Thursday, March 31, 2011

Who are You? - Guest post elswhere

If you feel the need to read an Erratic Muse squib, please check out my guest post over at God's Daughter on "Identity."

The winner of the Inkwell Necklace and Gift Card will be chosen after 11:59pm. If you haven't entered, please do so. :-)

Thanks for reading,
Miss Pickwickian

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Writing your first Screenplay

Writing screenplays or anything else that falls into that general category is a very good exercise. It forces you to focus on small details and good dialogue.

Learning to format a screenplay is tricky. There are several good program options. See a list here. I picked the Celtx program because it was free, looked easy to learn, and didn't take much to download.

I enjoy finding screenplays online and reading them along with the film. This has been the single best learning experience. I also have a slew of books that seem helpful although I haven't got into them near as much as I'd like. I should work up some reviews soon.

There are several social sites for screenplay writers that look helpful. I don't have any suggestions because I haven't joined any. I don't want that sort of distraction when finding time to write is so precious, but I think these sites can be very helpful and encouraging.

If you are a screenplay beginner I would look into Script Frenzy to get a good start. :-)

Let me know if you have any advice or experience in this area.

Thanks for reading,
Miss Pickwickian

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Script Frenzy

Anyone else participating in Script Frenzy? :-)

I haven't a clue what I'd like to do yet and I have some big non-fiction writing deadlines, but I want to try to participate. I've been trying to get more familiar with the whole screenplay writing thing anyways and this would be a lighthearted way to practice.

What shall I write about?

If your participating, what is script going to be about? If you think of it, friend me on their site!

Thanks for reading,
Miss Pickwickian

Monday, March 28, 2011

Two Paintings - by Lacy

Here are two amazing paintings by a friend.
Lacy is a wonderfully talented artist (as you can see for yourself)!
I love the flower textures in both paintings.

Thanks for looking,
Miss Pickwickian

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Les Miserables Event!

In celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Les Miserables Musical, I will be hosting a week long event April 13th-22nd.

Before the event begins, there is an open essay contest for all those interested.
First prize will be the 25th Anniversary DVD and runner ups will be include amazing Les Miz themed jewelry, journals, and posters.

The first person to submit their essay receives a reward. ;-)

Please help by spreading the word!

If you are not familiar with the musical, I strongly encourage you to do so. You do not have to be an expert to participate.

If you are completely lost in the story, watch one of the videos before you only listen to a recording.

And, of course, there are plenty of us eager to answer questions. ;-)

(Colm Wilkinson shows them how it's done.)

I look forward to doing this with all of you.
Thanks for reading,
Miss Pickwickian

Friday, March 25, 2011

I Will Follow You - from Bach's St. John's Passion

Earlier this month we were able to go to a beautiful performance of Bach's St. John's Passion in Portland. I'd heard most of it before, but never sat through it concentrating and reading the English translation.

If you can get a DVD, I strongly recommend adding it to your Lent traditions. I really want to become more familiar with it. The words are simply amazing. Can you imagine having something like this song in your own language? It makes me want to learn German (even more than usual).

This aria comes right after Jesus arrest and the Evangelist sings -
"Simon Petrus aber folgete Jesu nach und ein ander Junger"
Simon Peter, however, and another disciple followed Jesus.

This is the first soprano solo and focuses on something I've been thinking lately.

The live video isn't the best, but the building is beautiful behind them all. ;-)

No. 9 (13) Aria (Soprano)

Ich folge dir gleichfalls mit freudiegen Schritten
I will follow you likewise with joyful steps
und lasse dich nicht,
and will not let you [go],
mein Leben, mein Licht.
my Life, my Light.
Befordre den Lauf
Hasten the way,
und hore nicht auf,
and do not cease,
selbst an mir zu ziehen, zu schieben, zu bitten.
yourself, to pull at, to push [and] to beseech me.

Thanks for reading,
Miss Pickwickian

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Persuasions - Doug Wilson

Persuasions: A dream of reason meeting unbelief
by Douglas J. Wilson

Rating: 8
Readability: 9
Impact: 8

Read it Again: Already did...but probably will again. :-)
Recommend it: Yes!

