Category Archives: Current Events

Shakespeare’s Birthday Resolutions: 2016 edition!

Happy birthday, Shakespeare!

I know, I know, April 23 marks the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death, but “Happy Deathday!” doesn’t have the same ring to it. Yet, I’ve found that so much of Shakespeare’s drama locates facing death and seizing the day as two sides of the same coin. My 30th birthday falls on Shakespeare’s milestone birth/deathday, but far from lamenting the passing of another year, I’d like to look back and see how I carpe’d the heck out of the diem!

What I’ve been up to:

  • I’ve been working my Shakespeare-loving butt off writing my PhD and getting it published, chapter by painstaking chapter, in academic journals. This means doing the research, editing it until my supervisor is happy with it, submitting it to journals for publication, and being told that it’s not good enough: try again. It takes a thick skin to cope with kind of criticism, but that’s the nature of my profession. I try to remember that the acknowledgements page of every academic’s book includes expressions of thanks to all of the people who told the author that her writing wasn’t good enough. Those people took the time to read her research, and give thoughtful suggestions about how to improve its delivery. I got to see two of my articles in print this year, and one more got accepted for publication (stay tuned!), so I’m feeling full of pride, but am also humbled by the recognition of how much time and effort it takes in order to reach these academic milestones.11254572_10101260373454101_9089250841420443084_n
  • Research can be a solitary activity. I put my ideas in conversation with those of other literary critics from the comfort of my quiet apartment (or louder Starbucks), but it is a rare pleasure to share these exceptionally niche conversations in person. Since Shakespeare’s last birthday, I had the chance to do some really fun conferencing. I gave a paper on compassion (and the lack thereof) in The Merchant of Venice while getting to visit one of my favourite cities in the world: Amsterdam. Houseboats, stroopwaffles, and the company of fellow early modernists? Yes, please! I also proposed and moderated a panel at a conference in my hometown of Toronto. Instead of offering my own paper, I used the panel as an opportunity to reach out and hear how my peers are bringing their own unique perspectives to our shared research interests.
  • I am an unashamed Anglophile. I am always contriving ways to return to England, and this past summer, my mother and I travelled to London to see Benedict Cumberbatch play Hamlet. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, made all the more special by the fact that I got to see it twice!
  • I am also a self-professed “Cumberbitch” (or, as my more genteel mother says, “Cumberbunny”), and was interviewed by The Guardian about our journey to bow at the dual altar of Shakespeare and Celebrity. Erin and Mom at hamlet
  • While I haven’t been updating this blog as much as I always intend to, I did dip my toe into the “Digital” side of the Digital Humanities by participating in a workshop of the basics of TEI, Text Encoding Initiative. It was a cool way to map out or annotate information, and I’m always looking for opportunities to get more involved with DH in the future!
  • I’ve also used the “Digital” to meet many humanists this year. As a researcher for the TRaCE Project, I’ve been conducting Skype interviews with English Literature PhD grads in order to reflect on the changing value of the English PhD and how people put their PhDs to use. Some stories are scary, some stories scream success, but overall, I’m just so grateful for the opportunity to soak up the guidance of these people who have braved academia and lived to tell the tale.

 

What’s next for me? Shakespeare’s birthday resolutions ’16:

  • It’s time to finish that PhD! Spoken as someone who works on her dissertation five days a week every week, I can tell you: it can take 6 full years to complete a PhD. That’s just how long it takes to create this extended, meaningful, original piece of work.
  • Once I’m finished my PhD and on the job market, I might finally have the time to watch (and blog about!) all those Shakespeare films that I’ve missed in the past few years. Of particular interest, my beloved Benedict Cumberbatch playing Richard III in the BBC’s Hollow Crown See the trailer here! the-hollow-crown
  • I want to go to England again, of course! Although I’m probably going to complete my PhD before achieving my dream to attend BritGrad, I’ve got my sights on this awesome conference organized by Shakespeare’s Globe: “Cultures of Mortality: Death on the Shakespearean Stage”. It’s sure to be killer!
  • I’m actively investing myself in finding an academic job where I can continue doing what I love: researching and teaching Shakespeare, and mentoring the bright young students who give meaning to all of my heard work. I work my butt off, and I’m ready to get paid for it!

 

 

So let’s raise a glass!

