#AtoZChallenge 2020: R Is for Romeo, et al.

One play. Twenty years. 

***

When you reread a classic you do not see more in the book than you did before;
you see more in you than was there before. 
~ Clifton Fadiman

 

The first years I studied Romeo and Juliet with my high school freshmen, when I was in my early twenties, I followed the Star-Cross’d Lovers school of literary criticism: Romeo and Juliet, two innocents, their eyes meeting across a crowded room, she teaches the torches to burn bright, he’s the god of her idolatry, he wants to be a glove upon her hand, she wants to cut him out in little stars—but the cruel world conspires to bring them down.

The way Juliet’s father tells her to thank him no thankings nor proud him no prouds but get to that church on Thursday and marry Paris or he’ll drag her thither on a hurdle—what kind of father says that to a thirteen-year-old girl? Parents don’t understand. They don’t listen.

The kids might be a little quick to act, and goodness knows Romeo should have waited to talk to Friar Laurence before buying that poison. But who can expect patience of teenagers in love? 

When I hit thirty, and had several years of teaching under my belt, I shifted to the What Can You Expect When Teenagers Behave Like Brats? philosophy: Romeo and Juliet, a couple of kids in a hurry. He doesn’t even bother to drop in on his family, just runs off to crash Capulet’s party, proposes to a girl before the first date, insists on a jumped-up wedding, then gets himself kicked out of the city, and he still hasn’t been home for dinner.

She mouths off to her father, tells him what she will and will not do, and he’s just told her what a nice husband he’s picked out for her. It’s no wonder he tells her to fettle her fine joints or he’ll drag her to church on a hurdle. I mean, if you were a parent and your daughter spoke to you in that tone of voice, would you pat her hand and ask what’s wrong, or would you remind her who’s boss here?

If Romeo had just gone home in the first place, like any decent boy would, instead of running off with his friends, this mess wouldn’t have occurred.

In fact, since Old Montague and Old Capulet had that very afternoon been sworn to keep the peace, they might have arranged a marriage between Romeo and Juliet—formed an alliance that way—and the whole of Verona would have lived happily ever after, and Montague would have been spared the expense of a gold Juliet statue. Paris might have been a little put out at being jilted, but he’d have gotten over it. Kids! They don’t think.

When I hit forty, however, I developed the dogma of the Meddlesome Priest. Friar Laurence has no business performing a secret marriage between two minors without parental consent. He says he wants to promote peace, but he isn’t a diplomat. His field is pharmacology.

Furthermore, when Juliet informs him she’s about to acquire an extra husband, why doesn’t he go right then to her father and tell the man she’s married? Capulet wouldn’t have been pleased, but he’d have gotten over it.

Instead, the Friar gives Juliet a sedative and stuffs her into a tomb with a passel of her relatives in varying stages of disrepair.

The man appears to mean well, but it’s also possible he intends to take credit for being the brains behind the peace accords.

Bunglesome or corrupt—the end is the same. With role models like this, are we surprised that children run amok?

Soon after the last epiphany, I ended my stint as a classroom teacher. I’ve wondered what would have happened if I’d continued studying Romeo and Juliet with students year after year.

Would I have had new insights? Developed new interpretations? Uncovered new layers of meaning?

How much more would I have shared with my students? Would I have continued to teach them respect and reverence? Would I have led them down the primrose path of dalliance and left them mired in levity?

How much more would I have seen in myself?

###

This post first appeared on Telling the Truth, Mainly on April 22, 2019, under the title “T Is for Time: #atozchallenge.” 

Remarkable how a stolid, stick-like, straightforward

can, in a only a year, evolve into a curving, curling, growling dog’s name.***

 

###

 

***Nurse.
Doth not rosemary and Romeo begin both with a letter?

Romeo.
Ay, nurse; what of that? both with an R.

Nurse.
Ah, mocker! that’s the dog’s name. R is for the dog: no; I
know it begins with some other letter:–and she hath the
prettiest sententious of it, of you and rosemary, that it would
do you good to hear it.

~ Romeo and Juliet, Act II, scene iv

###

Find more #AtoZChallenge posts here.

