Shakespeare Saturday: The Power of Friendship

OK, slightly mawkish title aside, I would like to thank my friends (and family) for today’s Shakespeare Saturday. It seems have become the person people think of when it comes to fun Shakespeare jokes. Which is totally fine by me because you know I love Shakespeare jokes!

First up, though, a bit of exciting Nerd Cactus news! The Third Annual Super Bestie Good Time Vacay to the Stratford Festival is officially ON! Tickets, both of the flight and of the theater variety, are purchased, we’re staying with the most amazing Theater Grandma ever (though we’ve never told her this as we figure that might be a tad creepy to say to your B&B host, no matter how much you love her) again (and, knowing her, in the same exact room overlooking the river!), and all that remains is to rent a car before we go. So, in exactly four months, we’ll be eyebrow deep in theater!

Take it away, Colbert and Kermit:


Now, for those of us who have been here since the beginning (or at least since last year), you know what this means! It means you’re going to be treated to an entire month devoted to the Shakespeare we’ll be seeing up there. And, because there’s only three Shakespeare plays, there’s a decent chance you’ll get some Molière, too. That’ll be during the month of August as we lead up to our vacation, so be prepared to talk about Timon of AthensTwelfth Night (one of my absolute favorites), and Romeo and Juliet.

Oh, you guys just know we’ll have some stuff to say about Romeo and Juliet. We re-wrote it to fix all the things we hated about it, after all.

So… thus ends the exciting Nerd Cactus news! (No updates on Killing Mercutio, though. We’re getting ready to do another round of agent queries. If that doesn’t work out, we’re probably going to go looking into indie stuff. Neither A nor I am prepared to handle all the work of self-publishing. The horror.) On to funny things!

I’d like to thank my favorite chipmunk (@chipmunkofpower) for this first thing. I’d also like to thank her for assuming I’d know most of the jokes because I’m so into Shakespeare, I see everything!

Thank you, internet, for being so funny.

Next is courtesy of my mom!


And last, but certainly not least, we’ve got this gem. Just… see for yourself. (Courtesy of @DKTaylorWriter.)


Anyway. That’s it from me this week. Apologies on behalf of A. She definitely forgot Monday was Monday, but as for yesterday, I have a feeling her dad tried to steal her wine and then started talking about seeing Hamilton the other day, and she got distracted. It’s totally OK. Hamilton is important. As is wine. Also… rehearsals just started for her, so she’s tired.

She should be back tomorrow for some silly to make up for it, though!



Silly Sunday: The Wuthering Heights of Comedy

Heyo! Welcome to this week’s Silly Sunday! As part of my most exciting, very definitively serious competition between the Brontë sisters, I have dedicated Sundays to funny comics related to the book of the week.

This week, a book that could use some humor… Wuthering Heights. LET’S DO THIS!

First up, the obligatory text message version of the novel:

Literary classics by text message:


And now… for the star of our show: Hark, A Vagrant does Wuthering Heights!

Awesome comic chronicling the messed up relationship between Cathy and Heathcliff:

Ahh, "Wuthering Heights!" That dark tale of gypsy boys and the girls who love them. Kate Beaton is my hero, btw:

If you enjoy history and classic literature and you've never read this comic, YOU SHOULD.:

Wuthering Heights pt 4:

Wuthering Heights pt 5:

(There’s more, but you can go find it. Consider this a cliffhanger!)

Also… my biggest takeaway from the entire novel, in comic form:

He seriously needed prozac.:

OK. I’ll be back next week with The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, which is much better when Helen isn’t going on and on about God. I had to get through that part the other day and it dropped the score a few points. Then I remembered the whole point was to make the whole idea of changing someone through your love and purity and shit really stupid, and I gave Anne her points back.

I feel like Chris Hardwick.


Shakespeare Saturday: Cocktails for everyday drama!

EVERYONE! If you are a frequent reader of our blog then you know that we have a great love of many things. Among these: books, shenanigans, Austen, musing, drinking, and, oh yes, Shakespeare. To name a few. 