…or two, or three, or in my case, four, as I celebrate Shakespeare’s life and my birthday on the second night of Passover! How will you be celebrating?

shakespeare-birthday.png

 

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Filed under Current Events, Shakespeare

Shakespeare’s Birthday Resolutions: 2014 Edition!

With mirth and laughter, let old wrinkles come.

images-2Happy birthday, Mr. Shakespeare! Also, happy birthday to me! Today I turn 28, but the milestone birthday goes to the Bard himself, who turns 450! Every year on our shared birthday, I like to reflect back on the amazing ways that I’ve experienced Shakespeare over the course of the year, and my goals as a Bardolator (unabashed Shakespeare lover) for the coming year. Take a look back at my Shakespeare’s Birthday Resolutions from 2012 and 2013 – I can’t believe how quickly time flies!

 

Up till now

The past year’s shakespeareance (I had to – just once) most dear to me is my trip to England. There, I presented my research alongside my peers, and I got to go on a mini tour to visit some of my favorite people in London, Oxford, and Cambridge. I feel so lucky to be able to gallivant around England for a few weeks every year or two; however broke I am afterwards, I still think of it as one of the top perks of being a scholar. I love being able to work from where I want, when I want, be it in the promised land of Shakespeare himself, or working away at my desk with a sleeping cat next to me for moral support. Both are part of the lifestyle that I’ve come to savour over the past year.

Some of National Theatre Live's best offerings!

Some of National Theatre Live’s best offerings!

As ever, I cannot express the extent of my appreciation for the technology and arts funding that brings the best of England’s theatre live to my local cinema. This year, I got to see Rory Kinnear’s Olivier-winning turn as Iago in Othello; Tom Hiddleston’s Coriolanus, which was just as sexy as I’d hoped; and Kenneth Branagh’s outstanding Macbeth, which I am over the moon to be seeing in New York this coming June!

Professionally, I am always striving to strike a balance between working hard and having fun. This year, the fates aligned when my Victorian ecocritic boyfriend got assigned to TA Shakespeare with me; to have a boyfriend who can quote Shakespeare is pretty much all I’ve ever wanted…and far be it from me to stop our students from calling us the Brad and Angelina of the English department 😉

Thanks for the Bardie, Shakespeare Standard!

Thanks for the Bardie, Shakespeare Standard!

But enough of the lovey-dovey stuff! This year, I’ve been working to keep on top of my blogging while doing my research, which isn’t always easy but is nonetheless immensely rewarding. This morning, I found out that I won two Bardie awards on behalf of The Shakespeare Standard, where I discuss my grad school experiences in the Secret Diary of a PhD Candidate. Winning the award is such an honour, and reminds me that it’s worth it to keep writing because there are people out there who will keep reading! I thank you! I continue to strive to make your blogging experience better, which is why I’ve finally done away with the dusty bardolator23.wordpress.com domain and have finally locked down TheBardolator.com. Stay tuned for some exciting updates over the course of this year, too; as I get closer to the job market, I want to make this place shine!

And finally, the dissertation: I’m proud and relieved to have made some substantial progress on my dissertation research this year. After years of grappling with The Merchant of Venice (relationship status: it’s complicated.), it finally hit me that it is the beast that I was meant to tackle in my dissertation. I’ll be presenting the first nugget of that research at a symposium at the University of Toronto this weekend: wish me luck!

 

What’s to come

This past year, I’ve been building up my teaching skills by taking a course on teaching and learning in higher education. Teaching at the university level doesn’t require a Bachelor of Education, but the methods I learned in the course have already proved indispensable for my marking, and I can’t wait to see how they influence my teaching. In September, I will be teaching my own course. This is an experience that has been no less than five years in the making, and I can’t be more excited about it. Word docs with creative ideas abound!

Got an idea for my Shakespeare course hashtag? Leave it in the comments below!

Got an idea for my Shakespeare course hashtag? Leave it in the comments below!

But as much as teaching is a time to pass on my knowledge, it’s still very much a time for me to grow. In the past, I’ve been known to ride what I would call the “textual high horse” – I’ve argued that Shakespeare must first and foremost be understood through reading the text, and then only afterwards should students watch the movies. While this is one of my ideals, I recognize that undergraduate study habits don’t always work that way. For my course, I will be screening each of the films and I really hope all students, whether they’ve had/made the time to read the text or not, come to these screenings and engage with the material in whichever ways they can. I want to make these screenings a party- popcorn potlucks! I’ll know that it works if the students develop a course hashtag. I’ll be sure that it works if the students turn that hashtag into t-shirts – fingers crossed!

