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!



Monday Muse: Shakespeare’s (Problematic) Histories

Heyo! Welcome to what is not only today’s Monday Muse but also, by virtue of it being August 1st, Day One of Nerd Cactus’ Second Annual Shakespeare-a-Palooza, aka We’re Going to Stratford At the End of the Month and Want to Talk to Y’all About Shakespeare! I think you’re in for a treat because we’re at our best when we’re focused, and we’re totally focused for the next month.

Now, A probably gets the more exciting plays to work with, but I chose to work with the histories because, well… historian. Yeah. So, I’ll be covering Richard II/Henry IV pt 1 and Henry IV pt 2/Henry V and A gets Macbeth and As You Like It. I promise not to take it personally if you skip my weeks and wait for hers…


I promise.

Anyway, let’s get going.

A lot of people don’t really think of history when they think Shakespeare. They assume that all of his plays fall into either tragedy or comedy, i.e “everyone dies” or “everyone gets married”. And, yeah… insofar as Bill’s most famous plays are concerned, that is kinda what happens. Aside from “friends, Romans, countrymen,” I think most people would forget the histories entirely if Tom Hiddleston and Benedict Cumberbatch hadn’t played Prince Hal/Henry V and Richard III recently. But, for me, Shakespeare’s histories are some of the most fascinating plays to study, and not just because I’m a sucker for the Wars of the Roses.

The reason they’re so fascinating to me is because, given how I feel about the duty of storytellers to history, I really shouldn’t like them.

I’m one of those writers who believes that, when using history in a story, it is the duty of the writer to change their story to fit what we know about history. If we know Mehmet II’s forces defeated Vlad Tepes’, don’t have Dracula kill Mehmet at the end of your movie for a heroic ending. (Apparently, that’s how Dracula Untold ends. I have never seen it. A actually told me not to see it because, frankly, shit like that makes me genuinely angry.) Don’t characterize William Wallace as some woad-wearing, tartan-sporting Highland lord when EVERYTHING WE KNOW ABOUT THAT PERIOD SAYS THAT SHIT IS WRONG!!! (Also, and probably more importantly, don’t make Isabella of France, who was three at the time of the… wait. No. I’m getting side-tracked by anger parentheticals…)

Shakespeare’s histories are the kind of thing where the actual history is less important than the story being told. So why don’t his plays drive me into apoplectic fits of rage? Even Richard III, though that’s the one that causes my eye to twitch because, for God’s sake Bill, he wasn’t evil fucking Quasimodo! But why, then, do I tend to give William Shakespeare a pass?

Because he lived in a time where saying the wrong thing about the wrong person could get you killed.

For Shakespeare, then, history served as a distancing tool, a framing device a la Hamlet’s play-within-a-play scene. It allowed him to tell a more pertinent, topical story, a more political story, within the guise of people long dead. Richard III needed to be evil because Queen Elizabeth was Henry VII’s (Richmond in the play) granddaughter, and a man had to be an idiot not to make Richard a villain. There’s some thought, as I discussed back in April, that Richard III might have even been a character stand-in for Robert Cecil, and the story itself an allegory about the succession from a Catholic-sympathizing Shakespeare. Here’s the post if you’re interested. Henry V, with all its bombastic, pro-England speeches and victories, is like the Patton of its day. You could almost see Henry standing in front of the St. George Cross delivering speeches to the troops about St. Crispin’s Day and Agincourt. It was a piece of pro-English propaganda (though also remarkably nuanced in its depiction of war, particularly Henry’s violence in Harfleur, but I’ll get into that next time). So, then, especially with Shakespeare’s English histories, it is the conceit of keeping his head that causes Shakespeare to manipulate history to tell a larger truth. (It must also be noted that Antony and Cleopatra was not performed until after Elizabeth I had died, as writing about the fall of a great Queen might not have been particularly politic during her life.)

