Thursday, April 11, 2024

Shakespeare References in Eden Burning

Belva Plain’s novel Eden Burning contains a few Shakespeare references. The first is to Romeo And Juliet, with Plain writing: “‘I don’t intend to vote at all,’ he answered curtly. ‘What I’m thinking is, A plague on both your houses’” (p. 400). That is a reference to Mercutio’s lines in Act III Scene i when he is dying: “Ask for me tomorrow, and you shall find me a grave man. I am peppered, I warrant, for this world. A plague o’ both your houses!” Then Plain writes: “What happened was, some of these fellows got angry at the lady’s lies about me and decided to do something. That’s the long and the short of the whole business” (p. 409). The phrase “the long and the short” is something Shakespeare used several times, though in his work the order is reversed to “the short and the long.” In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Bottom tells the other Mechanicals, “For the short and the long is, our play is preferred.” In The Merchant Of Venice, Launcelot says, “Indeed, the short and the long is, I serve the Jew.” And in The Merry Wives Of Windsor, Nym says to Page, “He loves your wife; there’s the short and the long.” Later in that play, Mistress Quickly says, “Marry, this is the short and the long of it: you have brought her into such a canaries as ‘tis wonderful.” The phrase might be older than Shakespeare, but it seems he is the one who popularized it. The novel’s final reference is to Romeo And Juliet. Plain writes: “‘We’re early,’ Kate said. ‘Father Baker’s not here yet. I feel like Juliet eloping with Romeo to the friar’s cell’” (p. 472).

Eden Burning was published in 1982. The first Dell printing was in June 1983

Monday, March 25, 2024

Independent Shakespeare Company Delves Into The Bad Quarto Of Hamlet

At the beginning of The Book Of Will, a performance of Hamlet is being put on. Only, as we quickly discover, the actors are using the first quarto, the so-called “Bad Quarto,” for Hamlet says, “To be or not to be, ay, there’s the point.” It’s a funny moment, establishing one reason why it was so important for Shakespeare’s friends to publish an official collection of his works, now known as the First Folio. But how bad is the Bad Quarto? And how did it come about? Those are questions that were addressed last night by members of the Independent Shakespeare Company in Los Angeles as part of this year’s Iambic Lab.

The theme this year is “Hamlet, Undiscovered Country,” which might be considered a rather bold theme. After all, so much has been said and written about Hamlet that it might seem crazy to think there are areas that have not yet been explored. But of course there are always new things to discover in each of Shakespeare’s plays, including Hamlet. There are new gems found by each production. On the company’s website, last night’s performance was described as a staged reading, but that was not a completely accurate description. Conceived by Melissa Chalsma and Nikhil Pai, the performance was presented as a lesson on the first quarto and its place in the canon, with staged readings of certain speeches, but not the entire play. Joining Chalsma and Pai on stage was Brent Charles, and the three took a playful approach to the subject, with Chalsma taking on the role of teacher and Pai and Charles (along with the audience) as her students. She even supplied handouts to the audience, containing a few speeches to be discussed. Initially it was Nikhil Pai whose reactions to readings from Q1 were likely most aligned with those of us in the audience. In short, he did not care for them. But by the end both he and the audience came away with an appreciation for that version of the play.

This came about by the three actors performing certain scenes and speeches from Q1 and comparing them to the Folio readings, but also by acting out theories on how Q1 was created in the first place, with Melissa Chalsma playing Shakespeare and Brent Charles playing Richard Burbage at one point. Delightful, and also fascinating. The differences among the two quartos and the folio are also fascinating, with the meaning changing depending on the wording. For example, does Hamlet mention “sallied flesh,” “sullied flesh” or “solid flesh”? Each has a different meaning, but each can work. And just how old is Hamlet? That has posed a problem for folks. Well, in the Folio he is clearly thirty years old. But in Q1 he is eighteen. The performance last night got into those elements. But what was most intriguing was the difference in Gertrude’s role in Q1. She straight-out tells Hamlet that she believes him about the guilt of Claudius. That changes everything.

Though last night’s performance was a one-time thing, the Iambic Lab runs through April 9th, with performances of Hamlet, Solus, a workshop on dancing and a talk on women portraying Hamlet. And if you get there early, you can have a drink called the Mortal Coil in the lobby before the performance. I recommend it.


Shakespeare Reference in Clans Of The Alphane Moon

Philip K. Dick’s novel Clans Of The Alphane Moon contains an interesting Shakespeare reference. Each of the clans, which are groups of mentally ill people divided by their particular maladies, has its own town, and those towns are named after people, including Gandhi and Da Vinci. One of the towns is named after a Shakespearean character, the playfully named Hamlet Hamlet, its inhabitants considered the creative members of the population. The character Annette Golding resides in Hamlet Hamlet, and at one point she contemplates suicide. Philip K. Dick writes, “On her trip home from the council meeting at Adolfville, a meeting which had seen the Terran ultimatum expire and the enemy go into action against Da Vinci Heights, Annette Golding considered the possibility of suicide” (p. 182). Hamlet Hamlet is mentioned several times in the book, on pages 89, 179, 180, 182, 193, 190, 191, and 193.

Clans Of The Alphane Moon was published in 1964. The copy I read was the First Vintage Books Edition, published in May 2002.

Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Shakespeare Reference in How To Sell Every Magazine Article You Write

Nearly every book I read contains at least one Shakespeare reference, including Lisa Collier Cool’s How To Sell Every Magazine Article You Write. Cool writes, “Look for titles in quotations, making sure you haven’t picked something too common like ‘All the World’s a Stage’” (p. 25). In As You Like It, Jacques says, “All the world’s a stage/And all the men and women merely players/They have their exits and their entrances/And one man in his time plays many parts.” Shakespeare also mentioned this idea in The Merchant Of Venice, where Antonio says the world is “A stage where every man must play a part.” How To Sell Every Magazine Article You Write was published in 1986.

Saturday, March 16, 2024

Shakespeare Reference in To Distant Shores

This book is trash and some kind of twisted rape fantasy, but it does contain a reference to Shakespeare. Jill Gregory writes, “And there was theatre at the New Playhouse, built in 1772, where one could watch Shakespeare from the pit of the gallery” (p. 168). The book also contains some talk of Alex Burke taming Elizabeth, and at one point Alex says to her, “My you are the shrew tonight, aren’t you?” (p. 355). And another character tells her, “by the time I’m finished with you, you’ll be as tame as a lap dog” (p. 397). So there are certainly at least nods to The Taming Of The Shrew. To Distant Shores was published in 1980.