Pollyanna Brushes Up Her Shakespeare

Happy Birthday Will! No one knows the exact date he was born, but it’s traditionally celebrated now because he was baptised April 26, 1564. He died on April 23, 1616, so I guess that’s another reason that today’s his day.

“Brush up your Shakespeare, Start quoting him now” –  from”Kiss Me Kate!”

Ya’ll know that when we’re not talking zombies or fiber, or giggling like the twelve-year-olds we are, we do mention Shakespeare . In passing, as it were. Maybe more than a bit. And apologize to him A lot.

Here’s to the Bard of Stratford-upon-Avon! You can find his complete works here, and it’s searchable, which is awesome. No zombie hits, but five pages of mentions of “monster.” All the Shakespeare quotes included in this post came directly from that site.

Shakespeare is the most filmed author of all time. Beginning with silent films, versions of Shakespeare’s works have been filmed throughout the world. His works has inspired all kinds of adaptations, from musicals like “Kiss Me Kate!” and plays like “Rosencratz and Guildenstern Are Dead“, to films as diverse as “Theater of Blood” (1973) with Vincent Price (which I must have missed… must find!) to “Romeo + Juliet” (Leonardo DiCaprio, Clair Danes) which used guns and cars but with Will’s original dialogue – it’s… original… to “Get Over It” (2001).

Shakespeare has been featured in TV shows from “Quantum Leap” (he leaps into a production of “Wives of Winsor”, I can’t wait to see this one) to “The Simpsons” to “Moonlighting” to… some episode of some show that is filming this week, no doubt.

The Melancholy Dane (Hamlet) is considered by many to be the greatest role ever written, and has been played by Sir Laurence Oliver (I highly recommend his very faithful film version), Sir Richard Burton, Kenneth Braughnaugh, and a fair number of women. Plus, well, everyone who can somehow arrange it. Including Mel Brooks in “To Be or Not to Be” (1983). Very highly recommended, very funny and touching – the Shylock speech from “The Merchant of Venice” has real bite in this.

Although some prefer King Lear. Or Richard the III. (Have you seen “The Goodbye Girl“? Richard Dreyfus is hysterical as Richard in a very odd production!)  Will wrote for actors of all ages, sometimes because he had a great actor of the right age to play the part.

Lady MacBeth is the prize for women – a very meaty role (heh). And of course Juliet, and… There are a lot of great roles for women. Will wrote strong women well (sadly a rarity even today), even though in his lifetime, of course, there were no females acting. On stage, at least. In bedrooms, another story I’m sure. But I digress…

Of course, the prize for “playing the most Shakespearean roles in one production” has to go to anyone who performs “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)” (also known as “The Compleat Works of Wllm Shkspr (Abridged)”, a parody in which three actors do all of the plays. All of them. Well, shortened versions. Hamlet” in 43 seconds. Really. Read that link. If you get a chance, definitely see this. You might get to play Ophelia! And then you could put it on your resume!  Look, there’s a film of it – must see!

“I must be cruel, only to be kind.” Hamlet, Hamlet (act III, scene 4)

So I must include a pop quiz. I warned ya’ll to study last night!  Anna-Liza got 8 out of 10, and I only got 6 right.

Quick, distract them with some pig-licking:

Why, I pray you, is not pig great? the pig, or the
great, or the mighty, or the huge, or the
magnanimous, are all one reckonings, save the phrase
is a little variations.
– Fluellen (referring to Alexander the Great), Henry V (IV, 7)

Two, three, four…

“If your blonde won’t respond when you flatter her,
Tell her what Tony told Cleopat-erer.”

Kiss Me Kate!”  – Cole Porter and Will Shakespeare – awesome!

Shakespeare is quoted more than the average person on the street knows:

Rumour is a pipe
Blown by surmises, jealousies, conjectures,
And of so easy and so plain a stop
That the blunt monster with uncounted heads,
The still-discordant wav’ring multitude,
Can play upon it.
– Rumour, Henry IV, Part II (Prologue, 1)

What, you don’t say that all the time?

Perhaps you’ve heard a version of this?

O, beware, my lord, of jealousy;
It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock
The meat it feeds on.
– Iago, Othello (IIi,3)

Other phrases from Will: “With bated breath” (Merchant of Venice), “a foregone conclusion” (Othello), “methinks the lady doth protest too much” (Hamlet)… it goes on and on.

Shakespeare is in fact so interwoven into our culture that it would be impossible to extricate ourselves from his influence.

And why would we want to?

Thrice and once the hedge-pig whined. – Second Witch, Macbeth (IV,1)

She’s talking about this guy, not anyone’s ex. Just to clarify.

I don’t know how Will would feel about ending with that, so I’ll end with a knitterly quote instead:

The web of our life is of a mingled yarn, good and
ill together: our virtues would be proud, if our
faults whipped them not; and our crimes would
despair, if they were not cherished by our virtues.
– First Lord, All’s Well That End’s Well (IV, 3)


4 thoughts on “Pollyanna Brushes Up Her Shakespeare

  1. Red

    I actually did the Complete works in high school. We split it up between the 20 in the troupe though. I had Juliet which was fun.

  2. annaliza

    Hey, Lyda, remember the production of “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead” at U of H? My ex had seen the original production at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and said ours was as good as that one.


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