#Shakespeare400: Shakespeare and Students “See Eye-to-Eye”

Idioms are word combinations that have a different meaning than the literal meanings of each word. In the texts of his plays, Shakespeare was very creative with these word combinations, and some of the idioms he is responsible for either coining or popularizing include:

Tonight, the local intermediate school housed a “Festival of Arts” that featured the work of 5th and 6th graders in all subject areas. The Reading Department hallway had a large banner spelling out the word IDIOMS, showcasing the figurative language that the students had been studying this past month.

Idiom 3In “IDIOMS” hallway, the parents, family and friends could wait in lines to receive a donated book. While they stood in line, they also could read the idiomatic phrases that students had designed hanging on the walls:

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Just as Shakespeare used word play and figurative language to create images in the minds of the playgoers 400 years ago, these idioms showed that “pictures paint a thousand words” and that student illustrations were “second to none”!


#Shakespeare400: Sonnet Total of 616 Stanzas

There are a number of websites dedicated to poetry that explain that the word stanza means “room” in Italian. The etymology of the word stanza comes from  from Vulgar Latin stantia meaning “standing, stopping place.” Other explanations  include- “a station,” or “a stopping place” -where each stanza in a poem is compared to a small dwelling. Sonnet

Shakespeare’s sonnets share a distinctive style. Each sonnet has three rhyming quatrains (abab/cdcd/efef) and a rhyming couplet (gg), a style that has been named Shakespearean. These sonnets differ from the Petrarchan sonnet, named for the Italian Renaissance poet Petrarch.

There are 154 sonnets written by Shakespeare, and that is a total of 616 stanzas. If you want to be literal, and think of stanzas as little rooms, you could check what those 616 “stanzas”  might look like in the following:

#Shakespeare400 -One Page XXXL Folios

Screen Shot 2016-04-11 at 8.10.31 PMA folio is:

  • “an individual leaf of paper or parchment, numbered on the recto or front side only, occurring either loose as one of a series or forming part of a bound volume.”
  • “a sheet of paper folded once to form two leaves (four pages) of a book.”

William Shakespeare’s plays were printed on folios. There were 36 plays collected in what is known as the  First Folio (1623) which were advertised to be better than copies “stol’n and surreptitious copies, maimed and deformed by frauds and stealths of injurious impostors.”

Several years ago, a friend gave me a large “one-page” reproduction of the text of Shakespeare’s play “Much Ado about Nothing.” The entire play -all 21,157 words- is laid out in a 27″ X 40″ frame.

The title of the play is a pun “noting” a reference to written messages, spying, and eavesdropping, which are all woven through the plot. There is “much ado” made of something which is insignificant or “nothing”….which is also why my husband would not let this hang this in our bedroom.


#Shakespeare400: “What if Shakespeare…?”

Google the phrase “What if Shakespeare…?”, and the first entry to show up (4/9/16) is a website dedicated to mini-comics that provide alternative endings to Shakespeare’s plays.Shakespearean What-Ifs — Good Tickle Brain which features the work of  Mya, artist and librarian who was introduced to Shakespeare at  eight or nine years old, and has been addicted ever since. She drew the firstShakespearean What-If in five hours for Mini-Comics Day at the University of Michigan Art, Architecture and Engineering Library.

Screenshot 2016-04-09 08.47.35

Her “What ifs…” feature alternate Shakespearean timelines that “…hinge on a single moment Tragedies could so easily become comedies, and comedies could so easily end in tears.”
Here’s a look at some alternate Shakespearean timelines that she offers for print:

If you are so inclined, feel free to download the Hamlet PDF and print them out full size (no scaling to fit page, thank you) Also Julius Caesar

#Shakespeare400: Birthday Bards Haggard and Shakespeare

Merle Haggard and William Shakespeare both died on their birthdays, but that is not the only thing they have in common.

One was the Bard of Avon; the other, the Bard of the Working Man.

