Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Shakespeare's Appearance in The Lego Movie

The Lego Movie. Dir. Phil Lord, Christopher Miller. Perf. Jorma Taccone, Chris Pratt, Will Ferrell, and Elizabeth Banks. 2014. DVD. WarnerBrothers, 2014.

Although Bardfilm tries to be completely cutting edge, right on the spot as Shakespeare-related developments occur, we do occasionally have lapses.

Sometimes the lapses are as long as four years.

It's been four years since I saw The Lego Movie in theaters, and I remember wanting to call our collective attention to William Shakespeare's appearance in the film. Then it took time for the DVD to be released and for the library to buy it and for me to remember just where exactly Shakespeare appeared in the film.

But we're all ready now! I've put together one clip with each of the three appearances William Shakespeare makes in The Lego Movie. The first is his only line in the film:  "Rubbish." Shakespeare himself only uses the word twice (not counting "Ay, there's the rub[bish]" from Hamlet's soliloquy. In Julius Caesar, Cassius says, "what trash is Rome, / What rubbish and what offal, when it serves / For the base matter to illuminate / So vile a thing as Caesar!" (I.iii.113-16). In Richard II, the Duchess of York asks Edmund of Langley to pick up his tale from where he left off—where "rude misgovern'd hands from windows' tops / Threw dust and rubbish on King Richard's head" (6-7).

Shakespeare's second appearance is when he flies into battle to save the day.

And, at his final appearance, he does the popular dance known as "The Worm."  Here you go—and apologies for the four-year delay.

Links: The Film at IMDB.

Click below to purchase the film from
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Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Julius Caesar Makes its Way into Anthropoid

Anthropoid. Dir. Sean Ellis. Perf. Jamie Dornan, Cillian Murphy, and Brian Caspe. 2016. DVD. Universal Studios Home Entertainment, 2016.

Although I hate to say so, sometimes the Shakespeare in a film seems a bit tangential.

That's the case with its appearance in Anthropoid, a film about Operation Anthropoid, the joint British / Czechoslovakian operation to assassinate Reinhard Heydrich, the Nazi who oversaw the elimination of a great part of the Czech resistance to Hitler and Nazi Germany's expansion.

That, of course, is a much bigger issue than a line from Julius Caesar.

Still, the quote is used effectively, though ambivalently. In one scene, a character asks if those who have attempted the assassination were serious in their declaration that they would commit suicide with signs declaring that they were responsible (in an attempt to reduce Nazi retaliation upon the Czech people). When one of the assassins says, "Maybe," he response with this line: "Cowards die many times before their death, / The valiant never taste of death but once" (II.ii.32-33).

Is that meant to say that such a death would be cowardly or valiant? It's ambitious.

[Caution: Some (probably predictable) spoilers follow.]

Later, just before the assassins kill themselves to prevent themselves from falling into the hands of the Nazis, we see a copy of Julius Caesar float past them.

Here's a clip that includes both scenes:

It's an effective use of Shakespeare, whichever way you read the use of the quotation.

Note: It took an embarrassingly long time, but I finally realized that the film and the play the quote is from are both about assassination and the unexpected ramifications of what might be seen as a reasonably-straightforward assassination. There's greater depth than I first realized in that element.

Links: The Film at IMDB.

Click below to purchase the film from
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Monday, January 29, 2018

Czech Hamlet Rock Opera

Ledecký, Janek. Hamlet: The Rock Opera. CD. BMG, 2000.

When I bought this, I was under the impression that it was a DVD, and I crossed my fingers for English subtitles. When it arrived, it was a two-CD set—the soundtrack of a Czech Rock Opera version of Hamlet. It had lyrics, but no English translation of them.

Still, the music is fascinating . . . even though the meaning is mostly a closed book (closed set of liner notes?) to me.