It also helps that Henry V gives us some great speeches, Richard II gives us John of Gaunt’s “this scepter’d isle”, and Richard III (though… terribly problematic… stupid withered arm and killing Somerset when he was two…) gives us a great (if, again, problematic) villain. Of course, it also pleases me that even Shakespeare, so determined to keep his head Shakespeare (which, of course, I support him in that because who wouldn’t?), couldn’t rob Richard III of his bravery in battle. The “my horse, my horse” line, so often misused out of context to demonstrate Richard’s cowardice, is actually Richard looking for a horse so he can charge back into battle against Richmond’s army. I’ve got a soft spot for Richard. He killed a lot of my family (and was family), but I kinda like him. Despite Shakespeare.

(That crazy lady who found his bones though? Calm down, lady. He wasn’t a saint just because Shakespeare turned him into an unduly villainous caricature.)

Anyway. That’s it for me today. Sorry I rambled. I’ll be back on Friday for this month’s inaugural Boozy Plays, where I’ll be pairing Richard II and Henry IV pt One. See you then!


Shakespeare Saturday: 400 Years!

Welcome, everyone! How’s everyone’s day going so far? Done something Bardy with your time? Read a play, watched a play, watched a movie of a play, pretended you know what King John is about? (All y’all Shakespeare trivia champs out there know what I’m talking about.) At the very least, have you used a Shakespeare quote/phrase ON PURPOSE at some point throughout the day?

If not, there’s still time. Comment here with your favorite Shakespeare line and you’ve got yourself covered. Heck, I’ll settle for your favorite play as favorite line might be too difficult. I know it would be for me.

I wanted to do something special today, it being the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death (and possibly, also, his birthday, but obviously not 400 years on that one). Thing is… a lot of the big topics, we’ve already covered. We’ve written about how he totally wrote his playsShakespeare’s foolswhy you need to see Shakespeare live (or at least a taped performance), Shakespeare and gender, and even given examples of some of our favorite movie adaptations of Shakespeare. And I’ve definitely talked about why I love Shakespeare. Seriously, amidst the silly pictures and the article round-ups keeping you lovely people abreast of all things Bard, we’ve written some cool stuff.

We’ve even discussed why our generation isn’t too stupid for Shakespeare, which seems to be a prevalent theory among older generations. In fact, you should take some time and go back through our Shakespeare Saturday posts (just search Shakespeare Saturday and they’ll pop up) because some of them are pretty damn good. The one on Queen Mab’s speech as it applies to Killing Mercutio was a particular favorite of mine.

But if we’ve talked about all that… what should we talk about on this special day?

Well, I thought… let’s talk about Richard III. Everyone else will be talking about how amazing Shakespeare is (OK, so will I), so I want to talk about the play I have the hugest problem with. (Well, this one and The Merchant of Venice… but we’re writing a whole musical about that problem, so I think we’ll work it out.) The play toward which, as well as it is written and as much fun as it must be to perform (and that I am really looking forward to seeing Benedict Cumberbatch tackle), I will forever carry a little nugget of rage. Which is weird, because, not long into the play, one of the historically correct aspects of the narrative — Richard III having Lord Hastings executed — involves a member of my family being killed for no other reason than he got in Richard’s way. That’s how much I dislike aspects of this play. It makes me defend Richard III, who killed family! (To be fair, so’s Richard. Everyone was related during the Wars of the Roses. Seriously. It was pretty much just a huge family feud.)

But I’m not here to talk about how inaccurate it is. Not really. We all know Richard III wasn’t a hunchback (he had scoliosis, yes, but it wouldn’t have given him a hunched back) and didn’t have a withered arm, and there’s really no proof he had the Princes in the Tower executed (and, really, he was the one person who benefited least from their deaths), and he was, like, two-and-a-half when Somerset (another ancestor of mine, actually) was killed at St. Albans, and he definitely didn’t kill Clarence (or talk Ed 4 into doing it) in a vat of wine (and there’s actually evidence it strained the relationship between King Edward IV and Richard), and he didn’t kill his own wife’s father and former husband (though both were killed in battles involving Richard, there’s… no proof he was the one who killed them). As evil and conniving as Shakespeare’s Richard is, it’s no surprise everyone celebrated the coming of Richmond (Henry VII) at the end of the play (well, that and Shakespeare would have to have been an idiot to do otherwise; Richmond was Good Queen Bess’ grandfather). But even Shakespeare didn’t take Richard’s valiant qualities away from him. Though “a horse, a horse, my kingdom…etc” is often quoted as a sign of cowardice, in context, the line is Richard wanting to go back into battle. If there’s one thing we know about Richard III, it’s that he was a brilliant, brave soldier who loved his family. And even Shakespeare could only take half of that away from him.