Persuasions is an interesting glimpse into clear thinking, practical theology, and unapologetic conviction. Doug Wilson organizes his short book into fourteen chapters, each dealing with a different traveler and their conversation with Evangelist. The story form and dialogue make it an easy read, while getting a taste of the arguments of atheists, agnostics, feminists, and others. Wilson shows that life apart from God’s Word must borrow reasoning from that Word and ultimately undermine itself.

If we try to persuade belief in Christ on merely an emotional basis, we deserve to be laughed at. We must know that what we believe is true. Surely this is part of the meaning of 1 Peter 3:15. Persuasions is a tool towards that end.

Certainly an easy group-read, extra Bible time activity, highschool assignment, or quick individual read. It started some interesting discussion in our house.

Down-to-earth honesty that brings ideas we often think unimportant into the realm we think and breathe everyday.

I'm trying to teach myself to think clearly and this book was certainly a help in that direction.

From the Book

Because each chapter could stand alone, individual quotes don't give the big picture of the book.
Here is one from Evangelist that I thought was particularly interesting-

I reject everything that rebels against God--no matter how many footnotes or big words are contained in the rebellion. God has laid the wisdom of this world into the grave. Modern scholars are vainly trying to bring about a resurrection. It cannot be done.

Thanks for reading,
Miss Pickwickian

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

~Inkwell Necklace and Gift Card Giveaway~

Inkwell necklace and $15 gift card to Bookish Charm.

1. Visit Bookish Charm and comment about your favorite item.
2. Follow The Erratic Muse
3. Like The Erratic Muse on Facebook.

4. Blog and/or Facebook about this giveaway.

And for fun...
5. Answer one or all of these questions-- How do you get inspired? How often do you write? What's your average word count?

Bookish Charm, you are an amazing shop (see "Write" necklace). Thank you so much for sponsoring this giveaway!

Thanks for entering,
Miss Pickwickian


Instead of reading any incomplete thoughts on my blog, go to Biblio Wonk and read this interesting post- God, Genocide, and the Righteousness of Christ.

It's quite thought provoking and clear on a touchy subject. A subject most of us have to answer if we're trying to witness to any non-believers who are hostile towards Christianity.

Thanks for reading,
Miss Pickwickian

Monday, March 21, 2011

Write. Even when it hurts.

Necklace by Bookish Charm

The last two weeks have been hectic, but I have just enjoyed a complete day at home. It was marvelous. :-)

I need to rethink my schedule. I need to get more writing time in. There are always those days of insanity or simple exhaustion when there isn't time or energy to write. Lately they seem to be stacking on top of each other and it's hard to make much progress. I think I need to make myself write anyways...even when there isn't time or brain power.

Is the only solution sleep deprivation?
Is it possible to write and not be a zombie? ;-)

Over the next few days I really need to hash this out. How am I going to make this happen? Hopefully you'll see some encouraging posts on this topic soon.

In the mean time...Visit Bookish Charm. :-)

This is a wonderful shop that you will probably fall in love with if you are a word nut.
I have her amazing "Write" necklace (pictured above). I'm contemplating wearing it 24/7 as a reminder. ;-) It's strong, but beautiful looking. At first I was worried it would be to big for me. I'm into smaller, more delicate jewelry, but it isn't too big at all. I like to hang it where I can see it, if I'm not wearing it. ;-)

Some new additions to Bookish Charm have recently caught my eye (like these-- "Not all who wonder are lost" and "All the World's a Stage...").

I will be hosting a giveaway of this inkwell necklace along with a $15 giftcard starting later this week!

Thanks for reading,
Miss Pickwickian

Thursday, March 17, 2011

St. Patrick's Breastplate

I love this song and it has been an excellent encouragement and reminder.

This is a slightly different version then our church normally sings...

St. Patrick's Breastplate

I bind unto myself today
The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same
The Three in One and One in Three.

I bind this today to me forever
By power of faith, Christ’s incarnation;
His baptism in Jordan river,
His death on Cross for my salvation;
His bursting from the spic├Ęd tomb,
His riding up the heavenly way,
His coming at the day of doom
I bind unto myself today.

