Saturday, January 7, 2017

Shakespeare References in The Essential Lenny Bruce

The Essential Lenny Bruce is a collection of material from Lenny Bruce’s performances, transcribed and organized by subject. It was edited by John Cohen. It contains a few Shakespeare references, all of them Hamlet references actually. The first comes in a bit with a rabbi, with the rabbi saying, “Alas, alas, poor Yossel” (p. 36), a reference to Hamlet’s line, “Alas, poor Yorick.” The second is a reference to that famous speech by Polonius to Laertes. Lenny Bruce says, “It’s like, any comedian, see, all comedians – it’s ‘To thine own self be true’” (p. 111). Lenny Bruce uses that line again, this time in a song: “The most important factor?/To thine own self be true” (p. 172). By the way, in the back of the book there is an index of bits, and the bit on page 111 is referred to as “To Thine Own Self Be True” (p. 312).

The Essential Lenny Bruce was published in 1967 by Ballantine Books. My copy was from the sixth printing, in April of 1971.


Thursday, December 8, 2016

Shakespeare References in The Speed Of Sound

Thomas Dolby’s memoir, The Speed Of Sound: Breaking The Barriers Between Music And Technology, contains a couple of Shakespeare references. The first is a reference to Richard The Third: “I wanted to be back in my bed-sitter in drab South London, in 1978, in the Winter of Discontent” (p. 5). Of course, the Winter of Discontent is a specific time in the UK, the winter of 1978-1979, when there were a lot of strikes. But it also refers to the first line of Shakespeare’s play. “Now is the winter of our discontent.” Thomas Dolby then uses “The Winter Of Discontent” as the title of the book’s first chapter. The other reference is to William Shakespeare himself: “So much of the filmmaker’s art was based on classical story structure dating back to the Greeks, Shakespeare, and Japanese narrative aesthetics” (p. 160).

The Speed Of Sound: Breaking The Barriers Between Music And Technology was published in October of 2016 through Flatiron Books.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Shakespeare Reference in Harvest Tales & Midnight Revels

Harvest Tales & Midnight Revels: Stories For The Waning Of The Year is a collection of Halloween stories written by various authors for an annual Halloween story-reading party. The collection was edited by Michael Mayhew and illustrated by Mona Caron. It contains one Shakespeare reference, though not in any of the stories. It comes in the afterword, written by Michael Mayhew and Joshua Mertz: “On the other hand, the Play’s the thing – or in our case, the Stories are” (p. 209). This is a reference to Hamlet’s line, “The play’s the thing/Wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king.”

Harvest Tales & Midnight Revels: Stories For The Waning Of The Year was published in 1998 by Bald Mountain Books.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Shakespeare Reference in Sundancing

John Anderson’s Sundancing: Hanging Out And Listening In At America’s Most Important Film Festival contains one Shakespeare reference. This book about the Sundance Film Festival features the thoughts of many of the folks who attended the festival in 1999. Ann Russell says, “I produce, direct, and stage manage, and we’re doing a very cute play which is Shakespeare set to music – which could potentially be awful but the music is so good” (p. 193).

Sundancing: Hanging Out And Listening In At America’s Most Important Film Festival was published in 2000 by Spike Books.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Shakespeare References in In The Boom Boom Room

Shakespeare references continue to pop up in most of the things I read. While Shakespeare and his works aren’t actually referred to in David Rabe’s play In The Boom Boom Room, Shakespeare is mentioned twice at the beginning of the book. The first reference: “In The Boom Boom Room was first produced Off-Broadway by Joseph Papp on December 4, 1974 at The New York Shakespeare Festival Public Theater under the direction of Robert Hedley” (p. 5). The second reference is in the description of the set: “The set should be a space with areas and levels similar to a Shakespearean stage, but all within a metaphor of bars and go-go dancing” (p. 8).

The edition I read was the Samuel French publication, the play revised to the original two acts, and includes a note by David Rabe at the end.

Monday, September 26, 2016

William Shakespeare’s Tragedy Of The Sith’s Revenge: Star Wars Part The Third by Ian Doescher (2015) Book Review

Revenge Of The Sith was far and away the best of the three Star Wars prequels. Ian Doescher combines that screenplay with the work of William Shakespeare to create William Shakespeare’s Tragedy Of The Sith’s Revenge: Star Wars Part The Third, completing the six-book series. As with the other volumes, this book is divided into five acts and is presented mostly in iambic pentameter.

The prologue is delivered by the Chorus as a sonnet. As in other books in the series, lines are given to characters that don’t speak in the films. For example, in this book, the vulture droids speak. And of course, there are many references to the works of Shakespeare. Anakin Skywalker turns to Julius Caesar when speaking with Dooku: “Cowards die many times before their deaths;/The Jedi never taste of death but once” (pages 23-24). Of course, in Act II scene ii Caesar says, “The valiant,” not “The Jedi.” Later Anakin has a little play on the title of All’s Well That Ends Well when he says, “Methinks all’s well – that might have ended worse” (p. 27). He also quotes Romeo: “I have more care to stay than will to go” (p. 39).

