Posts Tagged ‘William Shakespeare’

Thursday Thirteen #14
April is National Poetry Month, so to celebrate I compiled a list of poets that I’m fond of and went in search of facts about them. I actually ended up with more than thirteen facts, but I didn’t think that you all would mind. As a bonus, you get to discover some of the poets I enjoy. (It turns out that Auguste Rodin was a great deal more influential than I ever knew. He knew two of the poets on this list.)

Thirteen Poets/Thirteen+ Facts
1. Shel Silverstein (American cartoonist/poet, 1932-1999) – Apart from his famous books of poetry for children, Mr. Silverstein also wrote the song “A Boy Named Sue,” made famous by Johnny Cash. (Read some poetry)

2. Maya Angelou (American writer, 1928- ) – Maya Angelou was born “Marguerite Johnson” on 4 April 1928. (Read some poetry)

3. Khalil Gibran (Lebanese poet, 1883-1931) – At one point, Gibran studied under the sculptor Auguste Rodin at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris. (Read some poetry)

4. John Donne (English poet, 1572-1631) – Donne was born and raised a Roman Catholic, but eventually converted to Church of England. Later, King James pressured him into becoming an Anglican Priest. He and his wife had twelve children (she died bringing the twelfth into the world.) (Read some poetry)

5. Rainer Maria Rilke (German poet, 1875-1926) – Rilke worked as Auguste Rodin’s secretary from 1905-1906. His birth name was Rene Karl Wilhelm Johann Josef Maria Rilke. (Read some poetry)

6. Dylan Thomas (Welsh poet, 1914-1953) – Thomas served as an anti-aircraft gunner during World War II. He was only 39 when he died. (Read some poetry)

7. Emily Dickinson (American poet, 1830-1886) – Dickinson’s poems were not gathered and published without edits until 1955. Only seven of her poems were published during her lifetime, and all were edited by others before publishing. (Read some poetry)

8. Arthur Rimbaud (French poet, 1854-1891) – Rimbaud “fell silent” (stopped writing poetry) at the age of nineteen. It is said that he chose to live life rather than write about it. (Read some poetry)

9. Billy Collins (American poet, 1941- ) – Mr. Collins was the poet laureate of the U.S. from 2001-2003 and the driving force behind Poetry 180. He once appeared on the radio show A Prairie Home Companion and seemed to be having a lot of fun. (Read some poetry)

10. Robert Frost (American poet, 1874-1963) – Frost won the Pulitzer prize for poetry four times. He outlived his wife and most of his children. (Read some poetry)

11. Anne Sexton (American poet, 1928-1974) – Sexton worked as a model at one point. She began writing poetry at the suggestion of her psychiatrist, and was encouraged by him to write more when she turned out to be quite good at it. (Read some poetry)

12. William Shakespeare (English playwright, 1564-1616) – At eighteen, Shakespeare married a woman eight years older than him (Anne Hathaway) who gave birth to her first child six months later. There is some indication that the marriage was a bit…hasty. (Read some poetry)

13. Sylvia Plath (American poet, 1932-1963) – Plath suffered from what was apparently bipolar disorder, and ended up taking her own life at age 30. (Read some poetry)

The Biography Resource Center (Database)
Poets.org from the Academy of American Poets.

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Thursday 13 #9

I love Shakespeare. I saw my very first Shakespearian play (Hamlet) in 4th grade. Obviously, it was only a matter of time before I dedicated an entire Thursday Thirteen to him. So, here it is!

William Shakespeare was born in 1564 and lived to be only 52 years of age. And yet, in those years he created a great many plays that have influenced the arts the world over. Yes, many of his themes were borrowed from other sources, but it’s what he did with them that counts. (No, I’m not going to get into the whole “Who wrote Shakespeare’s plays?” argument.)

I’m sure that many of you are aware that some people take his plays way too seriously. Art they may be, but they were also created for the general public. A general public that enjoyed lots of blood, gore, and sexual innuendo. Is it any wonder then that so many adapted, updated, spoofed, and re-told versions of Shakespeare’s plays have appeared over time?

To begin with, here are comedy duo Fry and Laurie (look how young they are here!) with their version of a Shakespeare Masterclass to get you in the right frame of mind.