What I want to talk about today is an article I was recently shown and really enjoyed. It discusses a lot of what I’ve already mentioned here, but brings in a really interesting element: that Shakespeare, being Catholic (there’s a lot of “Shakespeare was a secret Catholic” arguments/conspiracies afoot), wrote Richard III as an allegory about the succession in a time when Elizabeth I was growing older and said succession was a concern. And, more importantly, that the eponymous King was actually an allegorical representation of Robert Cecil, the Queen’s trusted adviser, who, along with his father (Richard Attenborough in Elizabeth), was fighting for a Protestant successor (namely James I). The article is here and you should totally read it because it’s an interesting argument. I don’t know that I buy Shakespeare as a secret Catholic because, though there are obvious Catholic themes throughout Shakespeare’s works, I think he was mostly a storyteller first. Hamlet, for example, needs those Catholic themes for the ghost to work. But I could definitely see Shakespeare writing about the undue influence of the Cecils upon the Queen, especially considering what bad advisers had wrought throughout the Tudor years.

Anyway… what this article really made me consider was how we interpret Shakespeare. (And, yes, I realize I’m getting a bit long here, but c’mon, it’s a special day!) What contextual meanings have risen and fallen throughout the 400 years since Shakespeare’s death? Did Elizabethan audiences really look at Richard III and know Shakespeare was writing about Robert Cecil? Does that mean a modern interpretation could have, say, a Dick Cheney-esque Richard? Or could a modern audience look at a character like Macbeth, broken by what he has done for ambition’s sake, and see modern politicians? Did Colonial Americans see George III as a stand-in for Richard III? We know John Wilkes Booth saw Lincoln as a tyrant and we also know his favorite role as an actor was Brutus in Julius Caesar (although, funnily enough, his debut was as Richmond in Richard III). For 400 years, new meanings have risen and fallen, and audiences have taken new and ever-changing interpretations away from Shakespeare’s plays. To a teenager, Romeo and Juliet might be romantic, but an adult might only see the tragic, stupid decisions of two young people getting them killed. I know my opinions on The Taming of the Shrew have changed drastically over the years as I grow and my worldview changes.

I’ve already talked about Shakespeare’s timelessness, but that article really brought it to light for me. We see so many things and understand so many different meanings in Shakespeare both alone and as part of a greater audience. We turn to him for romance, for sorrow, for joy, for ambition. We turn to him for greatness and for woe, for amazing insults and, I admit it, potty humor (SO MANY FART JOKES). There’s deep psychology and sublime ridiculousness to be found in Shakespeare’s plays, sometimes both at once. And, even after 400 years, we’re still uncovering new layers and finding new ways to appreciate his words.

Basically, William Shakespeare may have been dead for four centuries, but the Bard is immortal.


PS- In case that amazing ending wasn’t enough for you, here’s an update on the This Be Madness bracket. I have had to choose between my absolute favorite plays, Hamlet and Much Ado About Nothing, in the final and it was, I can assure you, a far more difficult decision than it really had any right to be. In the end, however, I was forced to go with Hamlet. Why? Because, as much as I love Much Ado, the part of it I adore is Beatrice and Benedick and, strictly speaking, they’re a subplot. So the main plot — Hero and Claudio — gets overshadowed by what Shakespeare intended to be secondary and, as much as I love it, that means Hamlet, which is strong throughout (and gives us some of the finest speeches known to man), must be given the nod. Go ahead and check out the finals and learn who won (I won’t spoil it for you) here.

PPS- This really cool article came up as I was writing this and I wanted to share it with you. Theater snacks! What did people eat at the theater in Shakespeare’s time? Well, I won’t spoil it for you, but it definitely wasn’t popcorn.

Seriously. I’m done now. Forgive me for writing so much. And do read everything I’ve linked to! They’re all quite good and prove, I think, we here at Nerd Cactus aren’t just lushes who constantly read drunk! (But, just in case you really wanted my recommendation for today, I’d say you can never go wrong with a good ol’ English ale!)