One of the greatest joys is stumbling upon combinations of our favorite things. Like this:

Yes, friends, Shakespeare and booze have been brought together at last! And by a pair of doctoral bad ass boss bitches, I may add. I ordered a copy. I am anxiously awaiting it. It was on sale. For really, REALLY cheap. I shall include the link. Here. AND here‘s a $20 coupon should you feel inclined to make a larger purchase:



Boozy Books: Wuthering Heights

Hey, guys! Sorry this is late. I had crazy doughnut adventures, from which I have just returned. I’m glad to have that yummy doughnut in my tummy because, guys…

I do not like today’s book. It might even be on the list of books I said I would never pair way back in the beginning of Cactus-dom (along with Moby Dick because, guys… I just can’t finish that book. I’m sorry. I can’t.) because of how much I dislike it. But as it’s the only thing by Emily Brontë I’ve ever actually read and her only novel, it was necessary to pair it as part of my Brontë-off.

You see what I do for you guys? YOU SEE WHAT I DO FOR YOU?!

OK. First off. We are not going through this entire post suffering under the delusion that Wuthering Heights is a romance novel. Sorry. If you’re one of those people who think Heathcliff and Catherine are a romantic couple… this is not the blog for you. And you’re wrong. I’m sorry, but no. (For the record, neither are Romeo and Juliet. If a couple behaves in a way that would make you give your friends the side eye, it’s not romantic.) They are horrible, horrible people and should both be ashamed of themselves entirely.

But–and this is a big but (I will not lie)–I don’t really think they’re meant to be. Now, I’m not the person who’s going to come out and say Emily Brontë was writing a satire of Romantic relationships (capital R means the movement). Far from it. What she was writing was the dark, violent side of it and what happens when a Byronic hero doesn’t have a virtuous woman to reform him. And also, because I love adding more things to my lists, when Romantic feeling (sensibility) isn’t allowed to express itself or is curtailed in some way. In short, we are not meant to like just about anyone in this damn novel. Which is why I hate it so much but also why I want all of you to read it.

Now. This is part of my Brontë-off, which means I’m comparing this to Jane Eyre and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (which I am about 3/4 finished with), so most of this post is going to be about the comparison. But first… a rundown of the novel for those of you who have never read it:

Catherine and Heathcliff fall in love. They’re forcibly separated. Catherine says that, even though Heathcliff is the other half of herself (and that they are each one another and blah blah blah… I hate Catherine so much), she cannot marry him because he has nothing to his name (this is very important). Heathcliff over hears Catherine say it would “degrade” her to marry him but misses that she loves him, goes off to make something of himself, and comes back the single worst human being in the history of ever (like I think Nero would tell him to take it down a notch). When he finds out Catherine has married a perfectly nice guy by the name of Edgar Linton, Heathcliff marries Edgar’s sister Isabella in revenge and sets about RUINING EVERYONE’S HAPPINESS. He breaks Isabella, forces his son with her to marry Catherine and Edgar’s daughter and then kidnaps said daughter so she can’t say goodbye to her father when he dies, and tricks Hindley (who was awful, but definitely didn’t deserve that) out of Wuthering Heights (the house). Eventually he dies, and everyone is allowed to be happy. (Catherine herself dies earlier in the novel because she keeps making herself ill, which is a thing that totally happens outside of novels, ultimately dying in childbirth. I hate her.)

These two are awful. AWFUL. Catherine is selfish and violent, Heathcliff is vengeful and angry, and their awfulness ruins everything. Because Catherine decides she cannot marry Heathcliff (he is beneath her in social standing), he decides he’s going to punish her. Catherine goes insane and has fits because she is separated from Heathcliff, taking it out on everyone but the person actually deserving of it (aka the asshole seeking revenge). Like, let me remind you that the only reason these people aren’t together and sparing the world at least a modicum of their awfulness is CATHERINE CHOOSING NOT TO MARRY HEATHCLIFF. Like, bitch, you can’t decide not to marry a guy and then act like it’s not your fault for being a classist asshat. And Heathcliff… my God, so she didn’t marry you. SHE’s the one who made the damn decision. Not Edgar and certainly not Isabella.

Hades gets me. Hades understands.

OK. Let’s talk about this like sensible people. Why does this novel work? Because, really, it does work. Of all the Brontë sisters, it is Emily’s writing I like the best. Charlotte can be too dense at times, Anne seems to have puked up commas and can occasionally delve into Charlotte’s density issues, but Emily was really clear. I remember thinking that even back in high school when I definitely didn’t like reading the classics because I hated anything I was forced to read. (I was edgy, yo. EDGE-Y.) As much as I hated everything in it, I remember enjoying the experience of just interfacing with Emily Brontë’s writing style. Which is points for her. Because while I also love the writing now, it says a lot that I liked it then.