#AtoZChallenge 2020: Q Is for Quotation and a Queen

 

From William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Act I, scene iv

 

MERCUTIO: O, then I see Queen Mab hath been with you.
She is the fairies’ midwife, and she comes
In shape no bigger than an agate stone
On the forefinger of an alderman,
Drawn with a team of little atomies
Over men’s noses as they lie asleep;
Her wagon spokes made of long spinners’ legs,
The cover, of the wings of grasshoppers;
Her traces, of the smallest spider web;
Her collars, of the moonshine’s wat’ry beams;
Her whip, of cricket’s bone; the lash, of film;
Her wagoner, a small grey-coated gnat,
Not half so big as a round little worm
Pricked from the lazy finger of a maid;
Her chariot is an empty hazelnut,
Made by the joiner squirrel or old grub,
Time out o’ mind the fairies’ coachmakers.
And in this state she gallops night by night
Through lovers’ brains, and then they dream of love;
O’er courtiers’ knees, that dream on curtsies straight;
O’er lawyers’ fingers, who straight dream on fees;
O’er ladies’ lips, who straight on kisses dream,
Which oft the angry Mab with blisters plagues,
Because their breaths with sweetmeats tainted are.
Sometimes she gallops o’er a courtier’s nose,
And then dreams he of smelling out a suit;
And sometimes comes she with a tithe-pig’s tail
Tickling a parson’s nose as ‘a lies asleep,
Then dreams he of another benefice.
Sometimes she driveth o’er a soldier’s neck,
And then dreams he of cutting foreign throats,
Of breaches, ambuscadoes, Spanish blades,
Of healths five fathom deep; and then anon
Drums in his ear, at which he starts and wakes,
And being thus frighted, swears a prayer or two
And sleeps again. This is that very Mab
That plats the manes of horses in the night
And bakes the elflocks in foul sluttish hairs,
Which once untangled much misfortune bodes.
This is the hag, when maids lie on their backs,
That presses them and learns them first to bear,
Making them women of good carriage.
This is she!

 

Christmas: Pray, Love, Remember

The Christmas tree goes up on December 1. I love it.

~ Richard E. Grant

There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance; pray, love, remember; and there is pansies, that’s for thoughts;  . . . there’s rue for you, and here’s some for me. . . . O, you must wear your rue with a difference.

~ William Shakespeare, Hamlet 

*

 

The Davis tree went up on December 2. I love it.

I always shoot for early December, but I’m calendar-challenged; some years, Christmas arrives almost before the tree.

This time, David said if I didn’t have the gumption to get up out of my chair and into the car, he would choose a tree himself. Not in so many words, of course, but the subtext was unmistakable.

Christmas trees have always been problematic. When we were first married, we had a tree tree. Six-month-old Chloe walked it like a spiral staircase and perched among the branches. We had to close her up in the bedroom so we could decorate. In fact, we had to close her up in the bedroom so we could get it into the stand.

She left off climbing—I don’t know why, certainly not because I told her to—but for the rest of the season, she and Christabel lay on the bunched up sheet (snow) beneath. They were picturesque. Then we discovered them eating needles.

We took the hint (potential surgery) and responded with an artificial tree with lights already installed and an electrical cord for easy twinkling. On a dining room chair, and after only one blip, it attracted minimal attention. Ernest did not chew the cord.

This year David had a brainstorm: Put the tree atop the china closet.

So we went next door to Home Depot, passed up fir, and brought home a small rosemary tree. Nontraditional, but that’s us. One of our most repeated sentences is, “I wonder how normal people do this.”

We also bought a string of 100 lights, some of which now hang down the side of the china cabinet. They add to the the quirky charm. Unless Ernest notices, chews the cord, gets 110 volts, and must again be rushed to the ER.

We found snow (a length of fabric from the Walmart sewing aisle) to keep the pot from scratching the wood where we would never see scratches, but still. Folded, it doesn’t look too bad, and it was cheaper than a lovely felt tree skirt. I think our old sheet-snow was lost in the move.

I insisted on some tiny ornaments. David said there wasn’t room. There wasn’t.

Back at home, I googled rosemary and learned it’s not toxic to cats, and that due to the strong odor, they probably won’t eat it, and, if they, do, they’ll stop at one bite. But the insecticide is toxic. Jolly. If eaten, rosemary can cause gastric distress. The label says the plant should be watered weekly; I’ll be sure to do that, since I don’t want any dropped leaves. We’ve had enough gastric distress to last well into 2020.