Shakespeare Saturday: On Death

I’ve been thinking about death lately. How not, when the world lost some brilliant people in the last few days? I’ve been pondering how it affects us, especially how the death of someone we’ve never met can steal the air from our lungs and leave the ground beneath us no more solid than quicksand. Is it the shock of their mortality? The idea that we never even knew they were sick? Or is it something more; something more like losing a part of ourselves that we never realized was there? The death of the characters–and they are characters, because we construct them from the snippets of what we know–we love steals from us the part of ourselves that loved them. They changed us, taught us things, made us realize who we are, and now they’re gone.

The world is a little less magical, a little less secure, because the firmament of ourselves has been built–perhaps not entirely, but certainly in bits and pieces–upon what we love about these now-lost heroes. And now we must face a world without them, which is, perhaps, something we never thought we’d have to do.

I confess it is is the loss of Alan Rickman which hurts me the most. I was never the hugest fan of David Bowie’s music, so I never connected with him the way a lot of people did; my mourning for his loss was more because I knew just how important he was to music. But Rickman…

My friend shared this with me the other day, and hearing it made me realize what I needed to write about today:


I needed to talk about death and Shakespeare. Both because I needed to mourn through words–they’re so much neater, so much more relatable than anything else–and because I couldn’t help but think about Shakespeare’s ability to cut right to the heart of death. He gave us Hamlet, one of the greatest works on grief and loss I think the English language has ever experienced. (How I hated it so much as a kid, I will never understand. Stupid me. Stupid, stupid me.) He had a way of expressing so…perfectly what loss can do to a person. Such a deep, unfathomable emotion–the kind which shuns erudition and sets a weight upon our tongues–and he wrenched it from himself and put it down on paper for posterity. Shakespeare gave us death in all its forms, and we have but to choose which version it is that reflects best how we feel.

The worst part about it is that we know next-to-nothing about his own death. We know he died on April 23, 1616 in Stratford-upon-Avon and was buried there. We know it was about a month after writing his will in “perfect health”, but that is about it. Based on one tribute from his fellow writer, we believe he died rather suddenly, perhaps of a fever contracted after a night of hard drinking. But, really, we know very little about the man who put grief on paper so the whole world could find the right words to describe it. I like to think that there was mourning; if Victorians could bear black arm bands for Sherlock Holmes (not to mention engage in a serious campaign to bring him back), I like to think the theaters went dark and the nation mourned. Death was no more ever-present then than in Victorian times (minus the plague, really, all the others tended to stay), and Shakespeare achieved popular acclaim on levels approaching superstar-dom. But we will never know, and I think that’s a shame. Because when the world loses someone like a Shakespeare or a Bowie or a Rickman, I think we should all take the time to mourn.

‘Tis a vile thing to die, my gracious lord,
When men are unprepared and look not for it.                                                                                                                                                        -Richard III Act 3, Scene 2

We’ll be back tomorrow with something silly. Thank the deity of your choosing (or not).


Shakespeare Saturday: What to Watch?

Hello, Cactus-ites, and welcome to the second week of Shakespeare-a-palooza! As you might have noticed, we here at Nerd Cactus have dedicated this week to one of Shakespeare’s…less noticeable works: Love’s Labour’s Lost. We actually didn’t know much about this play (I still haven’t read it, truth be told) and even my rudimentary knowledge of its workings leads me to believe that it won’t be one of my favorites. That being said, I look forward to the performance because, if there’s anything I believe about Shakespeare, it’s that a good performance can change everything. Come the end of the month, I’ll let you know if the Bard’s linguistic gymnastics are, indeed, enough to change my opinion.

For the record, my favorite of Shakespeare’s comedies is Twelfth Night. Yes, it’s basically a stereotype, full of cross-dressing and mistaken identity and everyone ends up happy (except maybe Malvolio), but I love it. It gives us one of my favorite of Shakespeare’s lines: “If music be the food of love, play on.” And it includes that one you’ve all heard: “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.” The fun part about that particular quote is that it comes to us via a fake letter from Olivia to Malvolio, as part of the massive prank everyone pulls on him. So the person purportedly saying it has no idea it’s even been written.

