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As I’ve just spent several hours in my garden doing quite an onerous task, I had this thought: Shakespeare may have avoided spending lots of time back home with Ann and the kids to avoid something that all suburban homeowners know only too well–weeding.

But he cleverly included lots of references to weeds throughout his  sonnets and plays. Here are a few:

“Thy youth’s proud livery, so gazed on now, /Will be a tatter’d weed, of small worth held” Sonnet 2

“For sweetest things turn sourest by their deeds; /Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds.” Sonnet 94

“I must up-fill this osier cage of ours /With baleful weeds and precious-juiced flowers.” Friar Laurence from Romeo and Juliet

“‘Small herbs have grace, great weeds do grow apace: /And since, methinks, I would not grow so fast,  /Because sweet flowers are slow and weeds make haste.” York from Richard III

” O thou weed, who art so lovely fair and smell’st so sweet that the sense aches at thee, Would thou hadst ne’er been born. ” Othello

“He was met even now /As mad as the vex’d sea; singing aloud; /Crown’d with rank fumiter and  furrow-weeds, /With bur-docks, hemlock, nettles, cuckoo-flowers, /Darnel, and all the idle weeds that grow /In our sustaining corn.” Cordelia from King Lear

“…do not spread the compost on the weeds, /To make them ranker.  Hamlet

“Now ’tis the spring, and weeds are shallow-rooted; /Suffer them now, and they’ll o’ergrow the garden /And choke the herbs for want of husbandry. Queen Margaret from Henry VI part 2

Our bodies are our gardens, to the which our wills are gardeners: so that if we will plant nettles, or sow lettuce, set hyssop and weed up thyme, supply it with one gender of herbs, or distract it with many, either to have it sterile with idleness, or manured with industry, why, the power and corrigible authority of this lies in our wills. Iago from Othello


Then there’s this passage from Richard II:
Gardener:

Go, bind thou up yon dangling apricocks,
Which, like unruly children, make their sire
Stoop with oppression of their prodigal weight:
Give some supportance to the bending twigs.
Go thou, and like an executioner,
Cut off the heads of too fast growing sprays,
That look too lofty in our commonwealth:
All must be even in our government.
You thus employ’d, I will go root away
The noisome weeds, which without profit suck
The soil’s fertility from wholesome flowers.

Servant:

Why should we in the compass of a pale
Keep law and form and due proportion,
Showing, as in a model, our firm estate,
When our sea-walled garden, the whole land,
Is full of weeds, her fairest flowers choked up,
Her fruit-trees all upturned, her hedges ruin’d,
Her knots disorder’d and her wholesome herbs
Swarming with caterpillars?

And here’s Hamlet again in his famous soliloquy:

Hamlet:
O, that this too too solid flesh would melt
Thaw and resolve itself into a dew!
Or that the Everlasting had not fix’d
His canon ‘gainst self-slaughter! O God! God!
How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable,
Seem to me all the uses of this world!
Fie on’t! ah fie! ’tis an unweeded garden,
That grows to seed; things rank and gross in nature
Possess it merely.”


And then there’s this news report which claims that our playwright may have had some added inspiration of the chemical kind.



OK, now I’ve got to get back to my “unweeded garden” because something is rotten there.


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The spirit of Shakespeare is everywhere.

I was recently on holiday visiting my husband’s relatives in Belgium, and on a canal tour of Brugge we passed a sweet little window which the tour guide called the Romeo and Juliet window. “You thought they were from Italy, no? England? No. BELGIUM!

We were surprised. Some internet searching lent no credence to the, admittedly, off-hand remark by our guide, but the building is a feature on the lovely canal, and local mythology includes a pair of star-cross’d lovers who lived near what is now “the Lake of Love.”

This made me wonder about other countries’ contributions of “Shakespearean” landmarks. There is an Elsinore in Denmark, and Juliet’s Balcony in Italy, but what about Dunsinane castle? Would you visit the Forest of Arden? Is there a Caribbean Island claiming to be the scene of The Tempest?

Do you know of any “Shakespearean” landmarks in your travels?

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‘Tis the season to be thinking about presents! I’ve fielded calls from a couple of parents and teachers searching for recommendations of Shakespeare resources and items for students or friends. In case you’re wondering, too, or have recommendations for ME, read on!

Audio Shakespeare:
I get a lot of questions during the school year from parents and teachers who want an audio recording for their aural learning students to read along with. Arkangel Audio has done a complete series of fully dramatized Shakespeare plays with the voice talents of Royal Shakespeare Company actors. At our webinar last week I learned about Speak the Speech, an independant site which currently has 7 audio plays available for free. Finally, using Audacity or another recording and editing program, you and your students can make your OWN audio plays!

