Podcast: Unfading Beauty

Today’s episode on The Bard and the Bible Podcast is now live (it is also easy to subscribe to the podcast on iTunes).

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My Favorite Shakespeare Performances

I am not a Shakespeare scholar, but I have read every Shakespeare play (most of them many times) and seen each performed at least once (on stage, television, or as a movie). I make no pretense of being an expert but I know what I like. So here, in alphabetical order (and with “live” productions in italics), is a list of my favorite version of each Shakespeare play (subject to change, of course, as I see several new ones every year).

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Reviewsday: Will & Me

I am a sucker for books about Shakespeare, and almost always devour them alacrity, so I was excited to read Dominic Dromgoole’s memoir, Will & Me: How Shakespeare Took Over My Life.

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A Puppy-headed Monster

Another Monday, another Shakespearean insult here at The Bard and the Bible.

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Today’s insult comes from The Tempest, where Trinculo insults Caliban:

I shall laugh myself to death at this puppy-headed monster! A most scurvy monster
(The Tempest, II.2.155).

To be fair, a “puppy-headed” monster sounds a little cuter than a “scurvy monster.” But try them out on someone today. See which one works better for you.

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Podcast: Quintessence of Dust

If it’s Friday, it must be time for a new Bard and the Bible podcast. This week’s podcast pairs Hamlet’s “What a piece of work is man” speech with Psalm 8:4-9 in the King James Version of the Bible. For automatic uploads of these episodes to your player, please subscribe to the podcast on iTunes.

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6 Reasons Kids Should Read Shakespeare

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(a guest post by Sue Schlesman)

I remember reading Shakespeare for the first time in seventh grade.
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Reviewsday: Branagh’s Love’s Labour’s Lost

Recently I caught The Royal Shakespeare Company’s 2014 production of Love’s Labour’s Lost, a delightful Edwardian adaptation of Shakespeare’s play (and will review it soon on this blog). So I thought on this “Reviewsday” (see what I did there?) I would post a review of Kenneth Branagh’s 2000 adaptation, the first feature film of that early comedy.

Branagh, who had earlier adapted Henry V (1989), Much Ado About Nothing (1993), Othello (1995), and Hamlet (1996) for the screen, pulled out all the stops in making Love’s Labour’s Lost into a Golden Age film musical. Much of it works: newsreels help to carry the story forward, period details (such as an Esther Williams style sequence), and the music of George Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, and others (especially appropriate since Shakespeare can be considered the creator of the stage musical).

With one exception, I thought the cast was exceptional. How can you lose with Kenneth Branagh (Berowne),  Matthew Lillard (Longaville), Natascha McElhone (Rosaline), Nathan Lane (Costard), and Timothy Spall as Don Armado? Unfortunately, from beginning to end, I wondered whether Alicia Silverstone (as the princess) knew what she was saying. I also wish the secondary roles had not been cut so severely, especially the linguistic comedy of Don Armado.

All in all, it is a wonderful concept, but one that doesn’t quite fulfill its promise. The major cuts to the text–in a play that already is slight on character and plot–hurt the overall effect, and the songs, while delightful, were (with the notable exception of “I’ve Got a Crush On You” to carry Act IV, Scene 3) musical interruptions rather than carrying the plot forward in any way.

It was a wonderful, courageous attempt, but I wished for more Shakespeare and less “Three Stooges.”

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