On the vein of performance, my goals for this coming year are, as always, to immerse myself in more Shakespeare! I’m particularly excited for what’s to come in Shakespeare performance this year. Much to my joy, the Stratford Festival is fulfilling one of my dreams: to stage more than one production of the same Shakespeare play to show the variety of interpretations that can spin out of one major dramaturgical difference. This year, they’re staging two productions of Midsummer Night’s Dream!

Benedict is primed for performance!

Benedict is primed for performance!

There is one production, though, that I’m more excited about than any other, excited enough to book another trip across the pond for it. What’s that? Benedict Cumberbatch’s Hamlet at the Barbican, August 2015! It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve read or seen that play: I can’t wait to see how Olivier award-winning director Lyndsey Turner will spin it! Will Benedict act like Sherlock, or Kahn, or think outside of the box? We’ll have to wait and see! So what’s the plan till then? My plan is to use that trip as my brass ring, the goal that pushes me to finish my dissertation and then take a much-needed vacation!

And with that, let’s celebrate! Happy birthday, Mr. Shakespeare! To another 450 years!

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Filed under Current Events, National Theatre Live, Shakespeare, Stratford Festival

National Theatre Live: Othello

England’s National Theatre has undertaken a project very, very dear to my heart: screening the very best NT productions, live, to cinemas worldwide! I’m very excited about this, and always feel butterflies in my stomach when I enter the Canadian movie theatre but hear the murmurs of the live audience at the National in London.

images-4Last week, I had the privilege of seeing National Theatre Live’s production of Othello, starring theatrical heavy-hitters Adrian Lester and Rory Kinnear, and directed by NT Artistic Director extraordinaire, Nicholas Hytner. The result was outstanding. Before the play, emcee Emma Freud interviewed Hytner about his dramatic vision, and he explained that Shakespeare’s Venice, in which the text begins, is not culturally important in itself as much as it’s a byword for bustling commercial centre. To Hytner, the play could just as easily begin in central London, which we see in the when the play begins with Iago and Roderigo shooting the shit on a set made to look like a generic English pub. Kinnear puts on a working-class accent, which helps us understand why Iago is so frustrated when Othello chooses the young, Cassio over himself for the post of second-in-command, even though Iago is an experienced officer and Cassio has “never set a squadron in the field.”

This play revolves around the theme of truth, the tales people tell, and what listeners trust as truth. Lester appears onstage as Othello, and instantly I trusted him as leader of the Venetian military. Why did he deserve my trust? It probably had a lot to do with the fact that Lester looks a lot like another “O”, Barack Obama! He’s handsome, but his graying temples only add to his sexual allure; we can see why Desdemona is so attracted to him, despite the age difference. Hytner doesn’t overdo the Obama parallels, but when Lester sits at the head of a boardroom table with reading classes on, I can see how Othello claims the respect of his fellow statesmen.

When Desdemona’s father storms into the war council after finding out that she’s eloped with the Moor, Othello welcomes Brabantio’s rebukes with an offer to tell the “round unvarnish’d tale” of his courtship with Desdemona. By saying “unvarnish’d”, Shakespeare calls up the black/white imagery that haunts the play, and shows that these colours extend beyond questions of race to questions of morality and truth. When he says that his tale will be “unvarnish’d”, Othello means that his story will be one of truth, dignity, and propriety. He wins over the council, and Brabantio storms off, warning the Moor that “She has deceived her father, and may thee,” the first of many foreshadowings of the couple’s ultimate doom.

Othello1_610_407shar_s_c1Soon after a plan is devised for the military to head to Cyprus, Iago reveals his plan to drive Othello mad with jealousy. Critics like Samuel Taylor Coleridge believe that Iago is a villain of “motiveless malignity” – that he doesn’t have a reason to wreak emotional havoc. I disagree. His first motive is being overlooked for promotion. He tells us of the second during one of his many soliloquies (speeches made alone onstage, directed to the audience):

I hate the Moor:
And it is thought abroad, that ‘twixt my sheets
He has done my office: I know not if’t be true;
But I, for mere suspicion in that kind,
Will do as if for surety.