Shakespeare for Kids:
How do you start kids off with Shakespeare? We’ve found some excellent books about Shakespeare and his plays which we provide for SSO classrooms: Tales from Shakespeare and Shakespeare’s Stories are wonderful first-reads to get acquainted with the plots of the plays, and both use lines from the text as dialogue.  Lucretia discovered a really cool book of folk tales that found their way into Shakespeare’s plays (maybe because he heard them growing up!): Shakespeare’s Storybook. I will always recommend Shakespeare: The Animated Tales – 25-minute cartoon versions of 12 plays – because I watched them when I was eight and still love them enough to watch them on my iPod!

Shakespeare for Teens:
In this era of Twilight and Harry Potter obsession, I feel confident in saying today’s teens still read. But are they reading Shakespeare? If they’re resistant, a good novel like The Third Witch or graphic novel like Kill Shakespeare might get them in the mood to try Macbeth or Hamlet. If they’re having trouble with a whole play, the 30-minute Shakespeare series by Nick Newlin cuts around the interesting bits of plot for student productions. If they’ve already “drunk the Shakespeare kool-aid” as Niki says, they might find interest in a copy of a play they haven’t read yet (Pericles? Henry VIII? Cymbeline?) or a complete collection of sonnets and poems.

Shakespeare Enthusiasts:
What do you get the nerd who has everything? A tee shirt that says “I Hearteth the Bard-eth”?  Perhaps tickets to a local performance of Comedy of Errors, or a beautifully illustrated edition of Hamlet are more their speed. You could also help them find the nearest movie theatre playing The Tempest!


Shakespeare Educators:
You might already have every volume of Shakespeare Set Free and our Teaching Shakespeare Toolkit – so what’s on your wishlist?

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~By Teri Cross Davis

What role can poetry play in the everyday life? What role can poetry play with young people?

Poetry lives and breathes at the Folger Shakespeare Library. On Monday, November 8th, best-selling Russian poet Vera Pavlova will read her work in Russian while her husband and translator Steven Seymour will read the English translations alongside her. In a time when we condense our lives into sound bytes and nuggets for Twitter feed and Facebook posts, her short poems fit right in.  Yet for all their clarity, Pavlova’s poems weave in elegance and discipline, making each an abrupt pleasure, down to their numeric titles.

From If There Is Something To Desire is poem 50:
I have brushed my teeth
This day and I are even.

But Vera Pavlova’s work comes in context of the many women writers who precede her. When women first began to write, certain subjects were taboo like Pavlova’s more sensual and sexual poems. The clarity in Pavlova’s work could only come after centuries of women broke literary ground before her.

Shakespeare’s Sisters studies 5 centuries of women poets

In Shakespeare’s Sisters, a ten-week seminar course here at the Folger which begins in January of 2011, we study how female writers have found their voice and identities as writers over time. From Queen Elizabeth I’s sly poems about court, to Anne Bradstreet’s hybrid of a Puritan consciousness and a dawning American one to Sharon Olds’ proud and unabashed explorations of femininity, each poet stands on the shoulders of the other. By the end of the course, students are well-grounded in this timeline of women writers, how they have reclaimed what is feminine and what and who a woman is as opposed to how they have been idolized and characterized by the early male sonneteers.

The seminar isn’t all reading- students respond each week with response papers and poems of their own. It is always exciting to see the student’s work mature over 10 weeks, whether they are responding to Petrarch’s sonnets or experimenting with the lyricism of Rita Dove or Elizabeth Bishop, the students recognize that poetry is flexible, that it breathes and they too learn to breathe with it.

Gwendolyn Brooks wrote, “poetry is life distilled.” From the every day circumstances of Pavlova’s work to the impact of a Shakespeare’s Sisters course on young people, poetry presents ways to slow down, speed up, freeze-frame and rewind, poetry presents life at its finest and most clear— life, distilled

Teri is the Folger Shakespeare Library’s Poetry and Lectures Coordinator. With Gigi Bradford, she heads the student seminar: Shakespeare’s Sisters, as well as coordinating poets both local and international to share their work at the Folger. She earned her MFA in Creative Writing from American University, and her MA in International Affairs and African Studies from Ohio University.

 

More information about – and applications for – Shakespeare’s Sisters are available at http://www.folger.edu/shakespearesisters.

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Despite the sudden interest in World Cup Soccer right now, Major League Baseball  is in full swing (sorry) so here are a few Shakespearean tidbits:

In the 1950s, the Canadian comedy team of Wayne and Shuster were regulars on the Ed Sullivan Show.  In 1958, they created a wonderful script called The Shakespearean Baseball Game for the opening of the Stratford (Ontario) Shakespeare Festival.  Here is a sample from the opening:

Bosworth Field (A Baseball Stadium Near Stratford)
[Enter Two Umpires]
Umpire 2
Hail Granato!
Umpire 1
I give you greeting, Antonio.
Thou hast the starting lineups?
Umpire 2
Ay. The batting orders duly signed
by managers both.
Umpire 1
‘Tis well. What o’clock ist?
Umpire 2
‘Tis at the stroke of two.
[Trumpets sound]
Umpire 1
Hark! The players come. To our
appointed places shall we go, you at first
and I behind the plate. This game
depends on how you make your call.
Farewell! until you hear me cry “Play ball!”
[Enter The Players]
Manager
My excellent good friends, may fortune
smile upon our enterprise this day.

and here is the complete script.