I bind unto myself the power
Of the great love of cherubim;
The sweet ‘Well done’ in judgment hour,
The service of the seraphim,
Confessors’ faith, Apostles’ word,
The Patriarchs’ prayers, the prophets’ scrolls,
All good deeds done unto the Lord
And purity of virgin souls.

I bind unto myself today
The virtues of the star lit heaven,
The glorious sun’s life giving ray,
The whiteness of the moon at even,
The flashing of the lightning free,
The whirling wind’s tempestuous shocks,
The stable earth, the deep salt sea
Around the old eternal rocks.

I bind unto myself today
The power of God to hold and lead,
His eye to watch, His might to stay,
His ear to hearken to my need.
The wisdom of my God to teach,
His hand to guide, His shield to ward;
The word of God to give me speech,
His heavenly host to be my guard.

Against the demon snares of sin,
The vice that gives temptation force,
The natural lusts that war within,
The hostile men that mar my course;
Or few or many, far or nigh,
In every place and in all hours,
Against their fierce hostility
I bind to me these holy powers.

Against all Satan’s spells and wiles,
Against false words of heresy,
Against the knowledge that defiles,
Against the heart’s idolatry,
Against the wizard’s evil craft,
Against the death wound and the burning,
The choking wave, the poisoned shaft,
Protect me, Christ, till Thy returning.

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

I bind unto myself the Name,
The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same,
The Three in One and One in Three.
By Whom all nature hath creation,
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
Praise to the Lord of my salvation,
Salvation is of Christ the Lord.

Thanks for reading,
Miss Pickwickian

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Not Immediately Pleasing to my Nature

....If it is I who determine where God is to be found, then I shall always find a God who corresponds to me in some way, who is obliging, who is connected with my own nature.
But if God determines where he is to be found, then it will be in a place which is not immediately pleasing to my nature and which is not at all congenial to me.
This place is the Cross of Christ. And whoever would find him must go to the foot of the Cross, as the Sermon on the Mount commands. This is not according to our name at all, it is entirely contrary to it. But this is the message of the Bible, not only in the New but also in the Old Testament…

~From a letter by Dietrich Bonhoeffer to his theologically liberal brother-in-law, Rudiger Schleicher.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Indulging in some of my favorite music...

Not the best recording ever... but beautiful.

Thanks for stopping by. :-)
Miss Pickwickian

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Four - Peter J. Leithart

The Four: A Survey of the Gospels by Peter. J. Leithart
Canon Press 2010

Rating: 9
Readability: 8
Some of it might seem a bit slow when he's getting into scholars arguments on dating etc... Why can't biblical scholars just believe the Bible? Most of it is extremely interesting and it continues to get more and more exciting as the book progresses.
Impact: Very high, I hope.

Read it Again: Yes! Slower with my Bible, pen, and paper in hand.
Recommend it: Highly.

What to Expect

The Four is organized like A House for My Name with bite-sized portions followed by review and thought questions.

Leithart gives an excellent overview of what we commonly refer to as the "intertestamental period" and in the process, information on the prophets. He then dedicates a chapter to the four Gospels and how they relate and differ before going on to a full chapter on each individual book. As always his writing is clear and exciting and his Bible knowledge is staggering and inspiring.

My Squib

I have been so immersed in Old Testament books with this Ligonier course. This was really fun to read. I literally flipped out when I saw it was coming out last October. I'd just been griping that Leithart didn't have enough on the NT.

The introductory stuff on the history before the Gospels was especially good for me as I haven't heard much on that era. The way he pointed out the different thrusts of each book and how they related was excellent. I really felt like copying the whole book out in my "notes/quotes journal".

I had very high expectations and wasn't in the least disappointed. I only wish there was more...

From the Book

See this quote I posted earlier.

Okay...this is a long quote and I hope I'm not breaking any copyright laws, but this is simply awesome and should show you how much you need to read the book.. :-)

As Matthew tells the story, Israel's history is a story of a spurned husband who refuses to give up on His bride. His bride spurns Him and finds other husbands, but He woos her back. He is the relentless, pursuing Hound of Heaven.