But I digress. Yes, I know, dear readers, I do that a fair bit. Please forgive me, for I do eventually reach my point, even if I do take a while. Brevity may be the soul of wit, but at least I recognize the irony of Polonius being the one to say it.

Anyway, as you no doubt know, Saturdays during the month of August are reserved for movie adaptations of the play we paired the day before. Last week was Hamlet, which has had enough adaptations to sink a small battleship (preferably taking the Mel Gibson version with it). This week, well…I ran into the opposite problem. There is exactly ONE film version of Love’s Labour’s Lost, and…it’s not even considered that good. Released in 2000, it was directed by Kenneth Branagh, who, though normally considered an unimpeachable source of the Bard’s works, had a bit of an off week. While it’s certainly not awful (come on, it’s Branagh doing Shakespeare, it won’t be awful), it’s not one of his best. That being said, when it’s good, it’s good; the problem is, it cuts out half the play, and there’s not much there to begin with. On the plus side, it’s staged like an old Hollywood musical and there’s plenty of Cole Porter and Gershwin to keep anyone happy. Even at his not-so-best, Branagh delivers style and sumptuous beauty. (Last I checked, it was still on Netflix, but don’t quote me.)

But…I can’t just recommend ONE movie to you, can I? No! Not when the Bard is involved! So…having recommended (and I do recommend it, even with its problems) the one version of this week’s play that made it to screen, I shall recommend some others that aren’t this week’s play. Don’t worry, no repeats of last week.

First up is an adaptation, not a filmed version of the play. Why? Because. That’s why. One of my favorite not-the-play Shakespeare movies is She’s the Man. OK, shut up…don’t judge me. It’s one of those movies that made me realize I’d judged Channing Tatum too harshly. Also, it’s quite amusing and it stars a pre-whatever-happened-to-Amanda Bynes Amanda Bynes. Perhaps not the greatest piece of cinema, it is nonetheless entertaining…and, again, Channing Tatum. Remember, if all else fails, enjoy his face. (But seriously, his character–Duke Orsino–is adorable. You’ll enjoy him.) (More parentheses! I’m not sure where to catch this movie. Try the internet. I saw it on TV the other day, but…I’m not good at finding things on the internet. Sorry.)

Moving on to filmed versions of the plays! Do you love Joss Whedon? I know I do. Sure, Avengers: Age of Ultron was a bit problematic, but was that Whedon’s fault or the studio’s? I’d be willing to bet a director’s cut of that movie would be a damn masterpiece, is what I would bet. Anyway…did you know that his idea of a party is to get together with his friends and act out Shakespeare? Did you also know that, to deal with the stress of directing the first Avengers movie, he filmed a low-budget version of one of these parties starring…pretty much everyone you’ve ever seen in a Whedon anything? That’s right. And it’s my OTHER favorite Shakespeare comedy: Much Ado About Nothing. I love it. It’s not one of those versions of Shakespeare set in space or re-imagined as an interpretive dance, but you can tell everyone had a good time filming it, and that counts for a lot. And, if you don’t like this version, there’s always Branagh! Good ol’ Branagh. Pretty soon, he’ll be filming the sonnets. (Like Love’s Labour’s Lost, I believe this is still available on Netflix.)

I would be remiss if I didn’t remind everyone that West Side Story is Romeo and Juliet with knife dances. It’s got my one of my least favorite songs in a musical ever (“Maria”), but also one of my favorites:

So, I think that’s enough about that. Finding West Side Story isn’t hard.

Next up is the play with my FAVORITE SPEECH IN THE HISTORY OF SHAKESPEARE. The “band of brothers” speech, in the hands of a good actor, is magical. Henry V is Shakespeare’s Overture of 1812, a bombastic celebration of England’s greatness, full of rousing crescendos and cannons. OK, so there were no cannon in the play, but evidence suggests they absolutely were part of the Battle of Agincourt in some capacity. And, remember, King Henry promises to turn tennis balls into cannon shot. I’ve got two versions of this to recommend: 1944’s version with Laurence Olivier (because, um, Olivier) and 2012’s version with Tom Hiddleston (because it’s Tom Hiddleston). I’d argue that Olivier’s is better, but the more recent version has the benefit of not being something Captain America could have watched before going into the ice. If neither of those are your cup of tea, guess what? Branagh has a version of this, too (from 1989)! Again, to the internets with you if you want to watch it!

