Sunday, March 29, 2020

Shakespeare References in Edgar Cayce On Reincarnation

There is a series of books on Edgar Cayce and the readings he performed for people. Noel Langley’s Edgar Cayce On Reincarnation obviously focuses on the concept of reincarnation, which Edgar Cayce explicitly believed in. And, like almost every book I read, it contains some Shakespeare references. The first is a reference to As You Like It, and specifically to a famous line from Jacques’ speech. Langley writes, “ONE MAN IN HIS TIME PLAYS MANY PARTS” (p. 36). In the section that follows that line, there are several Shakespeare references. Langley writes: “Put yourself in the shoes of the great Shakespearean actor, Sir Laurence Olivier, whose theatrical genius has given us definitive portrayals of Henry V, Hamlet, Richard III and Othello. Each one of these roles is a perfect and fully resolved creation in its own right; none of them derivative of the others” (p. 36). He continues, “But the difference becomes instantly apparent when he stands in the wings of the Old Vic Theater, about to make his first entrance as Othello” (p. 36). And then: “Laurence Olivier is fast becoming a vague dreamy blur in his memory. His sole identification is with Othello. He concentrates only on the emotions he must soon evoke. The canvas scenery disappears, and a real street in Venice takes its place. The voices of the other actors continue, but are now emanating from the throats of flesh-and-blood sixteenth-century Venetians” (pages. 36-37). Langley continues with this analogy: “Now – imagine him passionately declaiming, drawing on the last reserves of his emotional energy, yet maintaining split-second discipline as he times each syllable – and tell me if he would have time to dwell proudly on his press notices for his Hamlet, or glow with nostalgia at the memory of the ovations he received for his Richard III, or suddenly wish he had used a different accent and makeup in his film of Henry V” (p. 37). He adds: “Let me assure you he would be incapable of remembering anything beyond Othello’s immediate infatuation for Desdemona. Even during the intermissions and offstage waits, he would still be Othello – an Othello relaxing, perhaps; as the body does in sleep; but still Othello. Not until the final curtain has fallen and the audience left the theater, not until his costume and makeup are removed, can he be in any sort of condition to discuss the critical pros and cons of his previous triumphs as Henry V, Hamlet and Richard III” (p. 37). Interestingly, Langley mentions one performance that he considers terrible, that in the film of The Beggar’s Opera. He then writes: “What kind of performance could his ‘Othello’ audience expect of him, if his mind were so obsessed by that one failure that it impelled him to stop short in the middle of his performance as Othello to whisper to Desdemona: ‘Ye Gods, old dear, what an absolute jackass I made of myself as MacHeath!’” (pages 37-38). He then asks, “What would happen to the rapport he had so carefully built up between his Othello and the audience?” (p. 38). This is all related to the question of why people don’t remember their past lives.

A little later Langley writes, “and the other was spiritually insulated against the ‘sea of sorrows’ to which man falls heir” (p. 41). This could be a combination of references to both Hamlet and The Tempest. In Hamlet’s most famous soliloquy, he says “a sea of troubles” and then “the thousand natural shocks/That flesh is heir to.” In The Tempest, Prospero says “Sit still, and hear the last of our sea-sorrow.” So, maybe, maybe not. Then at the beginning of the book’s fourth chapter, there is a subtitle: “THE WAGES OF VIRTUE, AND THE WAGES OF SIN” (p. 49). At the end of King Lear, Albany says, “All friends shall taste/The wages of their virtue.” There is then another reference to The Tempest: “These humanoids or mutants feature extensively in the Atlantean records as a primitive form of antediluvian life, the last faint echoes of which linger in Shakespeare’s Caliban and in the fauns, centaurs and minotaurs of Greek mythology” (p. 58). There is also another reference to King Lear: “and the ego depends for its self-preservation on the illusion that it is more sinned against than sinning” (p. 126). Lear says, “I am a man/More sinned against than sinning.” This book also contains a reference to Macbeth, with Langley writing “an incompatible mixture of dedicated zealotry and infirmity of purpose” (p. 180). Lady Macbeth, upset when her husband suddenly balks at returning the daggers to the scene of the crime, says, “Infirm of purpose!” There is another reference to Othello, with Langley writing “In brief, concealed beneath all the pomp and circumstance of the Fifth Council there was a witchhunt in full cry” (p. 198). This is a reference to Othello’s line “Pride, pomp and circumstance of glorious war!”

