Ready for some Shakespeare?

And we are back! That little mishap of mine took longer to recover from than expected. The doctors told me I’d have use of my finger in two weeks. Wrong! Though the wound healed nicely in about three, the pain lingered for about a month. I tried not to use the stub while typing, as every bounce on the keyboard sent burning pain up the finger, but sense memory would take over and I found myself cursing at work more than usual. And when I did manage to keep my middle finger ridged (insert joke here) the other fingers would become confused as where to be. My sentences would start to look like this; Hello, I am wrotg;m tu… Some times I compose whole e-mails without looking only to find they were full of gibberish. As if I had placed a monkey in front of my keyboard to see just how long it would take for her to compose a Shakespeare play.

Speaking of Shakespeare, it is time I finally got started on my project in which we take each play and find a theme or a subject that speaks to today’s audience. It is my hope that by the end, we have discovered why Shakespeare still matters and answer the question I get all the time, “Why should I care about Shakespeare?”

I’ve hesitated to write about the canon as there are a lot, and I do mean a lot, of blogs out there that focus exclusively on the plays, but, to be honest, a lot these are as long as the plays themselves and lose their impact because of it. It has taken me a while to come up with what I hope, is a unique spin when it comes to blogging about Shakespeare. And besides, I don’t want to spoil the play for you. I have no intention of giving you a blow-by-blow take on each act, each scene. My hope is to wet your appetite for Shakespeare and to go out and seek a performance for yourselves.

So here is what we are going to do. We are going to go through the plays in alphabetical order. You can read the play ahead of time or watch it via a medium of your choice. I am going to pick out one, sometimes two aspects of the play that we modern audiences can relate to. After all, the incredible thing about the man was his ability to be a mirror for the human condition. Shakespeare is for all time because of his gift of illustrating our follies and our wins. We can identify with most of his characters; good and bad. It is up to us to determine if we are willing to look and then learn something about ourselves.

As much as I loathe to put Shakespeare in modern context it will be hard not to because he does still speak to us. We will look at each play in the context of his time and then see where we fit into his worldview. Some things never change. And although manners, social construct ,and values change, the human condition does not. Fore example modern scholars view many of his plays as misogynistic and therefor feel uncomfortable with them, yet we must admit misogyny is alive and well in the 21-century, and many that of the actions of Shakespeare characters (I am looking at you Petruchio) can be seen in today’s dramas and action movies(I’m looking at you Bond).

Sunday is Shakespeare’s 453 birthday, and I can think of no better day to start this project. We will begin by looking at All’s Well That Ends Well, a problem play written around the same time as Hamlet; somewhere in the early 1600s. It’s a problem play for many reasons but specifically for scholars and theater owners, it is a problem because it is one of the few plays in which the lead female does not exhibit many good qualities. Shakespeare uses a wide array of plot devises in the hopes that the audience doesn’t notice her flaws, but in this he fails, and thus it is labeled as a problem play. Would we recognize Helen if we saw her today? Absolutely, and we probably wouldn’t like or respect her much.

Until Sunday!

The Ides of March or how to annoy your co-workers today

Why is March 15th considered the Ides of March?

The term Ides comes from the earliest Roman calendar, which is said to have been devised by Romulus the mythical founder of Rome. Whether it was Romulus or not, the inventor of this calendar had a penchant for complexity. The Roman calendar organized its months around three days, each of which served as a reference point for counting the other days:

  • Kalends (1st day of the month)
  • Nones (the 7th day in March, May, July, and October; the 5th in the other months)
  • Ides (the 15th day in March, May, July, and October; the 13th in the other months)

So, why was Caesar warned to beware of the ides of March?

Caesar was appointed Roman consul and dictator, but before settling in Rome he traveled around the empire for several years and consolidated his rule. In 45 B.C., he returned to Rome and was made dictator for life. He was assassinated on March 15, 44 B.C., by a group of conspirators who believed that his death would lead to the restoration of the Roman Republic. However, the result of the “Ides of March” was to plunge Rome into a fresh round of civil wars, out of which Octavian, Caesar’s grand-nephew, would emerge as Augustus, the first Roman emperor, destroying the republic forever.

Shakespeare immortalized this day in his play Julius Caesar. And though murder should not be celebrated, we somehow still find ways to make light of this day. Case in point, my co-workers fully expect me to quote Shakespeare, or more to the point, Julius Caesar all day. With that un mind I thought I’d share 10 one-line quotes you can use in the office today. Beware, over use may lead to an insurrection.

  • “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.” …
  • “Cowards die many times before their deaths; …
  • “Men at some time are masters of their fates. …
  • “Et tu, Brute?” …
  • “Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war!” …
  • “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
  • Beware the ides of March.
  • You blocks, you stones, you worse than senseless things!
  • “What a terrible era in which idiots govern the blind.”
  • “But, for my own part, it was Greek to me.”

Works cited (Because yes, my finger is still wrapped up tight)

infoplease.org The Ides of March

History.com Julius Caesar