Thirty-seven plays in twelve months?

Will a completion of the Complete Works of Shakespeare solve my career crisis?
(SPOILER: The answer is no, not exactly....)

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Heaven Today (dreamt of in my philosophy)

“Ignorance is the curse of God; knowledge is the wing wherewith we fly to heaven.” Henry VI Part 2, IV, 7, 78-79

My definition of heaven has changed every half-decade or so. Today heaven is my current setting: a clear blue sky, a ten-year-old son three hours away from the waning moments of fourth grade, a warm cup of creamy coffee, and a blank page of pure white primed to hold several hundred words I will soon pluck from the air and distill into an entertaining, witty diatribe. That is, if I refrain from opening Facebook, or Twitter, or email.
Ew, but what if someone needs me. Right: you know who needs me? The marketing division of every online or brick and mortar shop I’ve ever patronized or surrendered my email address to in a moment of weakness. Why can’t Twitter stop sending me suggestions? Pinterest, you are enough of a time vampire before you clog my inbox with recipes and DIY. Maybe today I’ll execute a mass unsubscribe sweep. Ah, but I can’t because I might miss the next kooky Star Wars branded household product. Darth Vader spatula? Why not? I could store it next to my Stormtrooper salt shaker. “TK-421, why aren’t you seasoning my green beans?”

I can ignore the multiple job posting alerts, but I certainly can’t unsubscribe to those, because how will I find the dream job I’ve fantasized about since I was 21: travel writer based in London? My mortgage lender might have a few words to say about that.
When I do find something that actually has some value to my life – a real email from a real person I actually know! – what do I do? I “mark as unread” and save it to read later.

Friday, March 15, 2013

2,057 Years Later…

Julius Caesar
I started Julius Caesar with the intention of paralleling the political drama of the play with that of our presidential election. I planned to write this blog comparing and contrasting a tragedy with a comedy, if you will. Well, that was last July, and I got distracted (as I do, as you can see from the wide date range between posts). Today, as dawn broke on the Ides of March, I reviewed my reading notes but found not a hint of the politics behind the assassination. What I noted, and therefore wanted to remember from this play, were the puns, the vividly violent vocabulary, and alliteration.

The cobbler’s “all with the awl withal” bit (I, 1, 20-22, 28) is great, and I regret that I probably didn’t get it when I first read it in tenth grade. Now I find it so amusing I refer to it as a “bit,” as if a sitcom writer put it together.

One of the cobbler’s lines did remind me of a certain business man presidential candidate:
But wherefore art not in thy shop today?
Why dost thou lead these men about the streets?

Truly, sir, to wear out their shoes, to get myself into more work.
I, 1, 23-25

Calpurnia’s choice of phrases in Act 2 Scene 2 demonstrates her high emotional states, or as I think of it in 2013 terms, her freaking out:
“graves have yawn’d”
“drizzled blood”
“dying men did groan”
“ghosts did shriek and squeal”

Full disclosure: onomatopoeia is my favorite word in the English language (in Spanish, my favorite word is motocicleta).

More gory language erupts in Act 3 Scene 1 (254-275)
“bleeding piece of earth” (ew)
“butchers” (nice image)
“ruby lips” (ooh)
“Blood and destruction” (good summary)
“infants quartered” (unthinkable)
“pity chok’d” (ack)
“hot from hell” (phew!)
“carrion men, groaning for burial” (zombies, Mr. Shakespeare?)

What can I say, but “Beware”?
I’ve clearly been listening to too many Reduced Shakespeare Company podcasts this winter (mostly Episode 86, Meet Matt Rippy, on which I got the random fan shout-out). Evidence? I could imagine only the lads from that RSC rattling off the alliterative warnings of Artemidorus: “beware of Brutus; take heed of Cassius; come not near Casca; have an eye to Cinna; trust not Trebonius; mark well Metellus Cimber; Decius Brutus loves thee not; thou hast wrong’d Caius Ligarius.” (II, iii, 1-3)

Why was I imagining Austin Tichenor bouncing around sing-song-saying it to the tune of “Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover”?

More importantly, why did it take me six months to write these 400 words?

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Next Crisis Please

What was I thinking? Finish thirty-seven plays in twelve months while crafting a dramatic career change? For those of you keeping score at home, that was twenty-three months ago, and I have not only remained inert at the soul-crushing job, I have also managed to avoid cracking my giant copy of William Shakespeare Complete Works (a “Bargain Value” at £3.99 circa 1992). However, I did put my hands on it at least twice daily: it is the perfect thickness for blocking out the blue digital glow of my clock radio.

I haven’t taken a vow of a-literacy, though. Recent favorites include Melvyn Bragg’s The Book of Books: The Radical Impact of the King James Bible 1611-2011 and my hero Bill Bryson’s At Home: A Short History of Private Life and Notes from a Big Country. The latter contains a line I am trying to adapt to describe myself, “…my father was the last person in the Midwest to buy an air-conditioner. He thought they were unnatural. (He thought anything that cost more than $30 was unnatural.)”

Well this is it: I’ll “screw [my] courage to the sticking-place” (I, 7, 49-51) and begin my Shakesyeare again!

So, before I update my resume (again), I need to express a few thoughts on the Scottish play. Writing a blog post without actually typing the play’s title is a welcome exercise as well. How do I know that the theatre superstition doesn’t apply to the theatre of the blog as well?