That is the message of the final act of this romantic comedy. Yahweh comes in flesh; Israel's Father comes as Israel's Son, and He is rejected yet again. He is rejected more thoroughly than ever. Persecuting prophets is bad; killing God Himself is worse. But the resurrection shows that Israel's God will not let Israel have the final word. He will not let Israel's rejection stand. He keeps coming back, even after Israel thinks they have killed Him. Israel does her worst: Yahweh comes as man, and Israel kills Him. If this were not the gospel, it would be a horror story, because this God cannot be stopped, cannot be buried. He comes back, and back again, even from the grave.

This is the great good news, the unsettling gospel of God. Matthew's gospel reveals that God is love, and Matthew's gospel shows us what kind of love God is: He is relentless, faithful, persistent love.

Thanks for reading,
Miss Pickwickian

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Background - Lecrea

For something very different...

....I know I miss my cues, know I forget my lines
I'm sticking to your script...

....So, just let me shadow you. And just let me trace your lines.
Matter fact just take my pen.
Here, you create my rhymes....

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Shakespeare Giveaway Winners!

Thank you everyone who entered and participated in the Shakespeare week! I had a lot of fun and I hope you did too. :-)

I was a little busier then expected and didn't get all the posts I wanted to I'm sure you'll be seeing more Shakespeare on the Erratic Muse.

Here are the giveaway winners! Please contact me so we can get your correct mailing information. Congratulations!

Romeo and Juliet
"A rose by any other name would smell as sweet."
Scrabble Tile Pendent
Donated by Paisley Monday

Won by FarmGirl

The Tempest
"Miranda" by Waterhouse
Silver necklace.

Won by Elisa

As You Like It
"All the World's a Stage"
Bottle Cap
Donated by Ellacuz

Won by Miss Raquel

Leather Ophelia Bookmark

Donated by Immortal Longings
Fine Shakespeare Gifts and Illustrations

Won by Odd Fish

Shakespeare Himself

Comedy and Tragedy Mask Necklace

Donated by Kooky Kangaroo

Won by Polka Dot

Ophelia by Waterhouse
Glass Pendent

Donated by BELLSPEAL

Won by Elizabeth

Leather Tempest Bookmark

Won by Laura

You can email me at pickwickian.forever(at)gmail(dot)com. Let me know if you have any other questions.
Thanks so much for participating.

And thank you so much to all the amazing shops that donated to this giveaway! I really appreciate it!

Does anyone else have an event or themed giveaway that would interest them? Give me ideas. :-)

Thanks for reading,
Miss Pickwickian

Monday, March 7, 2011

What I've been studying all week...

King Henry V a the Battle of Agincourt, 1415
by John Gilbert (1817-1897)

"The mirror of all Christian kings."

What do you think Shakespeare was trying to say?

Thanks for reading,
Miss Pickwickian

Saturday, March 5, 2011

"Hamlet" on film and Kenneth Branagh

Before we get into any particulars I think we should establish the fact that Kenneth Branagh is a genius of his trade.

There have been many, many movie versions of Hamlet and Branagh has been the only director to tackle the entire play.

He loves Shakespeare and it is amazingly obvious.

He works hard to pull in the meaning, themes, and life of all the plays he's done and his enthusiasm is contagious.

One thing I particularly appreciate about him is the fact that he does not take himself too seriously...but he is very sincere about whatever story he is dealing with. He is willing to make the production all about what is happening and what it is saying, not about himself or the other actors.

Of the versions of Hamlet I have scene Branagh's 1996 production is my favorite. Although there are several portions that are distinctly his interpretation, he stays with the complete text. I believe he is true to the story, leaving the questions that Shakespeare does not answer, still questions.

Mel Gibson, although a very interesting Hamlet, completely fails to stick with Shakespeare's most important themes and suggests a relationship between Gertrude and Hamlet that Freud imagined. Laurence Olivier is good, although mopey, but forces his own interpretations.
I do not remember other versions I have seen well enough to critique. I know there are at least two productions since 1996 that I have not seen.

