Sunday, November 30, 2008

Star Trek Deconstructs the Romantic Use of the Sonnets

“Ménage à Troi.” By Fred Bronson and Susan Sackett. Perf. Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, LeVar Burton, and Michael Dorn. Dir. Robert Legato. Star Trek: The Next Generation. Season 3, episode 24. Syndicated television. 10 June 1990. DVD. Paramount, 2002.

And sometimes, Shakespeare and Star Trek just get silly.

I've written about this episode before, mentioning the slight inaccuracies in the quotations and the unamused look on Worf's face, but I didn't include a clip of all the silliness that surrounds them.

We're treated to sections of Sonnets 147 and 141, after which we jump to Sonnet 18. A smattering of Othello rounds out the jealousy Picard is attempting to portray. Then Picard adds a sliver of Alfred, Lord Tennyson—just to round things off.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Shakespeare's Enduring Legacy, Imaginatively Extended to A.D. 2363

“Hide & Q.” By C. J. Holland and Gene Roddenberry. Perf. Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, LeVar Burton, Michael Dorn, Denise Crosby, Gates McFadden, Marina Sirtis, Brent Spiner, Wil Wheaton, and John de Lancie. Dir. Cliff Bole. Star Trek: The Next Generation. Season 1, episode 10. Syndicated television. 23 November 1987. DVD. Paramount, 2002.

The second Shakespeare reference in The Next Generation takes place in the second episode (for which, q.v.). The third reference comes along with the second appearance of the entity known as Q.

Q is an omniscient, omnipotent entity who shows up periodically to tease or to test the human beings on the Enterprise. In this scene, he's thumbing through Picard's Globe Illustrated Shakespeare . He give us a bit of Hamlet, followed by a modernized-to-the-year-2363 version of Jaques' "All the world's a stage" speech from As You LIke It. A sampling of Macbeth follows, to which Picard responds with some more Hamlet, specifically, this:
What a piece of work is a man. How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty. In form and moving how express and admirable, in action how like an angel—in apprehension how like a god!
Picard says he's saying this sincerely—without Hamlet's irony and without (though he doesn't say this outright) Hamlet's "Yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust" that tends to take the edge off the lines. When Picard compares man to a god, Q (who is an omniscient, omnipotent entity, remember—something of a god himself) is appalled. And rightly so!

What we tend to forget about that speech, especially when it's taken out of context, is that Hamlet is talking to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, who have already admitted that they are working for the King. Although Hamlet's purposes in uttering this in particular to people he knows will report what he says to his nemesis are unclear, it is clear that we can't take it at face value. At face value, it's quite an appalling claim!

I prefer the passage that may lie at the back of it: Psalm 8:3-5.
When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,

what is man that you are mindful of him,
the son of man that you care for him?

You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor.
But back to the scene in question. Here it is!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Shakespeare in the Next Generation

“Encounter at Farpoint.” By D. C. Fontana and Gene Roddenberry. Perf. Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, LeVar Burton, Michael Dorn, Denise Crosby, Gates McFadden, Marina Sirtis, Brent Spiner, Wil Wheaton, and DeForest Kelley. Dir. Corey Allen. Star Trek: The Next Generation. Season 1, episode 1. Syndicated television. 28 September 1987. DVD. Paramount, 2002.

It doesn't take long for The Next Generation to pick up the habit of incorporating Shakespeare into its dialogue. In the very first episode, Picard pulls out that delightful line from Henry VI, Part II as a critique of the strange courtroom experience the crew is having:

Thursday, November 27, 2008

"Thanks, Dear Isabel": Inadequate Words on Thanksgiving Day

Shakespeare, William. Measure for Measure. Ed. Jonathan Crewe. Pelican Shakespeare. Gen. ed. Stephen Orgel. New York: Penguin Classic, 2000.