Let’s also talk about the tropes and mores of Romantic fiction. Charlotte’s Jane Eyre is a good example of the concept of virtuous woman reforming a problematic hero through her love. Jane is able to corral Rochester somewhat even before the Wife in the Attic shows up. She corrects him, challenges him, forces him to behave. Of course, even Charlotte doesn’t go so far as to say Jane is able to change Rochester. It is only after he is wounded and forced into penitence that Jane can swoop in and complete his reformation. Reader, she married him and, through that binding of their souls was able to assure his goodness. Anne, too, goes into this concept though she comes down hard on calling bullshit regarding its effectiveness (more on that next time). What Emily does is discuss what happens when this doesn’t happen. Heathcliff is the dark side of the Byronic hero, the violence and intemperance unchecked and left to rot. It is the Romantic ideal taken to its worst depths.

Furthermore (oh, God… I’m writing a paper!), the heart of the Romantic movement is about giving in to one’s feelings. It is sensual and expressive, with an almost obsessive mysticism regarding nature. It’s the Romantics that decided Shakespeare was the height of amazing (a writer of the people, by the people, for the… wait. What?), after all because of his populism and tragedy. Did I mention the Romantics loved some tragedy? To die for love, to live short lives of such ennui that there is nothing left but to die (seriously, look up Byron and understand he’s the template here), these are considered good things. Not to let Jane Austen intrude on this Brontë fest, but Marianne Dashwood is very much the epitome of Romantic. Where Austen differs with the Brontë sisters, however, is she has Marianne reform and become more sensible where the Brontës would see that as a betrayal.

I had a point… Right! Catherine doesn’t give in to her feelings. She lets things like class and money (i.e. petty, wordly concerns) get in the way of her grand feelings for Heathcliff. The idea of two people being as one is very popular with Romantics. Jane and Rochester are an example of this (there is a string between them, etc), and Anne’s Helen thinks she and Arthur Huntingdon are like that (and Anne ultimately gives her heroine a happy ending with a man who is her soul’s mate… sorry for the spoilers there), but Heathcliff and Catherine are torn asunder. There is a denying of true feeling, which destroys both of them. It is the deliberate refutation of Romantic ideals that causes all the darkness, all the destruction and pain and fear and awfulness and GOD I HATE BOTH OF THESE PEOPLE SO MUCH.

Ultimately, Emily Brontë is saying a few things. She is saying that there are awful people out there and awful people are awful. Everything, even the Romantic ideal, has a dark side, and Emily decided she was going to write about that (as opposed to Charlotte, who focused on the positives, and Anne, who went for more realism). She is also, ultimately, defending the Romantic ideal and saying that only unhappiness and despair will come from denying it. And, frankly, she’s doing it better than either of her sisters (again, my opinion is SUPER definitive, so we’re done now. It’s decided.), with evocative language and realistic, if exaggerated and awful, characters. I hate it, but it’s a really good novel and it deserves to be the classic it is.

But, for GOD’S SAKE, stop saying it’s romantic. It’s Romantic. With a capital R. And they aren’t the same.

Now. Since this is Boozy Books, I suppose I need to pair this. Since I’ve spent so much damn time talking about the novel (sorry… I get passionate), I’m not going to spend too much time with the pairing. I figure you want to get out of here. But I did think about it. I wanted something dark. I wanted something with cognac because, I dunno, cognac has a lot of depth and flavor and I kinda like it and I kinda don’t. I also wanted blackberries because, again, they’re dark and delicious. So, I went out into the world and searched blackberries and cognac and came up with this Blackberry Cordial recipe, which also has the added benefit of some spicy peppercorns and cinnamon and goodness like that. Depth, interesting flavor, something I’m not sure if I’d love or hate… seems like the right drink for the job.

OK. That’s it for me. Just as a brief reminder, next week is Anne’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, which I am loving, but do have some criticisms of, so this is turning into a far closer race than I thought it was going to be. So far, Emily gets it for writing, Charlotte gets it for characters and plot. Who knows how this is going to end up?!

See you Sunday!


Monday Muse: One Brontë Down, Two To Go

Hey, guys! Welcome to today’s Monday Muse, and a continuation of my month-long (or however long it takes, really) competition between the Brontë sisters. It’s a terribly official competition because, of course, my opinion is the One Ring of literary judgement and, after this, no one will ever need to study the Brontës ever ever again. It’ll be done. We can move on to important stuff like which of the Adamses made a better president (hint: it’s Quincy Adams) or which 90s boy band is the best (because anything after the 90s is just kidding itself).