When the character of Fortinbras is obliterated for a shorter film, the play is no longer Hamlet to me. I can still enjoy it as a movie, but as Shakespeare's Hamlet it falls short. (See this post.)

Branagh's interpretation of Fortinbras is my main question with his Hamlet...although he is casted as Rufus Sewell, which is something.

Branagh also portrays Hamlet and Ophelia's relationship as exceeding the bounds of honorable courtship. I believe this could be a legitimate, (if unpleasant) interpretation. Unfortunately this leads to unnecessary scenes in Ophelia's mind while she is speaking with her father. This, a few other similar quick scenes, and some disturbing and violent images give Hamlet it's much deserved PG-13 rating and make me hesitant to recommend it. If you have Clearplay, go for it. Otherwise, be cautious.

Kenneth Branagh puts together a star cast. Nearly every character that turns up is familiar and excellent.

And he still manages to use falling petals despite the fact that he is dealing with a tragedy.

The first portion does a wonderful job of contrasting Hamlet with the other sons of the play and the other characters, which are essentially acting (an obvious theme of the play along with painting of faces and false appearances).

Brian Blessed gets a abnormal role for him as Hamlet's father and the ghost.
He's pretty creepy...

There is a lot of fog, cracking ground, and bubbling that make his and Hamlet's talk very dramatic and hardly gives the ghost a favorable impression as coming from any where but down. (Compare this to Mel Gibson's.)

Rufus Sewell as Fortinbras.

"The play's the thing..."

So...about Horatio... I love the character of Horatio. He is amazing. I have seen Nicholas Farrell in other movies (think Amazing Grace, Twelfth Night, Chariots of Fire, etc..) and I think he does a great job.

When I first realized he was playing Horatio, I confess I recoiled. I couldn't stand it for the first half hour, but I got used to it and he does do an interesting and sympathetic interpretation. He isn't what I would have imagined, but I couldn't tell you who I would cast as this part.

Julie Christie plays Gertrude.

Branagh is very convincingly mad...
It is very funny, sad, and a little scary.

Polonius is quite amusing. The interchanges between Hamlet and Polonius when Hamlet is being mad/rude are very well done.
Here is a clip from the "words, words, words" part. Branagh's face flexibility is impressive.

If you are Shakespeare or Branagh fan you will be familiar with Richard Briers.
He does an excellent job as Polonius. (Not sure if that is a compliment.)

Kate Winslet an excellent Ophelia...although I think she's a little over-the-top at times when she goes mad. I don't know.

I think the part where Ophelia goes mad would be a fun one to play. ;-)

The scene with Hamlet and Ophelia talking is very heartrending. In this version, Hamlet seems to discover part way through that Ophelia is betraying him and others are listening. Branagh made me want to cry.

Rosemary Harris and Charlton Heston reenact Hamlet's trap for Claudius.

We love you, Charlton Heston!
You can see part of his speech, Aeneas' Speech to Dido as First Player, here.

Timothy Spall and Reece Dinsdale as Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.

Billy Crystal as the 1st Gravedigger.
A hilarious, but thoughtful interpretation.

Robin Williams as Osric.

Very funny...perhaps goofy enough to be a bit out of place, but he does a good job.

Derek Jacobi does an outstanding job as Claudius.

I was happy to see him in this role because, although I know he is a wonderful actor, I have a hard time liking him when he's trying to be a good guy.

Throughout the movie they constantly show people practicing fencing at interesting times. Since Claudius and Hamlet are essentially fencing through the whole play and people keep getting in the way (or being pushed in the line of fire) this is a very interesting touch. I also love this checkerboard, chess-like floor.

Laertes and Hamlet's fight is very dramatic.

Michael Maloney as a dead Laertes...

And Fortinbras King of Denmark.

If you've seen the 1996 movie version, what do you think Branagh's conclusion was? Do you think he sees Hamlet as a hero?

What do you think about other movie versions?

Thanks for reading,
Miss Pickwickian

Friday, March 4, 2011

A few thoughts on "Hamlet"

Hamlet and Horatio in the Cemetery
by Eugene Delacroix (1798-1863)

I have very successfully been avoiding Hamlet.
This is partially because it is too big of a subject for a blog post and partly because I love it so much. I know I'm not going to be able to explain why and sound rational.