It seems like one of the most inadequate responses in all of Shakespeare. Isabella has just told her brother that the only way to get him out of prison is for her—her, a novitiate!—to sleep with the unjust judge. She adds this line to her explanation of her refusal to do so (and to his agreement to her refusal to do so):
O, were it but my life,
I'ld throw it down for your deliverance
As frankly as a pin.
Claudio responds with these words: "Thanks, dear Isabel."

Those lines seem, somehow, not to measure up (ha!) to the offer.

But that's how we feel every Thanksgiving. We have so very, very much to be thankful for—on both a material and a spiritual plane—that a simple "Thanks" seems inadequate.

However, it is heartfelt. And it seems that all the eloquence in the world wouldn't weigh evenly against all that we have been given.

Therefore, we just say, in the words of Sebastian of Twelfth Night,
I can no other answer make but thanks,
And thanks; and ever thanks. (III.iii.15-16)
Happy Thanksgiving from Bardfilm, everyone!


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"I am Shylock! Know Ye Not That?"

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. Dir. Nicholas Meyer. Perf. William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, Nichelle Nichols, James Doohan, Walter Koenig, and George Takei. 1991. DVD. Paramount, 2004.

All right, after this post, we'll move from The Undiscovered Country to other matters.

The previous post mentioned a broadcast of Merchant of Venice on the day before Kristellnacht. The intent seems to have been to incite the general populace to anti-Semitism.

It vaguely reminded me of an incident in the lives of Queen Elizabeth and Shakespeare.  In 1601, Shakespeare's company was paid to put on a production of Richard II the day before a failed insurrection.  The play addresses the successful deposition of an unpopular monarch, and the theory is that the leaders of the insurrection (the Earl of Essex and his crowd) thought that the play would rally the people to their cause—or, at least, give them courage to go through with a dangerous and deadly—and, for Essex and many others, fatal—operation.

Afterwards, in extreme pique, Her Majesty purportedly said, "I am Richard—know ye not that?"

Fortunately, the players—and the author—escaped severe punishment.

The idea was similar in Germany in 1938.  The problem was that it was successful, rallying the people to attack the supposed Shylocks among them.

Why couldn't they have broadcast As You Like It, in which the terrible ruler becomes miraculous converted in the forest and turns his throne over to the good guys?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Discoveries in The Undiscovered Country

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. Dir. Nicholas Meyer. Perf. William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, Nichelle Nichols, James Doohan, Walter Koenig, and George Takei. 1991. DVD. Paramount, 2004.

After this post, we'll move from The Undiscovered Country to other matters, but an examination of the use of Shakespeare in that film has led my mind into tangential territory that I find interesting.

All the Shakespeare in that film is given to the villain.  The good guys just watch as their author is misused, abused, appropriated, and twisted—all without even so much as a "base, proud, shallow, beggarly, three-suited, hundred-pound, filthy, worsted-stocking knave" directed at him.

I've repeatedly said that Shylock's "Hath not a Jew" speech is almost impossible to play unsympathetically. In my research for posts on this film (especially on the Nazi use of Shakespeare in the Second World War), I discovered that a version of Merchant of Venice was broadcast on German radio—as incitement to anti-Semitism—on the day before Kristellnacht.

Shylock must have been portrayed with all the worst presumed characteristics of Jews. But I wonder. Could no one hear those lines sympathetically? In the aftermath, did no one think of those words and reconsider?

In the clip I posted in the previous entry, General Chang says the lines, and we fail to sympathize. But, of course, he hasn't been tickled, he hasn't been pricked, and he hasn't even been wronged. Therefore, his claims are ludicrous—we don't have to accept the conclusion of "Hath not a Klingon" because we don't have to accept the premise. But it was surely different in Germany in 1938.

Wasn't it?

Links: A Gateway to Star Trek Information at Wikipedia. Official Site of The Klingon Hamlet.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Pulling Out All the Stops: Allusions to Six Plays (and Two Sherlock Holmes References [one a Shakespeare quote] as a Bonus) in Star Trek VI

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. Dir. Nicholas Meyer. Perf. William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, Nichelle Nichols, James Doohan, Walter Koenig, and George Takei. 1991. DVD. Paramount, 2004.