Moving on to my OTHER must-know-and-adore speech, I recommend to you Julius Caesar, starring a…just spectacular Marlon Brando as Mark Antony. His version of the “Friends, Romans, Countrymen” speech will leave you breathless. A lot of people were worried he wouldn’t be able to keep up with some of his more prestigious co-stars, but he blew those guys out of the water. He is passionate and angry, and his performance washes over you like a sandstorm, scouring away until you’re left raw and choking with the force of it. I love it. I love it, I love it, I love it. As I’ve mentioned before, this speech inspired a life-long love of Mark Antony that continues to this day. (OT: This is not Shakespeare, but James Purefoy’s Antony in HBO’s Rome is amazing. I love that they didn’t try to show his speech over Caesar’s body, though, because they could never beat Shakespeare.)

My second-to-last pick is Olivier’s Richard III, made in 1955. Why, you may ask, when I have made known my distaste of Shakespeare’s felonious mis-characterization of King Richard III (in the name of Tudor propaganda) many, many times, and with varying degrees of anger? Well, because it’s still a damn good play. And because Laurence Olivier is a damn fine actor. Also, because it’s on Hulu as part of their Criterion Collection! Yay, Hulu!

Finally…and this may shock a number of you, I’m going to Japan. No, this is not Branagh’s version of As You Like It, which I do recommend. In fact, I could recommend versions of Shakespeare until my eyes bleed. There’s Zeffirelli’s version of Romeo and Juliet as well as Baz Lurhmann’s from 1996, staring Leonardo diCaprio and Claire Danes. Al Pacino plays Shylock in a 2004 version of The Merchant of Venice that somehow managed to keep me from getting too angry at the whole notion of Shylock’s stereotypical existence. There are so many versions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, I don’t know that I can pick one (though the 1935 version is…well, it’s got Cagney as Bottom, and that should tell you enough). I haven’t even mentioned Orson Welles! Oh God, Orson Welles. Why do we seem to remember you solely for Citizen Kane?! But if I went through every version of Shakespeare worth mentioning, I’d be here forever, so instead…I go to Japan. And Akira Kurosawa.

Kurosawa is not just the director of Seven Samurai (which later became The Magnificent Seven in the West and DOESN’T NEED A REMAKE, HOLLYWOOD, EVEN IF IT WILL HAVE CHRIS PRATT IN IT!), and other such wonderfully Japanese movies. He also did a version of Macbeth that will haunt you. You will find yourself thinking about it for days afterward, loving both the fact that the movie is spectacular and the sheer universality of Shakespeare’s themes. Throne of Blood is not just a version of Macbeth set in the Far East; it is completely reworked to fit the political and social realities of a post-WW2 Japan. Shakespeare is turned into a condemnation of postwar imperialism and the leaders who’d led the nation into such a disastrous war, all for glory. And Throne of Blood‘s Lady Macbeth…man. What a performance. It is just SO GOOD. And proof that Shakespeare is not just an amazing English playwright, but an amazing storyteller the world over.

Wow. I…did not intend to write this much, guys. I also did not intend to take this long to write this. I got caught up in the research I was doing, I guess. I’ve watched a lot of Shakespeare adaptations (where I live affords me little chance to see him live, so I’ve made do), so it took me a while to go through and pick the ones I loved the most. I hope you guys enjoy these. Some of them are easy to find (Netflix and Hulu and YouTube, oh my!) and others are a bit of a search, but trust me…they’re all worth it.

Next week, we bring you Taming of the Shrew! I promise to find something worthwhile to say that I haven’t said before. Until then, happy viewing!


ps: If all else fails, watch Doctor Who! As mentioned already, Love’s Labour’s Lost is featured in Series 3, Episode 2, titled The Shakespeare Code. Want to watch it? Here you go!