Edgar Cayce On Reincarnation was published in 1967.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Shakespeare By The Sea’s 2020 Season Is Canceled

Many events and concerts that I’d been looking forward to have been either canceled or postponed because of the coronavirus outbreak. I just got word that Shakespeare By The Sea is canceling its entire summer program. This is terrible news. The company had been planning performances of Love’s Labour’s Lost and Richard III. While of course I completely understand the decision, it is going to make for a rather depressing summer. By the way, if you already made a donation to the company for this season, Lisa Coffi (the producing artistic director) assures everyone the money will be put toward the 2021 performances. And of course the company could use further financial assistance if you are in a position to be able to help. These are tough times, no question, and we all want to make sure the company will stay afloat until next season.

Friday, March 6, 2020

Shakespeare References in The Dominant Blonde

Yes, it seems there are Shakespeare references in basically every book I read, no matter the subject, no matter the style (which, of course, leads me to believe there are Shakespeare references in basically every book I haven’t yet read as well, and so everyone who reads is coming across Shakespeare references, whether he or she knows it or not). Alisa Kwitney’s novel The Dominant Blonde contains a few Shakespeare references. Kwitney writes: “The ring on her finger glittered beneath the waves. A sea change. He doth suffer a sea change. What Shakespeare had really described was someone getting his face nibbled off by fish” (p. 64). The passage Kwitney is referring to is from Act I scene ii of The Tempest. Toward the end of that scene, Ariel sings “Full fathom five thy father lies./Of his bones are coral made./Those are pearls that were his eyes./Nothing of him that doth fade,/But doth suffer a sea-change/Into something rich and strange.” The next reference is to Hamlet. One of the characters is describing an incident from his childhood in which he shot his own father. He says, “The right to bear arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them” (p. 184). That of course is a play on a line from that most famous of soliloquies: “Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,/And by opposing end them?” That is immediately followed by a reference to Shakespeare himself, with another character responding to him, “I think you’ve got your Bill of Rights mixed up with your Shakespeare” (p. 184).

The Dominant Blonde was published in 2002. The copy I read, though a paperback, is a First Edition.

Shakespeare References in While Mortals Sleep

My two favorite writers are Kurt Vonnegut and William Shakespeare, so of course I was tickled to find Shakespeare references in While Mortals Sleep, a collection of previously unpublished short stories by Kurt Vonnegut. The first Shakespeare reference comes in the story “Out, Brief Candle.” Actually, the first reference is that story’s title, which is part of a line from my favorite speech from Macbeth (and perhaps my favorite speech in all of Shakespeare): “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. Out, out, brief candle!/Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player/That struts and frets his hour upon the stage/And then is heard no more. It is a tale/Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,/Signifying nothing.”

Then in the story “The Man Without No Kiddleys,” there are several Shakespeare references. One of the characters is reading Shakespeare’s sonnets, and is interrupted by Noel Sweeney. Vonnegut writes, “The stranger was reading the Sonnets of William Shakespeare” (p. 177). And Vonnegut makes Shakespeare, through his sonnets, basically a character, for he writes, “‘From fairest creatures we desire increase,/That thereby beauty’s rose might never die,’ Shakespeare said to the stranger” (p. 177). And then: “‘Music to hear, why hear’st thou music sadly?’ said Shakespeare. ‘Sweets with sweets war not, joy delights in joy’” (p. 177). The first lines are the opening lines of Sonnet 1, and the second lines are the opening lines of Sonnet 8. A little later in the story, Vonnegut writes: “‘The forward violet thus did I chide:’ Shakespeare said to him, ‘Sweet thief, whence didst thou steal thy sweet that smells,/If not from my love’s breath’” (p. 181). Those are the first lines from Sonnet 99. Vonnegut then continues to quote that sonnet: “‘The purple pride/Which on thy soft cheek for complexion dwells/In my love’s veins thou hast too grossly dy’d,’ said Shakespeare, still chiding the violet” (p. 181). Later in that story, Sweeney asks his companion what his game is. Vonnegut writes: “‘My game?’ said the stranger. He thought awhile, amiably. ‘Shakespeare, I suppose’” (p. 183). Then: “‘Now you see,’ said Sweeny, ‘if you was to come up to me and make me a little bet about Shakespeare – ’ Sweeny shook his head craftily. ‘I just wouldn’t bet you’” (p. 183).

The story “Money Talks” contains a reference to Romeo And Juliet. While in the other story, Shakespeare essentially spoke to one of the characters, in this one a fortune speaks to a character. Vonnegut writes, “‘Goodbye, Romeo,’ said the twelve million to Ben. ‘Don’t look so blue. The world is full of girls just as good as Rose, and prettier’” (p. 230).