Iago has heard rumours that Othello is sleeping with his wife; he doesn’t know the rumours to be true, but decides to take his revenge without of seeking official confirmation. Tales run rampant in this play, and the fatal flaw of almost every character is that they refuse to communicate directly with their spouse. Iago plans to cure his jealousy by fighting fire with fire: just as the rumours of Othello sleeping with his wife drive Iago mad with jealousy, so Iago will drive a rift between Othello and Desdemona. Iago plans to “put the Moor / At least into a jealousy so strong / That judgment cannot cure.”

While the war with the Turks that brought the Venetians to Cyprus ends almost before it even begins, Iago intends to fill their time in Cyprus with other types of fighting. First, Iago gets the recovering alcoholic Cassio drunk, and Cassio brawls with another commander. Othello is upset and disappointed when he finds out, and Cassio sees this moment as his own personal tragedy. He cries: “O, I have lost my reputation! I have lost the immortal part of myself, and what remains is bestial.” Like Othello, Cassio’s sense of self comes from a sense of duty, and the respect of those around him. Without his title, Cassio is left with the shame of his indiscretion and calls himself “bestial”, driven by his animal spirits and the opposite of his best, most civilized self.

othello23april2013twoOnce Cassio is out of the Moor’s favour, Iago steals Desdemona’s handkerchief, a token of love from the Moor, and tells Othello that Desdemona betrayed him by giving the token to Cassio. The beauty of this production is that Iago’s moment of greatest triumph happens in a washroom! A washroom of all places! But it’s perfect: for once, washrooms aren’t just for places for women to gossip, but for men, once again, to shoot the shit! Othello attempts to take Iago’s words as nothing but idle washroom gossip, saying, “It is not words that shake me thus.” In moments, his words fall as flat as he does; Iago has tormented the Moor so far that falls into a seizure on the bathroom floor. Kicking his prostrate commander with his boot, Iago tells the audience:

The Moor already changes with my poison:
Dangerous conceits are, in their natures, poisons.
Which at the first are scarce found to distaste,
But with a little act upon the blood.
Burn like the mines of Sulphur.

In the past, I’ve heard critics make much of the “ocular proof” that Othello asks for to back up Iago’s claims of Desdemona’s infidelity. After seeing this production, I’m not convinced. Iago shows that Desdemona doesn’t even need to cheat on Othello: his words are all Iago needs to turn the Moor against his wife. Because everyone trusts him, calling him “Honest Iago”, Iago is able to spread his “poisonous” rumour and let it fester until Othello ultimately murders his wife.

Iago’s dark genius lies in his knowledge that Othello is just like him. As such, he knows that all Othello needs is to hear a rumour to make him unsure of his wife and unsettled in his rule as leader. If he can’t prevent his wife from cheating, if he can’t prevent his second in command from getting drunk, or sleeping in his wife, what can he do? Like Cassio who fears the “bestial” in himself, Othello tells us that without these cornerstones of his identity, “Chaos is come again.”

And chaos does, indeed, come to Cyprus. The council that had trusted Othello at the beginning of the play arrive on the scene to see Othello a fraction of the man he was: paranoid, inarticulate, and above all, violent to his wife. Hytner’s contemporary military backdrop at no point overshadows, but rather compliments this story, showing that although Shakespeare’s great tragedies tell tales on a national scale, the real tragedies are domestic.

 

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Filed under Current Events, Performances, Reviews, Stage to Page to Stage and Screen

Kenneth Branagh’s New York stage debut as Macbeth

Last night, I found proof that the theatre gods exist. That’s a pretty big claim to make – what event could be so huge?? I’ll tell you: in June 2014, Kenneth Branagh is making his New York stage debut!!!

Why is this a big deal? For a number of reasons!

Branagh as Macbeth

–       First off, Branagh has brought so much to the world of Shakespeare in performance. He has directed a number of Shakespeare films, including As You Like It and Much Ado About Nothing, and has performed some of the greatest Shakespearean roles, including Hamlet, Richard III, Iago, and Henry V. At the rate he’s going, it’s no surprise that people (myself included), consider him the Laurence Olivier of our generation.