I say "mostly" because I prevailed upon a friend who knows Czech to translate "Kdo Má Za Uchem," one of Polonius' big numbers. First, here's the translation (along with the Czech lyrics sheet):
Ofelia, there is a lot of talk about that relationship of yours with Hamlet, so: 
Think of your origins
I don't have another reason
to be talking you out of it
take it pragmatically
objectively, really
one day he will be a king

Birds of a feather flock together
one best find an equal to himself [Note: This doesn't translate very well—it's a saying—that somewhat has to do with the birds saying]

Don't go on thin ice with the lords
or else you will have to ballet
I know who will lose their place in the dance first

Laertes, my son, France is sweet
but full of betrayal at the same time

The sweeter the wines
the worse the hangover
awaits you the following day
card games and dice
make wrecks out of people
once a foreigner/stranger, always a horseradish
Patience may appreciate your qualities
like the State Council would—I know what I am talking about
all the way or halfway
happiness will sit
even on a bull when it gets tired

I only go to the woods when the mushrooms grow
and when they don't, I don't waste time
I don't fix a bag made of thorns by sewing on a stupid patch

Choir: Blood is no water
that's really too bad
but even that blood is for sale
skip what you can't buy
you'll save yourself the loss
in your own interest
it's different to be digging a hole
let the other try what a fall is

the one that's dirty
will be the last one to laugh
he keeps an arrow as backup

Destiny's horse is tickled in the weak spots
may the one who doesn't want to be better be worse off

that's all I got . . .
And now, here's the song. As always with this blog, I have to provide a video clip with any audio I want to share, and I usually try to make them related in some way. In this clip, the video is from Hamlet Goes Business (for which, q.v.). In any case, the video isn't what's interesting—the music is. Listen:

Now, to add to your knowledge and experience, let me tell you about a website I found when doing a bit of research for this post. It tells something about the history of the rock opera, and it lets us know that the author is currently working on a rock opera version of Othello entitled Iago.

The site also contains some English-language versions of the songs (not, alas, the one I've provided above), including "All My Life I'm Diggin' Graves," which is what you would expect if you cast Leon Redbone as the First Gravedigger. Try that out at this URL (click on the song title to get it to play).

Clearly, we need to advocate for an English-language release of this work.

Note: Shakespeare Geek almost immediately called our attention to this English-language rock opera version of Hamlet. Watch it here, but note that it isn't the same as the one I've been writing about.

Additional Note: Shakespeare Geek almost immediately thereafter called our attention to this Korean-language musical version of Hamlet

Links: The Website that Talks about the Rock Opera.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Lady Macbeth . . . or is she?

Lady Macbeth. Dir. William Oldroyd. Perf. Florence Pugh, Cosmo Jarvis, and Paul Hilton. 2016. DVD. Lionsgate, 2017.

In his great Shakespeare on film classification system (for which, q.v.), Kenneth Rothwell mentions films that are "parasitical" of Shakespeare. I think this film goes in that category.

I spotted this film, and thought we might be treated to a retelling of Macbeth from Lady Macbeth's perspective.

The quote on the cover should have tipped me off: "Imagine Alfred Hitchcock directing Wuthering Heights."

The story is very sparsely told—as if it were an Ernest Hemingway screenplay—with lots of lengthy scenes with no dialogue, as in the image above. It's the story of a woman who is disgusted with her distant and unloving husband, takes a lover from among his workers, and then (sorry if this is a spoiler) kills a bunch of people to try to cover up the affair and to keep her lover.

At first, I thought the writers were just grabbing the name Lady Macbeth to give the main character a sense of coldness and murderousness (even though Lady Macbeth in Shakespeare's play never participates in any actual violence). Then I realized that the film is a derivative version of Nikolai Leskov's Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, which Dmitri Shostakovich famously made into an opera (Леди Макбет Мценского уезда, variously translated as Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk or Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District). The film Siberian Lady Macbeth, directed by Andrzej Wajda, was also based on the work.

The film, therefore, has a longer history than I realized.

But it also doesn't really have any connection to Shakespeare.  Sorry.

Links: The Film at IMDB.