The label also says the tree needs natural light, which it ain’t going to get in its current location. David says not much light penetrates our window screens, anyway, so it’ll have to make do with lamps. I might put it outside for a few hours each day. No one is likely to walk off with it.

With any luck, it will last till Epiphany.

So there we have it: Rosemary for remembrance—and we will remember; and a prayer that, although we display our tree with a difference, David and I will get those cats through Christmas without our having to wear rue.

Shakespeare has a line for everything if you’re willing to think hard enough. That’s where the pansies come in.

***

 

J Is for Juliet & Ophelia & Paying for Groceries: #atozchallenge

When students asked, “Why do we have to read all this literature?” I told them it would help them to play Jeopardy. You never know when Alex Trebek will ask you a question. Since leaving the classroom, I’ve come up with other reasons. Here’s one I wrote about back in 2012.

*

At HEB this afternoon, having verified that I had, indeed, spent my last sou on a cup of coffee at Waterloo Writers, I ran my credit card through the scanner. The resulting screen read, Select Tender Type.

Tender.

Such a formal, old-fashioned word for this new-fangled device.

It reminded me of the scene in which Polonius asks Ophelia about the status of her relationship with Hamlet:

Polonius: What is between you? give me up the truth.

Ophelia: He hath, my lord, of late made many tenders
Of his affection to me.

Polonius: Affection! pooh! you speak like a green girl,
Unsifted in such perilous circumstance.
Do you believe his tenders, as you call them?

Ophelia: I do not know, my lord, what I should think.

Polonius: Marry, I’ll teach you: think yourself a baby;
That you have ta’en these tenders for true pay,
Which are not sterling. Tender yourself more dearly;
Or–not to crack the wind of the poor phrase,
Running it thus–you’ll tender me a fool.

Poor Ophelia. She was a sweet thing, and young, and the men in her life treated her so shabbily.

But even though Polonius belittles his daughter to her face, the way Shakespeare moves tender through the passage, varying its meaning from one line to the next, renders the speech remarkable. As Hamlet later implies, Polonius is a rat—and he pays for his treachery a couple of acts down the road—but the old man has a way with words.

Thinking of Polonius and Ophelia reminded me of Lord Capulet‘s rage when Juliet tells him she will not marry Paris. He explodes, and Juliet adds fuel to the fire.

Capulet: How! will she none? doth she not give us thanks?
Is she not proud? doth she not count her blest,
Unworthy as she is, that we have wrought
So worthy a gentleman to be her bridegroom?

Juliet: Not proud, you have; but thankful, that you have:
Proud can I never be of what I hate;
But thankful even for hate, that is meant love.

Capulet: How now, how now, chop-logic! What is this?
‘Proud,’ and ‘I thank you,’ and ‘I thank you not;’
And yet ‘not proud,’ mistress minion, you,
Thank me no thankings, nor, proud me no prouds,
But fettle your fine joints ‘gainst Thursday next,
To go with Paris to Saint Peter’s Church,
Or I will drag thee on a hurdle thither.
Out, you green-sickness carrion! out, you baggage!
You tallow-face!


“Thank me no thankings, nor, proud me no prouds, / But fettle your fine joints ‘gainst Thursday next,…” Beautiful. Those are the words of an angry man. Just seeing them on the page gives me the shivers.

To some, Capulet sounds like a terrible father, but, as I pointed out to my freshmen, year after year, Juliet started it. She was rude and disrespectful. Her father didn’t know she was already married to Romeo; he thought she would be thrilled to marry the wealthy and handsome Paris. But she behaved like a brat. It’s no wonder Capulet threatened to drag her on a hurdle thither.

These two female characters present an interesting contrast: Ophelia refuses to speak for herself; Juliet shouts. But neither one lasts to the end of Act V.

A scholarly paper might lurk in there somewhere: “Shakespeare’s Women: A Study of the Consequences of Self-Actualization Within the Context of the Father-Daughter Relationship Complicated by Nascent Heterosexual Bonding, with a Focus on Hamlet’s Ophelia and Romeo and Juliet’s Juliet.”

Or maybe not.

By the time I finished with the Capulets, the cashier had almost finished with the scanning. While she bagged the items, I pondered the relationship between the name of Jason FForde’s protagonist, Thursday Next, and the once-projected date for Juliet’s wedding.