Anakin turns to Titus Andronicus as well: “If I did tell my sorrows to the stones,/Who, though they cannot answer my distress,/Yet in some sort are better than the Council,/For that they will not intercept my tale:/When I do weep, they humbly at my feet/Receive my tears and seem to weep with me;/And, were they but attired in grave weeds,/Coruscant could afford none like to these./A stone is soft as wax, the Jedi harder,/A stone is silent and offendeth not,/Whilst Jedi by decrees doom me to shame” (p. 57). Of course these lines are slightly different than the original speech by Titus in Act III Scene i: “Therefore I tell my sorrows to the stones,/Who, though they cannot answer my distress,/Yet in some sort they are better than the tribunes,/For that they will not intercept my tale./When I do weep, they humbly at my feet/Receive my tears, and seem to weep with me;/And, were they but attired in grave weeds,/Rome could afford no tribune like to these./A stone is as soft wax, tribunes more hard than stones;/A stone is silent, and offendeth not,/And tribunes with their tongues doom men to death.”

Palpatine, interestingly, takes the role of Hamlet when he instructs the players to perform a certain piece for Anakin. He says to Player 1, “I heard thee speak me a speech once, but ‘twas/Ne’er acted; or, if ‘twas, not above once” (p. 64). Player 1 plays the role of Oedipus as a Tusken Raider. Then Anakin use Hamlet’s words about being played “as one would play a pipe” (p. 67). The story of Darth Plagueis is performed by the players, an interesting choice. Anakin turns to Hamlet again when talking to Padme: “I have of late – but wherefore I know not – /Lost all my mirth” (p. 78). And once Anakin becomes Darth Vader, he quotes from Act IV Scene iii of Timon Of Athens: “the moon’s an arrant thief,/And her pale fire she snatches from the sun” (p. 104). Vader also turns to Othello when he goes to the Jedi temple to dispatch the young Jedi: “I would not kill your unprepared spirits;/No, heav’n forfend! I would not kill your souls” (p. 116). The first youngling responds with Desdemona’s line, “Talk you of killing?” Vader also quotes King Lear: “I am a man more sinn’d against than sinning” (p. 143), before returning once again to Hamlet: “Aye, there’s the rub” (p. 143). Vader also refers to Macduff’s line toward the end of Macbeth when he says, “But from that home, that mother, was I ta’en,/Untimely ripp’d from her beloved arms.”

Ian Doescher adds a scene in which two Jedi discuss the mysterious Order 66, which was missing from the written codes. This is a nice bit of foreshadowing, which of course is interesting, because it’s unlikely that anyone who reads this isn’t already familiar with the Star Wars films. And for that reason, the foreshadowing becomes rather humorous.

In addition to Shakespeare, this book makes some other playful references. For example, Mace says, “Prithee, listen not to how the black/Snake moaneth unto thee” (p. 100). Black Snake Moan stars Samuel L. Jackson, the actor who plays Mace in the Star Wars films. Mace then says, “A time to kill hath, in its time, arriv’d.” (A Time To Kill is another film starring Samuel L. Jackson.)

William Shakespeare’s Tragedy Of The Sith’s Revenge: Star Wars Part The Third was published in 2015 by Quirk Books.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

William Shakespeare’s The Clone Army Attacketh: Star Wars Part The Second by Ian Doescher (2015) Book Review

Attack Of The Clones had possibly the weakest script of the six Star Wars films (yes, six, as I don’t count that awful Force Awakens movie), but combining that material with Shakespeare certainly helps a great deal. For example, it improves upon those awful lines about sand being coarse. As with previous books, The Clone Army Attacketh is divided into five acts and is presented largely in iambic pentameter.

The prologue is delivered by the Chorus as a sonnet, and its first line contains a reference to Macbeth: “All hurly-burly goes the galaxy” (p. 7). In the first scene of Macbeth, the second witch says, “When the hurlyburly’s done.” Padme’s first line is the first line from The Merchant Of Venice (in that play, spoken by Antonio): “In sooth, I know not why I am so sad” (p. 10). This book jokes lightly with the fact that in the film Anakin was played by a different actor than in The Phantom Menace while Padme was played again by Natalie Portman (with only three years between films): “Though I feel I have ag’d but little since/I last did see him, back on small Naboo,/The change in him doth tell of many years/That evidently fill’d the interim” (p. 18).

As in The Phantom Of Menace, here Jar Jar Binks, when left alone, speaks with eloquence, his clown speech a sort of disguise. “I chose, aye, long ago, to play this role/And I shall play the part unto the end./What would they say if Jar Jar suddenly/Spoke as they do, or show’d an aspect wise?/Why, they would think me mad e’en as I spoke/More sanely than I ever did before” (p. 22). And later Jar Jar even refers to Hamlet’s speech to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern: “They would play me as though I were a pipe,/With stops and whistles made for their employ” (p. 113). As in earlier volumes of this series, characters who did not speak in the films are given speeches here, such as Zam Wesell’s probe droid. Also, the Reek, Acklay and Nexu speak, acting as the three witches from Macbeth (the Acklay has the “hurlyburly’s done” line).