I selected it while perusing the umpteenth Republican debate, thinking that a vicious, power-hungry couple would be infinitely more pleasurable to watch. I also thought it would be a welcome respite from my waxing corporate disgust. Good call!

As usual, I enjoyed this play a lot more than I had in 10th grade. Lady M. and the witches are fascinating and entertaining characters which kept me fully engaged.

I love Lady M.’s “man-up” language! What man then or now could resist that eloquent nagging?

“When you durst do it then you were a man;
And, to be more than that what you were, you would
Be so much more the man.” (I, 7, 49-51)

What could the title character do but start hacking his way to the top? On the positive side, for all of his horrible deeds, he didn’t eliminate hundreds of employees’ positions at the end of the year, did he? I’m not saying that corporate restructuring is worse than murder of course – I’m referring to fictional murders and real layoffs. For all his bloody ambition, at least Lady M.’s husband wasn’t motivated by the desire to increase the wealth of his shareholders. I digress.

Several of the witches’ lines are so ubiquitous in our age that even my eight-year-old thought some of the rhymes sounded familiar, and he’s been raised without the cultural benefit of Warner Brothers cartoons, much to my disgrace.

Here’s a lovely recipe for a cool April afternoon (vegetarians, look away!):

Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the cauldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt and toe of frog,
Wool of bat and tongue of dog,
Adder's fork and blind-worm's sting,
Lizard's leg and howlet's wing,
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.
(IV, 1, 12-19)
(No anti-Gingrich sentiment intended; on purpose anyway!)

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Happy Birthday, Will!

Have I finished all of Shakespeare's works in a year?
Will I try again to make 2011-2012 my Shakesyeare?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Eat no onions nor garlic...

A Midsummer Night's Dream

How could I let midsummer pass without reading A Midsummer Night's Dream? I deviated from my chronological course and brought my petite blue play book on my vacation to México. I truly put the “vacate” in “vacation” this time!

I didn’t cook, clean, drive, type, phone, login, log off, download, upload, conference, audit, escalate, procrastinate, complain, or stew. I did eat, sleep, drink, make merry, and translate: “Estoy leyendo una historia con dos pares de novios y ‘fairies.’”

I also spent one afternoon in the back garden of my suegros (parents-in-law), surrounded by lime, pomegranate, and peach trees, finishing the play.

"And, most dear actors, eat no onions nor garlic, for we are to utter sweet breath, and I do not doubt but to hear them say, it is a sweet comedy.” (IV, 2, 43)

Sunday, June 13, 2010

No treachery; but want of men and money

I headed through the stacks toward 822.33 and found the cutest little blue copies of the plays! The Yale Shakespeare edition, copyright 1918 (third printing 1961) measures 4.5 by 7 inches per play. I checked out Henry VI Parts I, II, and III. They even smell old!

I am going to look just like a medieval abbess reading these! That is, a medieval abbess sitting in a Honda in the parking lot at the manufacturing facility. It’s just too humid for a wimple.

I had to make a chart to keep track of the white rose of York and the red rose of Lancaster factions. Since this was the first Shakespeare history I had read in its entirety, I was pleased to see Joan of Arc as one of his characters. Why do they keep these secrets from high school students?

Some of my favorite lines include Mortimer’s description of old age and dying (II, 5, 5-15 and IV, 5, 4) and the comment about the French (I’m French, so it’s OK for me to like it!): “Done like a Frenchman: turn, and turn again!” (III, 3, 85).

By the time I finished Part I and picked up Part II, stuff had started to hit the fan at work, and my lunchtime reading time was put on hold. Now I’m behind schedule (at work and on my Shakesyeare project) and on a daily basis feel I could shout,

May never glorious sun reflex his beams
Upon the country where you make abode;
But darkness and the gloomy shade of death
Environ you, till mischief and despair
Drive you to break your necks or hang yourselves!
(V, 4, 87-91)

Yet, I’m pretty sure that would be a violation of our corporate harassment policy.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Comedy of Errors

If the library book is due tomorrow, does that mean this blog post is overdue?

My work situation has stabilized – in my head at least – since I started my Shakespearean quest (or is it really a Quixotic quest?). So, what did I find most relatable in The Comedy of Errors? The repeated misunderstandings caused by two sets of twins who are apparently not only identical but are also wearing matching sets of clothes?

No: the repeated beatings of the Dromios by the Antipholuses (II, 2, 23; IV, 4, 18; IV, 4, 45; IV, 4, 53). For truly, what is an on-site staffing vendor if not a servant to be beaten again and again by the client…I mean master? I love the sixteenth century violence because it is just so politically incorrect in the context of a twenty-first century work space. Our repeated beatings are non-physical yet often comical and usually painful. It sure wasn’t Dromio’s (either one) fault! Antipholus just had to come to certain conclusions based on bad data.

On the lighter side, I can finally appreciate what my high school English teachers were trying to instill: Mr. Shakespeare was a poet! My lunch breaks spent reading The Comedy of Errors became not only a respite from the grind of staffing operations and compliance…and paperwork – oh, the paperwork! They became a haven from the complete works of text messaging, corporate-speak, and sloppy spelling that fills my email inbox (and what is the deal with this “invented spelling” they are teaching my kindergartener – where are the blogs on that?).

I’ve never seen a Hallmark card as good as this:
“It is thyself, mine own self’s better part,
Mine eye’s clear eye, my dear heart’s dearer heart;
My food, my fortune, and my sweet hope’s aim;
My sole earth’s heaven, and my heaven’s claim.” (III, 2, 60)