–       He’s just getting off an eleven-year hiatus from the Shakespearean stage. He has spent the interim busying himself by directing small art house films like Thor, you’ve probably never heard of it.

–       Branagh’s initial return to the Shakespearean stage was this summer, where he co-directed, and delivered a critically acclaimed performance of Macbeth for the Manchester International Festival. The incredibly short run, only 18 performances, was fuelled by such high demand that it sold out instantly. I was so excited when I found out that he’d be performing in England at the same time that I was there, but no matter who I begged, what scalpers I Googled, or which favours I tried to call in, the response was the same: sold out.

–       Despite the demand, the audiences were limited to less than 300 viewers per performance. To appease disappointed Bardolators, the production was at one point relayed on giant screens outside the theatre in Manchester, bringing in no less than 5000 people!

–       For those of you who indulge in the “Mackers Myth” (the rubbish superstition that saying the name “Macbeth” will bring your production bad luck), according to some shady reports, one actor in Manchester was struck by Branagh’s sword, and needed to go to the hospital after final curtain.

–       In an age of unique Macbeths, this one made its presence known by being staged in a deconsecrated church in Manchester. And while I have every intention of dashing to the movie theatre on October 17 to catch National Theatre Live’s broadcast of the Manchester production, I am still going to jump on the opportunity to book tickets for the New York production. As opposed to making his New York stage debut on Broadway, Branagh’s Macbeth will be staged at the Park Avenue Armory. Rather than replicating the original production, it will be re-imagined to best suit the vast, 55,000-square-foot Wade Thompson Drill Hall.

–       Although Branagh calls this setting “epic”, Charlotte Higgins of The Guardian teases us by saying that the space has a capacity for audiences sized anywhere between 200-5000! I can’t tell if I’d prefer the former or the latter, as long as I can be one of them!

So: where will you be in June 2014?

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Filed under Current Events, Performances, Plays, Roles

Happy Birthday to Shakespeare…and me!

Another year older, and hopefully a little bit wiser! In honour of my shared birthday with the Bard, I’d like to produce a second annual “Shakespeare’s Birthday Resolution” list, in which I make a game plan with all the ways I can work towards becoming a more active Shakespeare enthusiast, aka, Bardolator!

But first things first: let’s have a look at which of last year’s resolutions I can cross off my list!

  • I was able to audit a super interesting summer course on Shakespeare and Early Modern Print Culture, where I got to learn with a slushie in my hand and no stress of deadlines.
  • I got to visit the wonderful Stratford Festival, where I saw a touching production of Cymbeline, as well as Much Ado About Nothing, starring one of my Festival favourites, Ben Carlson.
  • Me and Alan Cumming after Macbeth!

    Me and Alan Cumming after Macbeth!

    Traveling a bit further, I had a veritable Shakespearegasm seeing Alan Cumming’s exceptional one-man production of Macbeth. I couldn’t understand how it could be done, but Cumming makes it work, bringing the gender issues of the text to life in a dynamic (demonic?) way. The production has since transferred to Broadway; if you’re in the city sometime before June 30, it’s a must-see!

  • While I did not get the chance to custom-make Shakespearean Wall decals, I did finally get the posters up in my Shakespeare shrine…I mean, home office!
Paul Gross as Hamlet, 2000

Paul Gross as Hamlet (2000)

  •     Likewise, I did not write a groundbreaking essay on the Shakespeare references in the Hunger Games trilogy (the avox Lavinia being the “speechless complainer” whose voice begs to be heard), nor did I get to see Benedict Cumberbatch perform something Shakesperean, but my fingers are still crossed for him to blow minds as a deep-voiced Richard III. A worthwhile consolation was meeting my Canadian Shakespeare idol, Paul Gross, who signed my copy of Hamlet and hinted at an eventual return to the Stratford Festival stage.

Despite all the ambition, my proudest accomplishment of this year was surviving: I took the tremendous weight of grief and trauma that I experienced over my father’s illness and death, and used my research as a tool to help me overcome it. Having to leave school for a short while and deal with what was far too much “real life”, I threw myself into my work upon my return. My research took on the flavour of blessed escape, rather than the thing to procrastinate away from, and from this experience, I’m proud to have published my very first  article (in the Shakespeare Institute’s spankin’ new Shakespeare Institute Review), which deals with loss in Twelfth Night.

