Look like the innocent flower,
But be the serpent under it.
If anyone tries to tell you that Shakespeare is stuffy or boring or highbrow, just remember that the word “nothing” was used in Elizabethan era slang as a euphemism for “vagina”.
Shakespeare has a play called “Much Ado About Nothing”, which you could basically read in modern slang as “Freaking Out Over Pussy”. And that’s pretty much exactly what happens in the play.
It’s also a pun with a third meaning. There’s the sex sense of much ado about “nothing”, there’s the obvious sense that people today see, and then there’s the fact that in Shakespeare’s day, “nothing” was pronounced pretty much the same as “noting”, which was a term used for gossip. So, “Flamewar Over Rumors” works as a title interpretation, too.
The reason we call Shakespeare a genius is that he can make a pussy joke in the same exact words he uses to make biting social commentary about letting unverified gossip take over the discourse.
Hey, hey, hey, you’re forgetting the fourth thing, that noting (again, pronounced note-ing) was a pun on music NOTES and that’s why there’s a shitload of singing and dancing and puns about singing and dancing because Much Ado About Noting is basically Freaking Out Over Pussy The Musical: Gossip Making a Mountain out of a Molehill.
Today I learned
oh! I have to tell you guys a great story one of my professors told me. So he has a friend who is involved in these Shakespeare outreach programs where they try to bring Shakespeare and live theatre to poor and underprivileged groups and teach them about English literature and performing arts and such. On one of their tours they stopped at a young offenders institute for women and they put on a performance of Romeo and Juliet for a group of 16-17 year old girls. It was all going really well and the girls were enjoying and laughing through the first half – because really, the first half is pretty much a comedy – but as the play went on, things started to get quiet. Real quiet. Then it got up to the suicide scene and mutterings broke out and all the girls were nudging each other and looking distressed, and as this teacher observed them, he realised – they didn’t know how the play ended. These girls had never been exposed to the story of Romeo and Juliet before, something which he thought was impossible given how ubiquitous it is in our culture. I mean, the prologue even gives the ending away, but of course it doesn’t specify exactly how the whole “take their life” thing goes down, so these poor girls had no idea what to expect and were sitting there clinging to hope that Romeo would maybe sit down for a damn minute instead of murdering Paris and chugging poison – but BAM he died and they all cried out – and then Juliet WOKE UP and they SCREAMED and by the end of the play they were so upset that a brawl nearly broke out, and that’s the story of how Shakespeare nearly started a riot at a juvenile detention centre
Apparently something similar happened during a production of Much Ado at Rikers Island because a bunch of inmates wanted to beat the shit out of Claudio, which is more than fair tbh
honestly Shakespeare would be so pleased to know his plays were nearly starting brawls centuries into the future
Oh, this is SO exciting! These productions are tremendous, absolutely watch all three of them if you have the opportunity. Not only are they short, accessible versions of three of Shakespeare’s best plays, they are performed by an amazingly talented and wonderfully diverse company of women– not only in terms of race, but accent, body type, and age. Harriet Walter is underrated as one of the great Shakespearean actors, and there are some brilliant performances alongside her, including Jade Anouka as one of the best Hotspurs I’ve ever seen.
AAAAH AAH AAH AAAAAAAAAAAAAAH
I’M SO EXCITED TO FINALLY SEE THIS HOTSPUR IN ACTION
I can confirm that Julius Caesar and Henry IV are fucking amazing.
one thing I find hilarious is when Shakespeare quotes are used out of context
like, people are always saying “some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them” as if it’s all deep and meaningful when actually it comes from a prank letter in Twelfth Night
and “This above all: to thine own self be true” comes from Polonius in Hamlet wherein the joke is that he’s an old pompous dude giving a long and rambling speech full of contradictory pointless advice to his son
“Brevity is the soul of wit” is another joke, because again, it’s made by Polonius who will just not shut up
it’s “we are such stuff as dreams are made on” not “of “, as in, “such stuff as dreams are built on”
“wherefore art thou, Romeo” doesn’t mean “where are you, Romeo” it means “why the fuck are you called Romeo, shit, I wanted to bang you but I can’t because you’re a goddamn Montague”
all these lines have acquired a kind of dignity in text that they never had in performance or are constantly misinterpreted
It’s not necessarily bad but it is kind of funny, sometimes.
The other day I had a really good idea for a story:
A high school Shakespeare club angrily splits into two groups when they can’t agree on the correct interpretation of Romeo and Juliet. One group thinks it’s a cautionary tale about the stupidity of youth and shallow lust; the other group think it’s a beautiful tragedy about poisonous hatred conquered by love. Reconciliation seems impossible-
–then a person from one group falls in love with a person from the other
#it would be better if somehow EVERY OTHER SHAKESPEARE WAS HAPPENING AT ONCE#like you got a benedict and beatice b-story#and then somebody see’s their dad’s ghost#and there’s cross-dressing#and three upperclassmen tell macbeth he will be drama club president
oh my god I need this
nobody dies but SEVEN PEOPLE ARE EXPELLED
Exit stage left, pursued by the school mascot
Ouran High School Shakespeare Club
I am 100% convinced that “exit, pursued by a bear” is a reference to some popular 1590s meme that we’ll never be able to understand because that one play is the only surviving example of it.
Seriously, we’ll never figure it out. I’ll wager trying to understand “exit, pursued by a bear” with the text of The Winter’s Tale as our primary source is like trying to understand loss.jpg when all you have access to is a single overcompressed JPEG of a third-generation memetic mutation that mashes it up with YMCA and “gun” – there’s this whole twitching Frankensteinian mass of cultural context we just don’t have any way of getting at.
no, but this is why people do the boring archival work! because we think we do know why “exit, pursued by a bear” exists, now, and we figured it out by looking at ships manifests of the era –
it’s also why there was a revival of the unattributed and at the time probably rather out of fashion mucedorus at the globe in 1610 (the same year as the winter’s tale), and why ben jonson wrote a chariot pulled by bears into his court masque oberon, performed on new year’s day of 1611.
we think the answer is polar bears.
no, seriously! in late 1609 the explorer jonas poole captured two polar bear cubs in greenland and brought them home to england, where they were purchased by the beargarden, the go-to place in elizabethan london for bear-baiting and other ‘animal sports.’ it was at the time run by edward alleyn (yes, the actor) and his father-in-law philip henslowe (him of the admiral’s men and that diary we are all so very grateful for), and would have been very close, if not next to, the globe theatre.
of course, polar bear cubs are too little and adorable for baiting, even to the bloodthirsty tudor audience, aren’t they? so, what to do with the little bundles of fur until they’re too big to be harmless? well, if there’s anything we know about the playwrights and theatre professionals of the time, it’s that they knew how to make money and draw in audiences. and the spectacle of a too-small-to-be-dangerous-yet-but-still-real-live-and-totally-WHITE-bear? what good entertainment businessman is going to turn down that opportunity?
and, voila, we have a death-by-bear for the unfortunate antigonus, thereby freeing up paulina to be coupled off with camillo in the final scene, just as the comedic conventions of the time would expect.
you’re telling me it was an ACTUAL BEAR
every time I think to myself “history can’t possibly get any more bananas” I realize or am made to realize that I am badly mistaken