I wonder how many years people have dedicated to studying, interpreting, and performing Hamlet. I bet the total would be staggering.
Is it worth the obsession we have with it?

The Play-scene in Hamlet
by Daniel Maclise (1806-1870)

I think Hamlet is largely about the complexity of human nature. Hamlet, himself, is extremely complicated and the subject of wide and varied conjectures (both in the play and the four-hundred years since it was first performed).
This was a problem for Hamlet too. Most of his soliloquies center around his inability to understand himself or his actions.

It is astonishing that today we accept Hamlet as a hero and his mission commendable. While Hamlet is certainly a likable character and I consider it natural to sympathize with him, this doesn't mean we should agree with what he is doing.
Shakespeare wasn't trying to create a role model.

Revenge tragedies were extremely common in Elizabethan England and taking vengeance oneself was universally condemned in the theater. It could be possible Shakespeare would go against this pattern, however, Hamlet condemns himself with several of his speeches. (For instance his reasoning in Act III, Scene 3 is startling as well as his quiet dispatch of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern and lack of remorse over Polonius.)

Hamlet and Ophelia
by Dante Gabriel Rosetti (1828-1882)

It could also be a indication of Shakespeare's own conclusion when the only characters standing are Horatio and Fortinbras.

Horatio is the moral stability of the play and Fortinbras is the only son who does not take revenge into his own hands.

(There is some debate here. Branagh's interpretation has Fortinbras storm Elsinore and then take the throne. I suppose the play can be taken this way, but the last we heard of Fortinbras he was obeying the counsel of his uncle. Personally I think it would be horribly unfair for Fortinbras to get away with revenge while Laertes and Hamlet are dead on the floor. I know that doesn't sound very scientific, but Branagh is the only thing I've seen/read that interprets it this way. It makes me suspect that he is a little to fond of shattering glass.)

Here is a beautiful paragraph from Brightest Heaven of Invention by Peter Leithart.

"Hamlet" thus presents a negative view of redemption. Denmark is a fallen world, needing to be set right. Instead of showing us the Redeemer, however, Shakespeare shows us the folly and danger of man's efforts at self-redemption and especially redemption through violence. Time out of joint is not set right by the wrath of men. It is not the grasping of the first Adam who secures redemption but the patient suffering of the Last Adam. Those who seek vengeance do not prosper. The crown usurped by the serpent is finally worn by one who rejected revenge. And the meek inherit the land."

I think Hamlet raises a lot of questions without answering all of them. I don't think Shakespeare was just having a bad day. He knew exactly what he was doing and exactly what questions he wanted us to think about.

I know it is rather cliche to love Hamlet, but I am quite certain I will not get tired of it until the day I die. :-) It is by far my favorite Shakespeare play. I believe it is one that can be studied for a very, very long time...

I know these thoughts are all very incomplete, but I look forward to hearing yours.

I shall cudgel my brains no more about it (for the moment).
Miss Pickwickian

Further Reading-

There is a lot of very interesting stuff on Hamlet. Here are a few links online I came across earlier. I'd love to hear about other books or essays you found helpful.

-This is an interesting post by Alan Vanneman. The contrast between nine of the film versions is very helpful and some of the discussion on the themes and the plot of the play are interesting.

Over all, Vanneman has little confidence in Shakespeare and the consistencies of the play, which seem to make him miss the point. This is sad, but watching him talk himself out of Hamlet's conclusions and unanswered questions is amusing.
(He is strongly opinionated and doesn't mind using some off color language to get his point across.)

-Hamlet Works has a lot of reading material on the play and characters with several thought provoking essays.

-Shakespeare Online has some interesting ideas here.

-Although Peter Leithart's most organized thoughts on Hamlet can be read in Brightest Heaven of Invention there are two later blog posts that I found particularly fascinating.
Other thoughts on Hamlet can be seen here.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Running Wild with Shakespeare

I am a great advocate for quoting Shakespeare (you may have noticed).

There is one thing that is unforgivable...quoting Shakespeare out of context. This happens to every author and is somewhat unavoidable, but taking something a character says and then forgetting that it is in a play and who says it and when, is dreadful.