Joss Whedon's Much Ado (2012)

Joss Whedon’s Much Ado (2012)

The cherry to top off my year, inspiring me towards another year of Shakespearean awesomeness, was the Shakespeare Association of America meeting in Toronto. There, I got to work on some much needed professionalization and networking, and I’ve got my fingers crossed that in the years to come, I can meet the scholars (with whom I’m intimate friends, insofar as they’re names on the well-worn books in my personal library!) without letting my mouth hang open, and blurting out the painfully terribly rookie words: “Wow! You’re a big deal!” The conference also hosted a special advance screening of Joss Whedon’s highly anticipated Much Ado. Most of all, I helped bring the conference hashtag, #ShakeAss13, to life by dancing my tail off at the annual Malone Society Dance. There, I got to boogy down with the great David Bevington (the first Shakespeare scholar to edit the entirety of Shakespeare’s corpus…to say nothing of his immensely valuable editorial work on many other early modern playwrights), and even experienced my first Shakespeare conga line!

My most ambitious goal from last year was to attend BritGrad, one of the most exciting events for grad students of Shakespeare, as the biggest English Shakespeare scholars often come out to offer sage words. I didn’t make it, but have found a couple of ways to make up for it:

  • One, is that British Shakespeare Scholar extraordinaire Stanley Wells will come to me, leaving his island to visit the Stratford Festival in August.
  • Before that, though, I am finally returning to England, to attend a conference on Reading and Health in Early Modern England, where I’ll be showcasing some new dissertation work!
  • I’ll also be mixing some business and pleasure by visiting some dear friends living in London, Oxford and Stratford-Upon-Avon. At the latter, I hope to celebrate Gregory Doran’s first year as Royal Shakespeare Company Artistic Director, and resolve to plant myself at the “Dirty Duck” Pub until I meet him and his partner, my favourite English Shakespearean actor, Sir Antony Sher.

So what do I resolve to do this coming year? More Shakespeare!

Computer-generated image of the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, opening in 2014

Computer-generated image of the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, opening in 2014

  • Before even leaving to England, I’m already planning my next trip! I’d really like to get to BritGrad before I graduate, and I am also just too excited to visit the brand-new Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, which is a replica of the type of indoor playhouse at which King Lear and Cymbeline would have been performed. This year, they’re showing some of the best non-Shakespearean drama, including John Webster’s Duchess of Malfi and Francis Beaumont’s Knight of the Burning Pestle.
  • I’d also like to continue my annual pilgrimage to the Stratford Festival. Aside from hearing Stanley Wells speak, I’m also hoping to see Measure for Measure, featuring Stephen Ouimette and Geraint Wyn Davies, who played alongside Paul Gross in Slings and Arrows.
  • As a blogger, I’d like to revamp the site. A new, easier-to-pronounce nickname (that doesn’t include the oh-so-90’s number afterwards!), a new look. If you have any suggestions, or any free design services to offer, inquire within!
  • I’m also hoping to get back blogging with more frequency. I recently posted about the BBC’s Hollow Crown series, and I plan to watch and blog about the rest! Ditto goes for finally posting my review of Whedon’s Much Ado!
  • As a scholar, I’ve just got to keep working! I want to finish a dissertation chapter, start another one, and have something to publish on the go, but I realize that these are “marathon efforts.” They require longer spans of time and exertion, so I’ve got my thinking cap on and my Starbucks card fully loaded, so I’m ready to tackle the Shakespearean New Year with my best foot forward!

Shakespeare2To Shakespeare, and everyone celebrating, Cheers!

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Getting ready the the SAA and Celebrating hendiadys!

So it will come to nobody’s surprise that I’m exceptionally excited for the Shakespeare Association of America conference that’s taking place in my hometown, Toronto, later this week. I’m looking forward to using the hashtag, #shakeass13. I’m looking forward to meeting other people who care about what I care about and want to talk about it with no shame or self-deprecation. I also am ready to learn more about Shakespeare, more about how to talk about his work, and get a rush of creative energy that I can put into my dissertation, which I have really started to enjoy working on, and hope never to have it feel like a burden. Like any cat owner who hears the endless thunking sound of a cat’s head hitting a closed door, I like to think of it as another baby that I can nurture.