This book contains plenty of direct references to Shakespeare’s works. Palpatine, in an aside, says, “What fools these Jedi be!” (p. 39), which is a play on Puck’s “Lord, what fools these mortals be!” from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. And Rumor later refers to Puck when he says “to my puckish will shall he be bent” (p. 62).

The love story between Anakin and Padme (one of the film’s weaknesses) makes use of The Taming Of The Shrew. Anakin says, “Come, come, thou wasp: thine hidden secret shout” (p. 72). Padme responds, “If I be waspish, best beware my sting.” Anakin says, “My remedy is, then, to pluck it out.” This, of course, refers to the famous wooing scene of the play. (Anakin will return to Shrew later when he says, “He that knows better how to tame a beast,/Now let him speak; ‘tis charity to show.”) The Anakin and Padme love story makes references to other plays as well, including The Two Gentlemen Of Verona, when Anakin says “What light is light, if Padme be not seen?/What joy is joy, if Padme be not by?” (p. 74). (In the play, Valentine says, “What light is light, if Silvia be not seen?/What joy is joy ,if Silvia be not by?”) Anakin also quotes Love’s Labour’s Lost, saying, “They are the books, the arts, the academes,/That show, contain, and nourish all the world” (p. 75), words spoken by Berowne in Act IV. Anakin also borrows a line from Lysander from A Midsummer Night’s Dream: “The course of true love never did run smooth” (p. 77). Padme gets into the game too, using the words of Rosalind from As You Like It: “I pray thee, do not fall in love with me,/For I am falser than vows made in wine” (p. 78), though actually Rosalind says, “I pray you, do not fall in love with me.” She also quotes Viola from Twelfth Night: “O, time! Thou must untangle this, not I;/It is too hard a knot for me t’untie” (p. 79).

At Shmi’s death, Anakin borrows much of Macbeth’s famous speech, saying, “My mother, O! She should have died hereafter,/There would have been a time for such a word./Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow/Creeps in this petty pace from day to day/To the last syllable of recorded time,/And all our yesterdays have lighted fools/The way to dusty death. On, on, lightsaber!” (p. 101). Of course, Macbeth says, “Out, out, brief candle,” not “On, on lightsaber.” And Owen, upon learning of Shmi’s death, sings a funeral dirge that might remind you of Ophelia’s first song of Act IV. Anakin soon quotes from Othello, mentioning “the green-eyed monster, jealousy” (p. 106). And then from Hamlet, “they did make love to this employment” (p. 106).

C-3PO also refers to Hamlet when he says, “O, what a piece of work’s humanity –/How infinite in faculty! In form/And moving, how express and admirable!” (p. 121). C-3PO then acts the part of Mercutio from Romeo And Juliet, saying, “Aye, ask for me/Tomorrow, you shall find me a scrap droid!” (p. 123). (Mercutio says, “ask for me tomorrow and you shall find me a grave man.”) C-3PO even acts as Bottom from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, saying: “Have they all stolen hence, left me asleep?/R2, I’ve had a most rare vision, yea:/I’ve had a dream, past wit of droid to say/What dream it was: aye, I were but an akk,/If I did go about t’expound this dream./Methought I was – yet no droid can tell what./Methought I was – and too, methought I had – /But I am a patched fool, if I/Will offer to say what methought I had./The eyes of droids have never heard, the ears/Of droids have never seen, droids’ circuitry/Not able been to sense, nor programming/Conceive, nor e’en droids’ core to make report,/What my dream was. I’ll speak no more of it” (p. 143). And, if you hadn’t caught wind of the reference, R2 adds, “It seems the droid hath bottom’d out his sense” (p. 143).

Even the stage directions bring to mind certain plays, as Doescher writes, “Obi-Wan hides behind an arras” (p. 95), making us think of poor Polonius. Ian Doescher adds a scene between two Jedi, a scene in which he plays with the idea of these stories being told at some point in the future in a “galaxy far, far away” (p. 110). Doescher mixes in other, non-Shakespearian references as well. For example, he has C-3PO say, “We’re not in Tatooine,/Not anymore: O, there’s no place like home!” That’s obviously a reference to The Wizard Of Oz. And at one point Obi-Wan Kenobi actually refers to a popular Kenny Rogers song: “’Tis good to know when holding maketh sense,/’Tis better yet to know when one should fold,/’Tis best to know when one should walk away,/Yet now the time hath come for me to run!” And if you might have not have caught the reference yet, he adds, “I’ll join the others – yea, no gambler I!” (p. 133).

William Shakespeare’s The Clone Army Attacketh: Star Wars Part The Second was published in 2015 by Quirk Books.