In the grand conclusion to Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, General Chang gets a little carried away, piling reference upon reference, allusion upon allusion, and quotation upon quotation from Shakespeare into his militaristic taunting. Including the trial scene, we are treated to excerpts or paraphrases (or translations into Klingon) of no less than six plays: Richard II, Henry V, Hamlet (in Klingon), The Merchant of Venice, Henry V (again), The Tempest, Julius Caesar, Julius Caesar (again), and—finally and conclusively—Hamlet (in English).

I've collated them into the clip below, and I've provided the quotes (as uttered in the film, not as printed in authoritative sources) below the clip below. For the Klingon, I used (unabashedly, in this case) the internet. Most sources capitalize and accent the line in this way. Until I get my copy of The Klingon Hamlet (for a link, see below), requested today through Inter-Library Loan, that will pass as authoritative.

Let us sit upon the ground / And tell sad stories of the death of kings.
Richard II, III.ii.155-56
Once more unto the breach, dear friends!
Henry V, III.i.1
taH pagh taHbe'.
Hamlet, Klingon Translation, III.i.55
Tickle us, do we not laugh? Prick us, do we not bleed? Wrong us, shall we not revenge?
The Merchant of Venice, III.i.64-66
The game's afoot!
Henry V, III.i.32
Our revels now are ended.
The Tempest, IV.i.148
Cry “Havoc!” and let slip the dogs of war!
Julius Caesar, III.i.273
I am constant as the northern star.
Julius Caesar, III.i.60
To be or not to be.
Hamlet, III.i.55
[Dr. McCoy's comment ("I'd give real money if he'd shut up") is not from Shakespeare, though it may move us as much.]

One last brief allusion is found in the mouth of another bad guy ("gal," I suppose, really). Hamlet says that "the devil hath power / T'assume a pleasing shape" (II.ii.599-600). This baddie admits to having the same power:


Update (6 August 2012): The phrase "undiscovered country" is repeated at least twice more (once in plural form) in the course of the film—toward the film's end. Here are two still frames showing those quotations:



Links: A Gateway to Star Trek Information at Wikipedia. Official Site of The Klingon Hamlet.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Mix One Part Hamlet, One Part Tempest, One Part Romeo and Juliet, and One Part Henry IV, Part 2. Mix Well.

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. Dir. Nicholas Meyer. Perf. William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, Nichelle Nichols, James Doohan, Walter Koenig, and George Takei. 1991. DVD. Paramount, 2004.

We're still in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country today, mining it for more Shakespearean fragments.  I didn't offer a lot of commentary on the previous clip (the one that ends with Chekov looking skeptical at Shakespeare "in the original Klingon").  The reason that is so funny (and the reason I left the reference to "Earth—Hitler—1938" in the clip below) is the Nazi appropriation of Shakespeare in World War II.  The common story is that the Nazis claimed that Shakespeare had really been written in German, but the English translated him into English and stole him away from his rightful heritage.  I haven't found that claim in a scholarly source, though I have found statements noting that Shakespeare was to be treated as a German author when non-German playwrights were banned.

In the clip below, you get not one—not two—not three—but four, fourFFFFFOUUURRRR Shakespeare references for the price of one!


Links: A Gateway to Star Trek Information at Wikipedia.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Klingon Appropriation of Hamlet

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. Dir. Nicholas Meyer. Perf. William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, Nichelle Nichols, James Doohan, Walter Koenig, and George Takei. 1991. DVD. Paramount, 2004.

Some of my favorite connections between Shakespeare and Star Trek come in this film. In this scene, we are reminded that Shakespeare, as we know him, is only an English translation of the far-superior original:



Links: A Gateway to Star Trek Information at Wikipedia.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Spock Displays his Well-Rounded, Liberal Arts Education

Star Trek: The Voyage Home. Dir. Leonard Nimoy. Perf. William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, Nichelle Nichols, James Doohan, Walter Koenig, and George Takei. 1986. DVD. Paramount, 2003.