20130326-102723.jpg

So in the spirit of nurturing that baby with gusto, I decided to brush some of the dust off my Shakesmarts. I was thinking about Hamlet, not the person but the play, and rather uncle/father Claudius. I was thinking about what makes him so great and I forgot the word, and frantically emailed a friend in England to ask him what that word is…his signature rhetorical device and he reminded me : hendiadys! What an excellent word! Say it out loud! It sounds like a mountain range somewhere!

But what does he do? How does he use it? Claudius is a diplomat, which means that he understands the necessity for verbal economy, and tries to add that extra bit of detail, complexity, irony, sincerity…into that sentence.

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Take, for example: “But now, my cousin Hamlet, and my son–“, he manages to link the two with that and, but also using that little ampersand to divide two things that aren’t one and the same. He embodies Facebook’s need for “It’s complicated” relationship statuses, as we can also see when he sums up the opening plot of the play in these two lines of hendiadys:

“With an auspicious, and a dropping eye,

With mirth in funeral, and with dirge in marriage…”

Wonderful. I love it. Here he adds an extra iamb for effect, but for the most part, Shakespeare fits these almost Mr. Collins-like additions into the iambic pentameter that his stage royalty speak. Claudius, of course, makes a big mistake in this sarcastically “gentle and unforc’d accord of Hamlet”, who then stays home from university long enough to kill his stepdad. Bad call, Claudius. Bad call.

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Shakespeare’s birthday resolutions!

My birthday is today, April 23. I’m turning 26 and am feeling great about it. My personal life is full of hope for the future, and my professional life allows me to immerse myself in what I love. The overlap becomes significant on a day like today, when I set out to celebrate both my life and Shakespeare’s. A new year of life reminds me to reflect back and look forward, setting a game plan and then putting it into action to my best ability. That’s why today I’m setting out my Shakespeare’s Birthday Resolutions:

–       Audit my university’s summer Shakespeare course and enjoy the continuing education without the stress of essay deadlines

       See Alan Cumming perform Macbeth (my mom and I actually have tickets to see it in July in New York and I couldn’t be more excited!)

–       Custom-make wall decals to literally surround myself by Shakespearean inspiration (my bedroom favourite: sleep perchance to dream)

–       Visit the Stratford Shakespeare Festival with my mom (our annual tradition) and with friends (a new experience!) to see Ben Carlson play Benedick to his real-life wife’s Beatrice in Much Ado; Cymbeline to see the kick-ass eagle prop the Festival’s been sneaking pictures of over Twitter; Ben Carlson again, because he’s so awesome, playing the sassy Welsh Fluellen in Henry V; and the one-man show MacHomer, as a hilarious contrast to Cummings’ much darker Macbeth, hopefully including the voices of Patty and Selma as the Witches

–       See Benedict Cumberbatch perform in something Shakespearean (fine, that one’s more of a fantasy)

–       Stop buying new Shakespeare posters and instead find more places or better adhesives with which to mount the ones currently lying on the floor in my office

–       Submit my first article for publication

–       Write a brilliant essay/paper/blog post that delves into Suzanne Collins’ Shakespeare references in the Hunger Games trilogy

–       Get back to England before I’m 27, returning to the Globe and to the RSC to experience Gregory Doran’s first year as Artistic Director

–       Finally make my way to Britgrad to hear the Shakespearean luminary Stanley Wells speak in person

–       Read more about Shakespeare’s egalitarian instinct, especially more written by my living Shakespeare idol, Kiernan Ryan. This writing just gets me too excited about the way that Shakespeare said such incredibly subversive stuff about the equality of one human being with the next. It also helps me keep steady among the painful truths of mortality – accepting death, but as a result grabbing life with both hands and really just finding ways to enjoy it – not taking more work so seriously that I no longer enjoy it, and when that time comes, allowing myself the time to rest and relax. Of course, my favorite way to do that is to go to England (see above), so I must remind myself that the best way to simultaneously avoid burnout and keep moving forward on this path of Shakespeare scholarship is by learning Shakespeare on my feet, and then come back to my books with renewed vigour

–       Speak to a grade 7 class about my awesome experiences with Shakespeare so far, and convert at least one unassuming child into a die-hard bardolator!

That’s all for now! What are your Shakespeare’s Birthday Resolutions?

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