But Shakespeare also anticipated the game of baseball in the following lines:

“And so I shall catch the fly” – Henry V

“You have scarce time to steal” Henry VIII

“Run, run, O run!” – King Lear

“You may go walk” – Taming of the Shrew

“A hit, a very palpable hit!” – Hamlet

“O hateful error” – Julius Caesar

“Fair is foul and foul is fair” – Macbeth

“My arm is sore” – Antony and Cleopatra

“For this relief much thanks” – Hamlet

“I have no joy in this contract.” Romeo and Juliet

And Paul Dickson in Baseball’s Greatest Quotations found some more:

“And have is have, however men do catch.” – King John

“And what a pitch … !” – Henry VI, Part I

“And when he caught it, he let it go again.” – Coriolanus

“And watched him how he singled …” – Henry VI, Part III

“Foul …?” – The Tempest

“He comes the third time home …” – Coriolanus

“Hence! home … get you home …” – Julius Caesar

“He’s safe.” – Measure for Measure

“I am safe.” – Antony and Cleopatra

“I’ll catch it ere it come to ground.” – Macbeth

“I shall catch the fly …” – Henry V

“I thank you for your good counsel. Come, my coach!” – Hamlet

“Look to the plate.” – Romeo and Juliet

“My heels are at your command; I will run.” – The Merchant of Venice

“O my offense is rank, it smells to heaven.” – Hamlet

“O, tis fair …” – Troilus and Cressida

“Sweet sacrifice.” – Henry VIII

“That one error fills him with faults.” – The Two Gentlemen of Verona

“There is three umpires in this matter …” – The Merry Wives of WIndsor

“They that … pitch will be defiled.” – Much Ado About Nothing

“Thy seat is up … high.” – Richard II

“What wretched errors …!” – Sonnets

“When time is ripe – which will be suddenly, I’ll steal …” Henry IV, Part I

“Your play needs no excuse.” – A Midsummer Night’s Dream

And finally, this is what I think of the great game of baseball:

“O wonderful, wonderful, and most wonderful wonderful, and yet again wonderful, and after that, out of all hooping!” As You Like It

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So ’tis the season to be jolly and maybe think about Shakespeare.  Here are a few tidbits for your holiday pleasure.

LETTERS TO SANTA WRITTEN BY SHAKESPEARE CHARACTERS

At the end of act 2, scene 7, Shakespeare gave us a lovely song, “Blow, blow, thou winter wind” with the great line “”Heigh Ho, the Holly.”

There are two references to Christmas in Love’s Labor’s Lost:

“At Christmas I no more desire a rose
Than wish a snow in May’s new-fangled mirth”
  1.1

and Berowne describes a Christmas comedy here:

                                      “I remit both twain.
I see the trick on’t: here was a consent,
Knowing aforehand of our merriment,
To dash it like a Christmas comedy:
Some carry-tale, some please-man, some slight zany,
Some mumble-news, some trencher-knight, some Dick,
That smiles his cheek in years and knows the trick
To make my lady laugh when she’s disposed,
Told our intents before”
5.2

In Hamlet, Marcellus refers to Christmas while discussing the Ghost in act 1:

“Some say that ever, ‘gainst that season comes
Wherein our Saviour’s birth is celebrated,
The bird of dawning singeth all night long.”
1.1

A  fanciful story written by Maria Hubert called, “William Shakespeare’s Christmas” imagines a performance for Queen Elizabeth in 1597.  And the Gutenburg Project offers a free download (available to read online or as an eBook) titled  Shakespeare’s Christmas Gift to Queen Bess by Anna Benneson McMahan, originally published in 1907.  

And finally, while it’s not strictly about Christmas, there’s the Winter Song that ends Love’s Labor’s Lost:

WINTER.
When icicles hang by the wall
And Dick the shepherd blows his nail
And Tom bears logs into the hall
And milk comes frozen home in pail,
When blood is nipp’d and ways be foul,
Then nightly sings the staring owl, . Tu-whit;
Tu-who, a merry note,
While greasy Joan doth keel the pot.
When all aloud the wind doth blow
And coughing drowns the parson’s saw
And birds sit brooding in the snow
And Marian’s nose looks red and raw,
When roasted crabs hiss in the bowl,
Then nightly sings the staring owl, . Tu-whit;
Tu-who, a merry note,
While greasy Joan doth keel the pot.
5.2

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