One example is a few lines from King Lear. I love King Lear and although it's a sad story I do not think it a completely depressing and hopeless one. The lines so frequently quoted that we are only "the play-thing of the gods" are not the final words on the matter...

The famous quote "to thy own self be true" is rarely attributed to Polonius. Polonius' speech to Laertes has always been one to puzzle me. Polonius hardly seems like a voice of wisdom in the play as a whole. Much of his advice to his children seems legitimate, but other portions just leave you wondering on what exactly Shakespeare is trying to say.

Recently I've been thinking about citing references and being careful with quotes. Poor Shakespeare has come up rather frequently.

If we think about it, this is like saying Christopher McQuarrie and and Nathan Alexander actually believe "Any problem on Earth can be solved with the careful application of high explosives." or that William Goldman actually thinks that "Australia is entirely peopled with criminals".

I think this is partly why we get confused about who's who in Shakespeare and who in the world Shakespeare actually is and what he actually believed.

Thanks for reading,
Miss Pickwickian

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Incomplete thoughts on "As You Like It"

As You Like It by James Watts (1736-1819)

I have a few questions I'd really like to ask someone about Shakespeare's As You Like It.

I love the play and I've read it countless times. (Partially because we own a small, cute, blue, Yale hardback edition and it's fun to hold and sniff.)
It has been a source of sorrow in my life that I cannot find anything by Peter Leithart on this play.

Some of the themes are obvious. Brothers and family (Oliver and Orlando and the two dukes). Totally confused romantic relationships. Loyalty. And the most striking and obvious-- the contrasts between all the couples at the end. Act V, Scene IV is quite the diverse line up. There are a strange variety of view points and reverence for love and marriage throughout the play.

But what exactly is Shakespeare saying with all this?

And what is with Jaques? I could literally be him. (Except for his famous "All the World's a Stage" speech in Act II, Scene VII which I would not have the genius to say.)
All the same...I kind of have this feeling that his conclusion is not what it should be. To leave at the marriage dance and feast hardly seems like a generally-condoned activity in Shakespeare... However appealing finding some abandoned cave and reading and thinking might sound. ;-)

Touchstone and Jaques seem to be contrasted often and both seem to be a bit unbalanced. I'd like someone really Shakespeare-smart to tell me what's going on here.

The dialogue is very clever and snappy which makes the play move quickly with plenty of laughs. Although there are more characters than some of the other comedies which make it a bit more confusing, I think As You Like It is good introduction to Shakespeare because it is just so funny.

I have only watched Kenneth Branagh's 2006 adaption. My sister and I watched it alone a couple years ago and loved it. We then told the rest of our family they had to see it. One night we all sat down with another family and watched it. Susannah and I laughed merrily through the entire movie while pretty much everyone else sat dead-pan. Apparently it wasn't a hit. Maybe they were disappointed if they were expecting another Much Ado.

I do realize that the movie is a little more random then Branagh's other adaptations-- partly because of the whole Japanese setting, partly because that's the way the play is written, and partly because Branagh gives it a funny, wacky flavor.

Random is my humor. I loved it. A random Buddha sitting in the middle of the forest? Who doesn't love that? ;-)

I also realize that the whole girl dressing up as a boy and then pretending to be a girl is weird and kind of awkward...especially due to our unfortunate exposure to homosexuality and America's current stand in this issue. We're pretty touchy. But since this is so obviously not what is going on, I don't think this should be a problem.

Audrey, and especially Audrey and Touchstone together, do add some unnecessary material. The only other iffy content I can remember is the wrestling scene which could be rated R for disturbing images. (Charles happens to be a sumo wrestler. Nasty. But if you have a sick sense of humor, like me, you will laugh.)

The cast is good and familiar. Bryce Dallas Howard is excellent and Romola Garai works better in Shakespeare for me than her other movies. I could listen to Brian Blessed all day because he plays Jean Valjean in Focus on the Family's Les Miz. Keven Kline, Alfred Molina, and Richard Briers play their roles wonderfully.
Patrick Doyle produced another amazing soundtrack as well as acting the part of the singer in the play.

