathaway’s children, only Judith was still alive in 1600.
  • On February 3, 1612, Shakespeare’s brother Gilbert was buried, aged 45.
  • On February 4, 1613, his brother Richard was buried, not yet 40. William was now alone with his sister Joan, who lived until 1646 when she died at the age of 77.
Shakespeare sightings:
·         In the second half of Steven Pinker’s The Stuff of Thought there are eighteen references to Shakespeare. I guess it’s hard not to refer to him when writing about language.  Here are the most interesting:          
    • Making a joke of metaphors: “If all the world’s a stage, where is the audience sitting?” Attributed to Steven Wright.
    • In showing that our languages usually correspond rather well with the real word Pinker twists the original:  “there are fewer things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our philosophy.”
    • In his chapter about swearing, curses and insults Pinker gives this list: “’Sblood, you starveling, you elf-skin, you dried neat’s tongue, you bull’s pizzle, you stock-fish…”. Who said it to whom and in which play?  More to the point, why did he choose this among the thousands of hilarious insults in Shakespeare?
    • Explaining the “Oh Shit Brain Wave” that goes into action when we discover danger, Pinker again twists a famous quote: “…discretion is not the better part of valor during what could be the last five seconds of your life.”
    • The importance of literature: “Literature can explore the themes that eternally obsess people in the world’s myths and stories, or even in the works of Shakespeare alone.”
    • And finally, an exchange overheard on the subway. Girl 1: As Shakespeare once said, “Thou shalt not kill.” Girl 2: “No, that would be God.”
·         From The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Sparks (upon which is based the movie starring Maggie Smith, who among her many other brilliant roles has played the Duchess of York in Ian McKellen’s  Richard III) comes these references:
    • Miss Brodie starts the quote, “Discretion is…discretion is…Sandy?” whereupon her disciple replies, “The better part of valour, Miss Brodie.” One of the most often used quotes, wouldn’t you say?
    • Miss Brodie points out the uselessness of team spirit with, “Cleopatra knew nothing of the team spirit if you read your Shakespeare.”
  • In her short story “Face” from the collection Too Much Happiness, Alice Munro’s character, born with a facial disfigurement, becomes a radio actor who performs, among other classics, Shakespeare.
·         In Jodi Picoult’s Handle with Care there is a poem by Carl Sandburg, “Bones”, from which these lines come: “No farmer’s plow shall touch my bones/No Hamlet hold my jaws and speak/How jokes are gone and empty is my mouth.”

Further, since the last report:
  • Finished reading with Hal: Hamlet.
  • Watched In the Bleak Midwinter (known in the US as A Midwinter’s Tale).
  • Watched BBC’s version of Hamlet and the Zeffirelli version.
  • Started reading (last week but forgot to mention it) and finished: To Be or Not to Be by Douglas Bruster.
  • In the spirit of having finished Hamlet we listened to Cleo Laine and Johnny Dankworth’s “The Collection” with such songs as: “O Mistress Mine” (Twelfth Night), “The Complete Works”, “Fear No More” (Cymbeline), “If Music Be the Food of Love”, “My Love Is a Fever” (Sonnet 147), “It Was a Lover and His Lass” (As You Like It), “Witches/Fair and Foul”, “Shall I Compare Thee”, “Take All My Loves” (Sonnet 40), “Winter” (Love’s Labor Lost), and “Duet of Sonnets”.
  • Received from Bokus
  • Started reading: Stephen Greenblatt’s Hamlet in Purgatory
  • Discovered by accident that my text “What to do about Hamlet” has been posted on Blogging Shakespeare
  • Started to write for Ruby’s Reflections and Blogging Shakespeare: “Doing About Hamlet”

Posted this week:
·         This Monday report


  1. Does your DVD of the Zeffirelli version contain the bonus with Mel Gibson's narration? If yes, don't miss it. It's great fun and it doesn't lack some startlingly perceptive observations. Mel still holds my personal record for best description of the Dane in exactly three sentences: "Hamlet is more than a part. It's an assault on your personality. Every passing day his doubts become more your doubts." Bullseye!

    1. Unfortunately my DVD doesn't include this. I certainly would watch it if it did. Others who have played Hamlet have said about the same thing. And you don't have to play the part to agree!