Click below to purchase the film from
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Thursday, January 25, 2018

"Making Love" in Shakespeare's Day: A Quick Note on I.i.107 of Midsummer Night's Dream

Shakespeare, William. A Midsummer Night's Dream. Ed. Harold F. Brooks. Arden Shakespeare. London: Methuen, 1979.

A speech in Act I, scene i of Midsummer Night’s Dream often misleads modern readers. In that scene, we’re just learning that Lysander and Demetrius are both in love with Hermia, and then Lysander tells us this interesting bit of information:
Demetrius, I’ll avouch it to his head,

Made love to Nedar’s daughter, Helena,

And won her soul; and she, sweet lady, dotes,
Devoutly dotes, dotes in idolatry,
Upon this spotted and inconstant man. (I.i.108-12)
The potentially-misleading phrase is in line 109. What does Lysander mean when he says that Demetrius “made love” to Helena?

He doesn’t mean what the phrase now euphemistically means: to sleep with (or, more embarrassingly but less euphemistically, to have sex with). He does mean what the phrase used to mean: to woo.

How do we know which meaning Lysander has in mind? The OED will help us immensely here.

Midsummer Night’s Dream was written around 1595. To figure out what Lysander’s talking about, we need to see how the phrase “make love” was used at that time.

When we look up “love” in the OED, we find “to make love” defined as a phrase (def. P3 a). Starting in 1567, the phrase meant “To pay amorous attention; to court, woo.” The OED gives several examples of the phrase used in that way, including Shakespeare’s use of the quote in this very speech.

Next, the OED, noting that the origin of this meaning of the phrase comes from the U.S., provides this definition of the phrase in def. P3 b: “To engage in sexual intercourse, esp. considered as an act of love.” The first use of the phrase in that sense appears in 1927.

Therefore, when Shakespeare has Lysander say that Demetrius “made love” to Helena, it means that Demetrius wooed or courted Helena.

Since the meaning has changed over time, it’s very easy to be misled by that phrase into thinking something more happened between Demetrius and Helena than actually happened, and that can give readers a mistaken impression about both characters.

The OED is a marvelous tool for helping us avoid misinterpretation (or, as the OED might put it, misacceptation, misprision, or wresting). Use it wisely and well and frequently!

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Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Globe-alization: Around the World in Shakespeare Plays

kj. "Shelfspeare One and Shelfspeare Two." Personal Photographs. January 2018.

Each of the two images to the right is a photograph I took in a bookstore.

The question for you is this: Which photograph was taken in a bookstore in Vietnam—Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), to be exact—and which was taken in a bookstore in the Twin Cities—St. Paul, Minnesota, to be exact?

I've been to Vietnam four times:  twice around sixteen years ago, once about two years ago, and just now. As a casual observer, I've noticed the way globalization has changed at least consumer goods available in the major cities.

Can we call it "The Oreo Factor"? Although I wasn't particularly searching for them, Oreo cookies were not readily available—I didn't see a single one. But when I traveled again, about two years later, I found a few packs of Oreos here and there--in convenience stores geared toward visitors to Vietnam. During my last two trips, I saw Oreos everywhere--even in smaller stores off the beaten path.

The same may be true of Shakespeare. Again, I wasn't looking for Shakespeare during my trips in the early 2000s, but I spotted some during my 2016 trip, and I spotted even more in 2018 (including a number of volumes in the "No Fear Shakespeare" series. And my own purpose in traveling in 2016 and 2018 was to bring more Shakespeare along with me.

I find that to be encouraging. But these volumes are in English, and I'm wondering how much Shakespeare in translation has made its way to Vietnam. Amazon lists two modern translations—Macbeth and Vua Lear—and the only review of one of them is highly disparaging.

I have learned that it's relatively common for graduate students in literature and some undergraduates to read Shakespeare in English as part of their coursework, and familiarity with the plays seems to be increasing (again, from my limited experience and exposure).

I'll be thinking and writing about this and other related matters this semester. Stay tuned. And contemplate the Oreo Factor.

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p.s. The photo on the left is from a bookstore in Vietnam; the other is from one in the United States.
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