13 Versions of Shakespeare: Adapted, Updated, Spoofed, and Retold

1. My Own Private Idaho (Henry IV/Henry V) – This film has themes from both Henry IV and Henry V, but doesn’t follow the plays very closely. A young man hangs around with company that his family wouldn’t approve of, but then takes on responsibility when the time comes. Yes, that is a very simplified version, but there you are. It features Keanu Reeves and River Phoenix and won eight awards. (Movie Trailer) (hold a copy)

2. The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theater: The Scottish Play (MacBeth) – Okay. I admit it. I love the Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theater. They are what gave me the idea to do this specific Thursday 13. Three of their versions of Shakespearian plays are up on YouTube so far. Their sense of humour always tickles my funny bone, so give them a try. How can you go wrong with a version of MacBeth that includes a feather boa, Mrs. The Scottish Play, and the Three Witches of Eastwick? (Watch Part 1) (Watch Part 2)

3. West Side Story (Romeo and Juliet) – This is perhaps the best known updated version of Shakespeare. Most folks know that it’s a version of Romeo and Juliet. I even have a book at home that contains the scripts for this film and the one for Romeo and Juliet. For once, you don’t have to take my word for how well done this film is, as it won ten Academy Awards. That’s a fair few, isn’t it? (Movie Trailer) (hold a copy)

4. ShakespearRe-Told: Much Ado About Nothing – A few years back the BBC decided to update and retell four of Shakespeare’s plays. This version of Much Ado About Nothing takes place in a TV Studio. Billie Piper plays Hero, the Weather Girl. Beatrice and Benedick are a pair of bickering co-anchors. As they say, hijinks ensue. (The series commercial)

5. Animaniacs: Hamlet – Animaniacs was an animated TV show that often had fun with literary themes. They even did a version of Les Miserables (Les Miseranimals) at one point. Shakespeare appears in the opening title sequence for the show, by the way. In the linked video, they perform the “Alas, Poor Yorick” speech with modern translation. Sort of. (Watch it)

6. Forbidden Planet (The Tempest) – This futuristic version of The Tempest features Leslie Nielsen as the leading man and the first appearance of Robby the Robot. It’s a SciFi classic…that Gene Roddenberry, father of the Star Trek franchise, adored. If you love SciFi and/or Shakespeare you should give it a try. There is also a Musical out there called Return to the Forbidden Planet. Basically, it consists of the plot from the movie, a bunch of 1950s/1960s musical numbers, and lots of Shakespearian dialog. Here is a clip to give you an idea of what I’m talking about. If there is a good local theater group near you that puts this on get out there and buy tickets.
(Movie Trailer) (hold a copy)

7. 10 Things I Hate About You (Taming of the Shrew) – My sister made me watch this film and I really enjoyed it. Not long into it, I turned to her and said, “Hey! This is Taming of the Shrew.” She just smiled. It was the first thing I saw Heath Ledger in, and it’s one of three Shakespearian updates that Julia Stiles has done. (Movie Trailer) (hold a copy)

8. Reduced Shakespeare Company: Romeo and Juliet – Are you familiar with the Reduced Shakespeare Company? Well, I saw them live once, though not in London. They are hilarious. If you can get a hold of a copy of their DVD The Complete Works of Shakespeare (Abridged), be sure to give it a try. Three guys do thirty-seven plays. Impressive. (Watch Part 1) (Watch Part 2) (hold a copy)

9. Scotland, Pa. (MacBeth) – Well…it’s MacBeth at a hamburger stand with Christopher Walken as Lieutenant McDuff. Yeah. Apparently it got great reviews. Has anyone out there seen this one? (The film on YouTube)

10. O (Othello) – This is another of the Shakespeare adaptations starring Julia Stiles. It’s Othello set in a High School, with “Odin” as a star basketball player dating “Desi.” I’ve only seen the trailer, but wow it looks dark. I’m actually not that big a fan of Othello in the first place. Shakespeare’s characters who believe rumours about their beloved just make me crazy. (Movie Trailer)

11. Ran (King Lear) -This Japanese version of King Lear, directed by the acclaimed Akira Kurosawa, has accrued twenty-five different awards. It features three brothers rather than three sisters, but the story of treachery remains the same. Poor Great Lord Hidetora Ichimonji. Sigh. (Movie Trailer) (hold a copy)

12. A Thousand Acres (King Lear) – This one is a bit different from the others, in that technically is is based on Jane Smiley’s book A Thousand Acres. It just happens that the book itself contains themes from King Lear. The three daughters in the book even have the same first initials as Lear’s daughters. (hold a copy)

13. ShakespeaRe-Told: A Midsummer Night’s Dream – This is another of the four updated Shakespearian plays that the BBC did. Set in a theme park called “Dream Park holiday centre,” this version of Midsummer is nonetheless faithful to the original play. Yes, that means that there is still a happy ending. Dean Lennox Kelly plays the mischievous Puck and Imelda Staunton appears as Polly. (The series commercial)

Shakespeare is so cool that he has his very own Dewey Decimal Number – 822.33, so if you suddenly have an urge to go read some of his plays just head to his section of your local library.

And…just for fun: Shakespeare’s Who’s On First and William Shatner raps in Free Enterprise‘s No Tears for Caesar.

* The Internet Movie Database
* YouTube
* The Biography Resource Center database (available to Alameda County Library card holders.)

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