Last week, I talked about how I feel about Charlotte Brontë and shared my pairing of Jane Eyre. I want to make it clear that I’m not being terribly serious here; I don’t know nearly enough about Charlotte Brontë to pass judgement on her. Do I like that she seems to have made a concerted effort to scrub her sister Anne’s legacy after the latter’s untimely demise? No. It reeks of dour asceticism, the kind that permeates Jane Eyre. Jane is such a moralist, she is somehow able to rehabilitate Rochester through her purity. It’s well documented that the Brontë clan were deeply religious (their father was a curate) of the self-denial, reserved, puritanical version. It oppressed Anne, which wouldn’t do for Charlotte. And, while I can understand that it probably came from a place of love, of protecting Anne’s image among the judgmental English, it only served to scrub Anne from the Brontë  legacy. Which I find deeply unfair.

Anne Brontë is usually studied solely as a means by which we can truly understand the genius of her sisters. There is a sense that quiet, delicate Anne is unable to reach the vaunted heights of her transcendental siblings. Her prose lacks the transformative qualities of Charlotte and Emily, and her books are without the depth. Where Emily and Charlotte are able to take their life experiences and infuse them with Gothic fantasy, Anne’s tendency toward realism makes them seem unformed. Basically, Anne is only great because she is a Brontë, not on her own merits.

I call bullshit. Forgive the profanity, but it’s utter and complete bullshit. I was actually enraged to read these opinions. How dare people pass their personal opinions off as fact?! (*cough* Except me. I am always right.) Anne Brontë is just as good as her sisters. In fact, based on what I’ve read so far of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, she is the best of them. Her characterization is super solid, sometimes needing only a sentence to perfectly encapsulate some of her secondary characters. And her language is clear, without the density that can sometimes make Jane Eyre difficult to sink into. I will grant that I found Wuthering Heights even clearer, but I loathe what it has to say with every fiber of my being (unless, uh, it’s completely satirical which PLEASE SOMEONE TELL ME IS THE CASE! PLEASE! I WANT TO MURDER EVERYONE IN THIS GODDAMN BOOK!). I love that Anne has given as a Byronic heroine for the male POV character to love and worship from afar. I adore that said woman says what she feels and does what she knows is right. Anne Brontë has no problem telling her readers that the whole “I will change him with my love” Romantic belief (as in Romantic era, not flowers and romance) is bullshit. The realism some critics decry as less worthy is actually downright feminist and belies the desirability of Byronic heroes. It says something worth saying. Jane Eyre could no more change Edward Rochester using her purity and love than any abused woman can change her abuser. It’s an important lesson. It’s just a lesson the world wasn’t ready to hear.

But, you’ll be glad to know, Anne is coming up in the world. As our appreciation for her clear prose and realism grows, she is gaining esteem in her own right. No longer is she simply going to be the third Brontë sister; she is going to be Anne, bad ass writer. And I love her.

I’ll be back on Friday to pair Wuthering Heights. I’m saving my vitriol for then. Just saying: while Emily Brontë is an amazing writer, I really hate her damn book.


Silly Sunday: Zombie Jesus Day!

Hi everybody! I hope everyone had a splendid zombie Jesus day, filled with chocolate bunnies and painted eggs and probably lamb. I never understood the whole lamb on Easter thing, tbh. I get that it’s probably related to the whole lamb of God thing, but then… You wouldn’t eat the lamb of God, would you? Is that the point? I don’t know. I just know I get to eat chocolate and hard-boiled eggs all day and I’m totally cool with it.

And now… Please laugh at the process of how Easter eggs are made.


Shakespeare Saturday: Good News, Everyone!

Man… I have been watching too much Futurama lately. I’ve started speaking like the characters.

Anyway. Today isn’t going to be anything long. I just want to share a cool thing that someone shared with me the other day. I have become the go-to Shakespeare news and joke person in my circle, so friends and family are sending me cool things they find, both because they think I’ll like them and for the blog.

This is a bit of both. Check it out!

Romeo and Juliet meets LGBT Footballers!

(That’s footballers as in soccer for all my fellow Americans. I’d enjoy it just as much if it were two NFL players, actually.)

Cool, right? I wish I had the opportunity to see it. If any of our readers have the opportunity, please take it and tell me what it’s like!

I’ll be back on Monday for Wuthering Heights week! (yay.)