While Mortals Sleep was published in 2011. My copy is the Dial Press Trade Paperback Edition, published in 2012.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Shakespeare References in The Boy Who Picked The Bullets Up

Charles Nelson’s novel The Boy Who Picked The Bullets Up contains a lot of Shakespeare references. The first is a reference to The Tempest. About military training, Nelson writes: “A tyranny of shaven heads, extracted teeth, and bloody inoculations followed. I had entered a brave new world” (p. 4). That’s a reference to Miranda’s line, “O brave new world/That has such people in ‘t.” The second is a reference to King Lear, with Nelson writing, “Viler than a serpent’s tooth is an ungrateful child” (p. 20), a variation on Lear’s line “How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is/To have a thankless child.” Nelson then dips into the histories, with a reference to The First Part Of King Henry The Fourth. He writes, “Babich’s rule: Discretion is the better part of valor” (p. 35). That of course is slight variation of Falstaff’s line “The better part of valor is discretion, in the which better part I have saved my life.” That’s followed by a Hamlet reference: “I was good at that. But in ‘Backpack II’ you must put all that stuff back inside the canvas sack and close it up. There’s the rub.” And soon after that, we get a reference to Twelfth Night: “What fool said, ‘Youth’s a stuff will not endure’?” (p. 39). The answer is Feste.

Nelson includes a reference to Shakespeare himself as well, writing: “Thurber for mirth? For drama and poetry, Shakespeare’s plays?” (p. 51). Soon after that there is a reference to Julius Caesar, with the character Kurt ending one of his letters with the line “Yet Caesar shall go forth,” a line from Act II scene ii. We then have another reference to Twelfth Night, and this one too is the last one of one of Kurt’s letters: “And what should I do in Illyria?” (p. 60). In the play, Viola speaks that line. That is followed by a reference to Henry The Fifth, with Kurt writing in a letter to Chloe, “And for every meal, it’s thrice more into the breach, dear cousin” (p. 64). That is obviously a play on Henry’s line “Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more.” Kurt ends another of his letters with a play on a line from Love’s Labour’s Lost: “To each his own. Greasy Joan doth keel those pots” (p. 77). The original line is “While greasy Joan doth keel the pot,” from Act V scene ii. There is another reference to Shakespeare, with Nelson writing, “Randall is getting good, and we may expand into Shakespeare, Chekhov, and Wilde” (p. 86). Kurt ends one of his letters with a reference to Hamlet: “We are but caviar to the general” (p. 86). When Hamlet speaks to the players, he says “for the play, I remember, pleased not the million. ‘Twas caviar to the general.” There is then another Hamlet reference, and again it comes at the end of one of Kurt’s letters: “Then we trundle off to bed for a pleasant night’s sleep. Perchance to dream” (p. 128). And yet another letter ends with a reference to The Second Part Of King Henry The Fourth: “We have heard the chimes at midnight” (p. 144). In the play, Falstaff speaks that line to Shallow. There is what is likely another reference to The Second Part Of King Henry The Fourth, with Charles Nelson writing, “At least I’ve heard nothing more about it, and Rumor with his cloak of tongues finds eager ears at First Med” (p. 217). This may be a reference to the prologue, spoken by Rumor, which more than once mentions tongues: “Upon my tongues continual slanders ride” and “From Rumor’s tongues/They bring smooth comforts false.”

Charles Nelson writes, “And thereby hangs a sad tale” (p. 259). Is this a reference to As You Like It, in which Jacques says “And then from hour to hour we rot and rot,/And thereby hangs a tale”? Or it is a reference to The Taming Of The Shrew, in which Grumio says “Out of their saddles into the dirt, and thereby hangs a tale”? Or could it possibly be a reference to Othello, where the Clown says “Oh, thereby hangs a tail” and the Musician says “Whereby hangs a tale, sir”? My guess is that Charles Nelson was thinking of As You Like It when he wrote that line. He quotes As You Like It again a little later: “I told her I’d rather have a fool to make me merry than experience to make me sad” (p. 315). Rosalind speaks the line in Act IV scene i. This book also contains a reference to Cymbeline, with Kurt ending a letter with the line “He’ll fear no more the heat o’ the sun” (p. 319). That line comes from a song from Act IV Scene ii: “Fear no more the heat o’ the sun,/Nor the furious winter’s rages.” The book’s final Shakespeare reference is to Hamlet. Nelson writes, “And may flights of angels sing thee to thy rest” (p. 335). That is a slight variation on Horatio’s famous line, “And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.”

The Boy Who Picked The Bullets Up was published in 1981. The First Avon Printing was in August of 1982.