Overall the movie has a 100% Kenneth Branagh feel (casting, music, takes, everything). Like Much Ado the movie is beautiful and mostly filmed outdoors. Branagh never appears but you do hear him say "and...cut!" at the very end after Rosalind's clever epilogue.

There is one thing I'd like to ask Branagh. Why did he make the shepherd, Corin, play the priest as well? I have enough faith in the way he uses imagery and details to portray his spin on Shakespeare (or Mary Shelley for that matter) that I don't believe he was just short on actors.

Hmm... I guess I mostly just have questions about this play and movie and not much intelligent things to say. ;-)

Overall, the movie totally resonated with me. Perhaps partly why I loved it was it's randomness, but I really think it's a well-done movie. Some of running-around-in-the-woods scenes I can totally can see my sister and I playing when were younger...of course with out all the clever themes and poetry. ;-) Maybe that's why it seemed normal.

I do love the story though. Many of our most well-known Shakespeare quotes come from As You Like It.

Thanks for reading. I love discussion, so comment and let me know what you think of it. I'd also love to hear about other film versions.

I charge you to like as much of this review as pleases you. :-)
Miss Pickwickian

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Some thoughts on "Much Ado About Nothing"

Claudio deceived by Don Jon accuses Hero
by Marcus Stone (1840-1921)

Watching Kenneth Branagh's Much Ado is my first memory of Shakespeare. The film has greatly added to our household dialect...

As in most of his movies, Branagh sticks close to the original script. He does jumble a couple scenes which actually make things less clear. He also takes out a couple of Dogberry's lines from IV.2 which show that he is the voice of "wisdom" as well as stupidity in the play.
Some clever responses of Don Pedro's to Dogberry are also taken out, but other than that and some general abridging the movie follows the play and certainly sticks with the spirit of it.

I think Branagh does an excellent job of bringing Shakespeare alive.

It is a very pretty movie with mostly bright outdoor scenes and an absolutely beautiful Patrick Doyle soundtrack. Emma Thompson, Kenneth Branagh, Micheal Keaton (even if he spooks you at first) and Denzel Washington all do an excellent job acting. Some of the other characters don't...but they aren't awful.

The movie is rated PG-13 and deserves it. There are two obvious scenes that are easy to skip. The only other iffy content is a little bawdy Shakespeare humor and some poor female clothing choices.

The 1984 version is also worth noting. Although it lacks the shininess and some of the life of the 1993 version, I believe it is completely unabridged and does have some strong points. We watched it some time ago and I was determined not to like it, I love the other so much. I couldn't help loving it.

Robert Lindsay does a great job as Benedict. Cherie Lunghi, as much as I am prejudiced against her, does do an interesting interpretation of Beatrice. If you are a Horatio Hornblower fan this might be hard for you, but they do a good job together. (These actors play Admiral Pellew and the Duchess.)

Don Pedro is disappointing. Hero and Claudio are nothing spectacular, but since they've never been my favorite I was okay with that. Because they are played flat it's easier to see the contrast between Beatrice and Benedict.

Some of the costumes made me laugh...

Overall, if you are studying the story, I think both versions help give a balanced view. The 1984 gives you more of a feel for it as a play instead of a movie.

I think the 1993 and 1984 are both available on Youtube.

Despite my love for As You Like It and some favorite passages in Twelfth Night, Much Ado probably makes it as my favorite comedy.

Benedict's cynicism often hits to close to home, but Shakespeare doesn't leave us with that. There is a true and strong love that can overcome problems. Yes, it might mean leaving some things behind. Yes, it changes friendships. It changes everything. But you still have a head and you need to use it.

Brightest Heaven of Invention by Peter Leithart gives some excellent food for thought on Much Ado. There is a lot going on in the play. If I have more time this week, I'll try to do a more intelligent post on the subject. However, you're best off reading Brightest Heaven of Invention for yourself.

If you have any suggestions for a Christian perspective on Much Ado or Shakespeare in general, I'd love to hear them.

Thanks for reading.

If a merry meeting should be wished, God prohibit it!
Miss Pickwickian