Screenshot 2016-04-07 11.27.59

In medieval British culture, a bard was a professional story teller, a verse-maker and a music composer, usually employed to celebrate a paying patron’s ancestors or activities.

The Bard of Avon (Shakespeare) wrote 154 sonnets, and many of these 14 line poems centered thematically on life’s loves and losses. Sonnet 63 directly addresses how he feels about aging:

Against my love shall be as I am now,
With Time’s injurious hand crushed and o’erworn;
When hours have drained his blood and filled his brow
With lines and wrinkles; when his youthful morn
Hath travelled on to age’s steepy night;
And all those beauties whereof now he’s king
Are vanishing, or vanished out of sight,
Stealing away the treasure of his spring;
For such a time do I now fortify
Against confounding age’s cruel knife,
That he shall never cut from memory
My sweet love’s beauty, though my lover’s life:
His beauty shall in these black lines be seen,
And they shall live, and he in them still green.

In a similar vein, The Bard of the Working Man (Haggard) wrote songs also spoke about life’s love’s and losses. In this last refrain from the song Live this Long, which he sang with Willie Nelson (yet, another bard), he echoes Shakespeare’s theme of aging.
In fact, I’d even like to imagine him including the other “Will” in this verse, Will Shakespeare:

But we’re in pretty good shape, Will, for the shape we’re in
We’ll keep rocking along until we’re gone
But we’d have taking much better care of ourselves
If we’d have known we’s gonna live this long
Yeah, we’d have taking much better care of ourselves
If we’d have known we’s gonna live this long.

They may be gone, but their words endure.


#Shakespeare400: Six Sloppy Signatures

Penmanship or the art of handwriting, is not being taught in most schools today. As a result, when the students do have to sign their names to documents (like the SAT or ACT), they scribble, they scrawl, or they scratch. Their longhand is illegible, a quality they may not know that they share with famed poet William Shakespeare.

Just how bad was Shakespeare’s signature? There are only six surviving signatures of Shakespeare that have been authenticated, all of them on legal documents: a deposition, a house purchase, mortgage, and his Last Will and Testament (3 times).

What is interesting about these signatures is that each one is spelled differently:Screen Shot 2016-04-06 at 7.27.04 PM

  • Willm Shakp
  • William Shakspēr
  • Wm Shakspē
  • William Shakspere
  • Willm Shakspere
  • By me William Shakspeare

Bad handwriting? Bad spelling? Looks like Shakespeare has more in common with today’s high school student than simply being the topic of an assigned essay.

#Shakespeare400-Darwin Disses the Bard

157 years ago today, Charles Darwin sent the first three chapters of his book The Origin of Species to his publishers. He was 50 years old. The theory of evolution contained within made it one of the most influential books ever published, but Darwin had held off publishing for almost 20 years, worried about the response to his radical theories.

During that 20 years, Darwin experienced another evolution. He developed a dislike of Shakespeare.

According to his autobiography:

“I have said that in one respect my mind has changed during the last twenty or thirtDarwiny years. Up to the age of thirty, or beyond it, poetry of many kinds, such as the works of Milton, Gray, Byron, Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Shelley, gave me great pleasure, and even as a schoolboy I took intense delight in Shakespeare, especially in the historical plays. I have also said that formerly pictures gave me considerable, and music very great delight. But now for many years I cannot endure to read a line of poetry: I have tried lately to read Shakespeare, and found it so intolerably dull that it nauseated me. I have also almost lost my taste for pictures or music.”

After the Origin of the Species was published in full, Darwin received a similarly critical review from The Examiner:

“Much of Mr. Darwin’s volume is what ordinary readers would call ‘tough reading;’ that is, writing which to comprehend requires concentrated attention and some preparation for the task.”

Looking for other reviews, I found one word that kept appearing….“boring.”

Perhaps Darwin should have revisited Shakespeare for a little advice before writing volumes about evolution.

What great advice might he have received?

“Suit the action to the word, the word to the action” (Hamlet 3.2.17)