Tuesday, February 11, 2014

King Henry VI, Part 2King Henry VI, Part 2 by William Shakespeare
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Henry plays -- and a great deal of Shakespeare's history plays -- were written prior to 1594. These are Shakespeare's early attempts and a lot of critics have pointed out: it shows.

Henry VI, Pt 2, is definitely rough. There are a crap-ton of characters, some of whom only show up once for a couple lines and then disappear. In a production of these plays, a lot of these roles would be doubled-up. The result is a somewhat chaotic read, though I bet it's much easier to follow on stage.

All I really have to say about this play is: Early Shakespeare is Still Shakespeare!

And I think Shakespeare might've missed his true calling: dark-Kill-Bill-style comedy.

Yes, I think Shakespeare and Quentin Tarantino should get together. Wait, scratch that. They'd never shut up so they'd never get anything done. Both are kind of long winded.

However! Jack Cade, the badass-but-not-too-bright leader of the rebels, who appears near the end of the play, is the epitome of a Tarantino talky-crazed bad guy. He makes decapitated heads kiss each other. He kills people for calling him the wrong name. He proclaims random laws. His scenes are straight out of Pulp Fiction. It's a good thing Shakespeare didn't have access to needles. (Or, maybe, a bad thing.)

Some of that shit was so disturbing I laughed out loud.

Do the nobles plot for an unreasonable amount of time? Yes.
Is it sometimes difficult to follow characters and their motivations? Sometimes. Yes.

But I liked it way more than I thought I would.


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Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Original Pronunciation of Shakespeare


I'm trying to read Shakespeare's works in the (generally) agreed upon order in which they were written. That means there's a lot of histories up front. Right now, I've finished the Henry VI trilogy and am moving on to Richard III.

And, really, the only thing clear to me is Shakespeare's historical presentations are quite questionable. There weren't any archaeologists or disciplined historians back in the day. Most of the base material he used to produce these works are biased at the very least.

So, I find it ironic that English majors, historians, and armchair quarterbacks use such rigorous focus when studying the Bard.

For example, there have been several productions of Shakespeare's plays in the past few years who have gone to a lot of trouble to recreate the original pronunciation of Shakespeare's time period. Below, you'll find a video featuring David Crystal, Honorary Professor of Linguistics at the University of Wales, presenting the methodology behind figuring out Shakespeare's language.

But the real question is why do we even care about Shakespeare's original pronunciation?

A couple different reasons off the top of my head:

1. Meaning. As Crystal points out in the video, the original pronunciation alters the meaning of the words themselves -- you can see changes in jokes/puns. This is a real-life exploration of the evolution of language. And evolution of meaning affects:

2. History. It's also pointed out in the video that Shakespeare's language/dialect was the language/dialect of the first colonists of the United States. While the presenters of the video are focused exclusively on Shakespeare, it's just a natural leap to assume the language (and possible meaning alterations) transfers to historical documents.

And that doesn't even come close to the several ways of understanding the plays themselves, which these gentlemen do a much better job of explaining:

Monday, February 3, 2014

A Public Service Announcement: Do Not Kill Your Friends Over Poetry/Prose

As a member of an active and passionate writers group, I have participated in many a debate over many different writing related subjects. For example, I once told a guy to check out the book How to Write a Sentence by Stanley Fish. (And I'm telling all of you to go read it too.)

On the surface, telling a writer he needs to learn how to write a sentence could be construed as being...ummmm...rude. Incredibly rude. Harsh even.

But I didn't stab him. Nor did he stab me.

Unlike this guy.

Apparently, one gentleman asserted that prose was the only real writing. He became the victim of a friend who also happened to be a poet. The poet stabbed the prose proponent to death.

So, look, there are really only a few rules in this game:
1. Write hard.
2. Write well.
2. Remember writing is subjective -- so don't kill your friends. No matter how much you've been drinking.

And while I may have taken too joking a tone over this, I am well aware that a man is dead. His death was tragic and a truly terrible thing. I hope what we take away from this is that there is enough room for everyone to have their own opinions and to create beautiful things -- poetry, prose, or otherwise. Rest in peace.