And so, we move to the motion pictures (though I will get to the episodes that are just title references and to ST:  TNG—don't you worry).

The Original Series offered considerable scope.  In the movies, Hamlet takes the upper hand.  Is it because the studios can't afford to be as obscure in a feature film?

In any case, The Voyage Home offers only a small quotation from Hamlet.  But, for those of you who know its plot, they could have shoved in a quick "Very like a whale" every now and then!


Links: A Gateway to Star Trek Information at Wikipedia.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Review of Shakespeare in Words and Music

Shakespeare in Words and Music. Dir. Albert Girard and Jean-Jacques Sheitoyan. Perf. Attila Ciemann, Pascale Beaudin, Daniela Candillari, et al. 2008. DVD. Kultur, 2008.

Although the music of Jean Sibelius has its affinities with the soundtracks of Star Trek, that would be stretching things quite a bit. We'll have to consider this a brief interruption to "Shakespeare and Star Trek Week" here at Bardfilm.

With the remnants of my Shakespeare and Film budget, I recently purchased the just-released Shakespeare in Words and Music, hoping that I would be pleasantly surprised. I have a vague notion that "Shakespeare and Opera Week" will be in Bardfilm's future, and I thought this DVD might help me think about that.

The DVD is a humdrum collection of poorly-written introductions, rote performances of set pieces from Shakespeare, and static (though generally good) musical performances. I was going to try to be kind about the quality of the introductions, but I had the film running in the background while writing this post, and this quote just happened by:
"Ha, ha! Music was so important to Will."
[Shudder.]

I'm afraid the acting and scripting are reminiscent of the DVD entitled Shakespeare's Soliloquies (for which, q.v.). I really don't want to be too harsh; I have great sympathy for out-of-work actors, and these actors seem very eager to have these roles after having been out of work for some time. But it's not good acting. I'm sorry.  Even when the script is Shakespeare's own words.

The singing (and the instrumental works, though they are minimal—the DVD focuses on the marriage of music and text) is quite good, and it is interesting to have two hours' traffic of Shakespeare-based music in one convenient location. But it is, on the whole, a disappointing purchase.

The "Broadway Bound" section is particularly disappointing. Except for one song from Boys of Syracuse, every song in that section is from West Side Story. I would have a appreciated a lot more variety there—including some Kiss me, Kate, for example! Otherwise, I would have spent the money on the film version of West Side Story, which has imminently better performances than these.

Here's a representative sample of the acting and the singing from the section entitled "Foreign Masters."  As a bonus (or punishment?), you get a brief introduction to the next song on the DVD.


P.S. Hamlet (as I'm watching along) just said this:
Her mind has lost sway [or “its way”? Annunciate, man!], but Will Shakespeare captures its every descent into a personal solitude of hopelessness. If you should have the mind for it—you’ll pray excuse my choice of words—prepare yourselves to twist and turn with the distraught Ophelia.
And then the film segues to "Shake it up, Baby," performed by a Beatles Tribute Group.

Actually, they don't. But that would be far funnier than what they do do.


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Bardfilm is normally written as one word, though it can also be found under a search for "Bard Film Blog." Bardfilm is a Shakespeare blog (admittedly, one of many Shakespeare blogs), and it is dedicated to commentary on films (Shakespeare movies, The Shakespeare Movie, Shakespeare on television, Shakespeare at the cinema), plays, and other matter related to Shakespeare (allusions to Shakespeare in pop culture, quotes from Shakespeare in popular culture, quotations that come from Shakespeare, et cetera).

Unless otherwise indicated, quotations from Shakespeare's works are from the following edition:
Shakespeare, William. The Riverside Shakespeare. 2nd ed. Gen. ed. G. Blakemore Evans. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997.
All material original to this blog is copyrighted: Copyright 2008-2016 (and into perpetuity thereafter) by Keith Jones.

The very instant that I saw you did / My heart fly to your service; there resides, / To make me slave to it; and, for your sake, / Am I this patient [b]log-man.

—The Tempest