Shakespeare Saturday: Disney, Pi, and Titus Andronicus (oh my)!

Greetings, fine Nerd Cactus aficionados, from the Happiest Place on Earth! No…not Stratford, though we will be providing a lovely commentary upon the Stratford Shakespeare Festival come August, so mark your calenders! I mean…I am here at Disney World celebrating Pi Day with…a disturbing lack of pie. Oh well. (For a fun event, try a Pie and Prejudice Party, where you watch the 1995 version of Pride and Prejudice and eat pie in a drinking game scenario for such things as Mr. Collins being ridiculous and Colin Firth smoldering sexily.) I’ll remedy this lack of pie posthaste, fine readers, so worry not! THERE SHALL BE PIE!

OK, on to Shakespeare. I had a whole plan to write my theory as to why good ol’ Willy DID write all of his plays (it all comes down to a surprising amount of elitism on the part of scholars, but it involves me ranting about Hamlet), but as I’m squeezing this in between visiting 999 Happy Haunts and gorging on too much delicious food at one of Disney’s many fine restaurants…I had to postpone that post until further notice. Fear not! IT WILL HAPPEN! I just don’t have the time nor the sources available to write a halfway decent post right now…so…

I’m going to give you an affirming lesson from a Tim Allen movie. No…not “to infinity and beyond”, though that would have been a great layer to the Disney aspect of my post. I’m going to go with Galaxy Quest here instead, with “Never give up, never surrender!” I suppose that could be related to the former quote, but there are differences so…you know, I’m just going to get to the point now.

Did you know that Shakespeare wasn’t always, well, Shakespearean? The Bard had some real turds, namely plays that people consider…not as good. Most of these are from his earliest years as a writer (which goes to my argument that the man wrote his own plays); in fact, all of his “greats” (you know…Hamlet, Othello, Lear…the ones you can practically quote even if you’ve never actually read them) were written when he was older and more experienced. Plays like Titus Andronicus, Shakespeare’s first real attempt at tragedy, are…well, awful. T.S. Eliot even called it “one of the stupidest and most uninspired plays ever written,” and a number of Shakespeare scholars argue that he must have written it with someone else because it’s just that bad.

For those of you who don’t know Titus Andronicus (and that’s most of you, I think), it’s basically one long gore fest that involves a bunch of murders, rapes, some forced cannibalism, and a live burial. It’s five acts of what amounts to a Tarantino exploitation film that scholars believe is Shakespeare’s attempt to emulate the revenge plays that were very popular at the time. And it was very popular! In fact, Queen Elizabeth (the first, obviously) was a great fan of the play…which I think says more about Good Queen Bess than perhaps she intended. But while it was popular in its own time, it just simply…isn’t that good. It’s basically the equivalent of writing a book or taking a movie role to pay the bills while you work on the good stuff. You get paid, but it has no real merit.

So why am I detailing to you how bad Titus Andronicus is? Because, ultimately, it shows that there’s no reason you should ever give up on what you want to do. If Shakespeare can write some whoppers (OK, so it was popular…forget that…Twilight was popular, too, so it means nothing) and still become one of the greatest English playwrights in history…well, surely you can become whatever it is you want to become, too. Keep in mind that there are probably plays he wrote that are even worse than Titus…we just don’t know about them. Like Shakespeare…even if you start off awful, keep on trying…keep on writing or making movies or drawing, sculpting, singing…whatever. If you’ve got anything by way of talent, you’ll only get better.

Just take it from Shakespeare. And Tim Allen. “Never give up, never surrender.”

Well, that’s it for me this Shakespeare Saturday! Tune in tomorrow for Silly Sunday, when we’ll drop even the pretense of intellect in favor of whatever makes us giggle uncontrollably. See you next time!


PS: Oh…one more thing. This feel-good post is brought to you by Disney World and the prospect of delicious food (and perhaps pie) this evening. Who wouldn’t be in a good mood?


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