Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Shakespeare at 450: Birthday Party Post

Puck's ruling the dance floor!

Today* is Shakespeare's 450th birthday. Four and a half centuries. A tiny amount of time in the universe, but time enough to make an undeniable impact on Western society. So let's party!

*Possibly. We know he was baptized on April 26, 1564, but Trump hasn't been able to bully the birth certificate out of anyone. So April 23 is celebrated (which was also the day of his death in 1616).

Oops. Partied too hard on the party boat. Damn it, Trinculo.

There is no way I can sum up Shakespeare in a blog post, not even by navel-gazing and trying to explain my own love of his work. I realize it's fair - even necessary - to question the idolization of him, to ask why this white male who is among any number of writers thorough human history has become "the Bard."

Ms. Bernhardt dons her Danish best for the bash.

But then I read or watch, and cannot deny the power of his creations. Language and society change (often for the better with the latter), but the humanity in Shakespeare's works remains as true as ever. I even love the works I hate. Recently I was talking with my mom about our upcoming Oregon Shakespeare Festival trip, and I was going on and on like, "blah, blah, blah, I hate The Two Gentlemen of Verona, but when we see it at Ashland -" "Wait," my mom said. "Why are we seeing a play you hate?" Even the plays that aren't my favorites I enjoy watching: seeing what decisions directors made regarding them, thinking over the problematic aspects, marveling at the perfect moments within them, questioning why I feel the way I do, wondering what contemporary theater-goers would have thought of them...

Shit, Ophelia's tripping. Someone get her out of there.

Sometime in childhood, I saw A Midsummer Night's Dream outside on a warm evening, and that was that. So today I'll be wearing a locket in which I put fragments of my favorite Shakespeare passages, including Oberon's description of Titania's bower in A Midsummer Night's Dream, act II, scene I:

I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,
Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,
With sweet musk-roses and with eglantine:
There sleeps Titania sometime of the night

Shakespeare Stuff:

Oregon Shakespeare Festival: As good as the hype. Even better. Excellent, thoughtful productions in a lovely town.

MIT's Complete Works of William Shakespeare: All of Shakespeare's work, online with simplicity and readability. A great public service. No, I don't know why Troilus and Cressida is in comedy. It's more like a relationship sad-trombone.

Talk Like Shakespeare Day: Can't say I'll be calling people sirrah today, but this site has some fun resources. My personal favorite Shakespearean insult is from act I, scene I of Coriolanus: "Who deserves greatness/ Deserves your hate, and your affections are/ A sick man's appetite". Damn, Martius.

Pre-Raphaelite Sisterhood: Pre-Raphaelites and Shakespeare: A series of blog posts by Stephanie Pina focusing on some of the beautiful art Shakespeare's canon has inspired.

Folger Library Digital Image Collection: You want illustrations of your favorite play throughout history? A manuscript page? A costume worn by the famous actor brother of the guy who became more famous for assassinating Lincoln? Look here.

No one blames you, man. Join the party.

Previous Shakespeare Stuff on this blog:
A Young Dragon: Tom Hiddleston as Coriolanus
A Party at the Whedons': Much Ado About Nothing
Much Ado About Whedon
Occupy Shakespeare: Coriolanus

Image Info:
Puck being a dork
Party boat
Mucha Sarah
MDMA Ophelia
Sad Edwin

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