Then I remembered that Tennyson’s The Idylls of the King contains a line echoing Thank me no thankings, nor, proud me no prouds. I don’t remember which character says it, and I’ve not been able to locate it online; I guess if I’ll have to re-read the entire Idylls just to ease my mind.

But I recognized other lines that drifted across the screen: Guinevere, jealous of Elaine, takes up Lancelot’s gift of diamonds

 

And thro’ the casement standing wide for heat
Flung them and down they flash’d, and smote the stream.
Then from the smitten surface flash’d, as it were
Diamonds to meet them, and they past away.

 

That image—diamonds falling into the sunlit stream, and water splashing up, like diamonds to meet them—has been with me for thirty-five years and will remain when the rest of the book has passed from memory.

Well. By the end of my reverie, the cashier and I had completed our transaction. I wheeled the groceries to the car. End of shopping.

End of post.

Except to observe that I stood for ten minutes in one of the most boring places imaginable and forgot to be bored.

I was busy elsewhere.

***

Here are some A to Z Challenge blogs–and some not A to Z Challenge blogs–you might like to visit.

Sparkonit Science Simplified

Charles Heath — Author

iScriblr

A Pondering Mind

Anne’s Family History

FranceSays

Ailish Sinclair: Stories and Photos from Scotland

Zombie Flamingos

Beth Lapin’s A to Z Blog

Abbie’s Corner of the World

***

Images from Wikipedia:

“Ophelia” by John William Waterhouse

“Juliet” by John William Waterhouse

A Is for Anne Tyler: #atozchallenge

Anne Tyler has done it again.

The last time I wrote about her, I was in a snit. She’d killed off my favorite character halfway through the novel I was reading, and I was not happy.

I’m writing this time because she’s made me laugh. The book is Vinegar Girl, a retelling of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, and in it she kills no one at all. She must have had a wonderful time writing it.

“Petruchio and Kate” by Smatprt licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

For a quick recap: Shakespeare’s shrew is Katherina, daughter of Baptista and older sister of the gentle Bianca. Afraid Katherina, whose reputation precedes her, will never receive a proposal, Baptista tells two young men eager to marry Bianca that his older daughter must marry before the younger. The suitors recruit Petruchio to woo Katherina; Katherina resists, but finding him her intellectual equal, agrees to marry him. Then Petruchio sets about “taming” his bride. At the end, Petruchio presents her to the public as the model of a sweet-tempered, obedient wife

Tyler’s Katherina is Kate Battista. Ten years before the story begins, Kate was invited to leave college after telling her botany professor his explanation of photosynthesis was “half-assed.” Her medical research scientist father made no fuss about her expulsion because he agreed the explanation was half-assed.

Since then, Kate has worked as a teacher’s aide at the Charles Village Little People’s School, where she spends a lot of time in Mrs. Darling’s office, being counseled in the need to use tact, diplomacy, and restraint when speaking with parents. For example, when Jameesha’s father asked her to do something about Jameesha’s finger sucking–Jameesha has a “habit of sucking her two middle fingers, with her pinkie and her index finger sticking up on either side like the sign language for ‘I love you'”–Kate told him not to worry: “Chances are she’ll stop soon enough, once her fingers grow so long that she pokes both her eyes out.” Mrs. Darling says she must develop “some social skills. Some tact, some restraint, some diplomacy.” Difficulty navigating the school’s “mysterious” etiquette has Kate on what Mrs. Darling calls “thin ice.”

Kate also runs the household and takes care of her father and her fifteen-year-old sister Bunny. Taking care of her father includes delivering his oft-forgotten lunches to his lab and doing his taxes. Taking care of Bunny includes preventing her from getting too friendly with her “Spanish tutor,” next-door neighbor, Edward Mintz, whose mother says he has “that Japanese disease . . . the one where young people shut themselves in their bedrooms and refuse to go on with their lives.” Bunny, who was normal until about the time she turned twelve, also has the “irksome habit” of “turning declarative sentences into questions.” Bunny isn’t easy to deal with, and Kate has been dealing with her since their mother died, when Bunny was six years old.

Working at a preschool and being a family manager isn’t the life Kate expected to have, but when the story opens, she’s not expecting anything to change. Then her father introduces her to his research assistant, Pyotr Cherbakov.

When they meet, Kate says, “Hi,” but Pyotr says, “Vwwouwv!” That’s the kind of thing men often say when they first see Kate, “due to a bunch of dead cells: her hair, which was blue-black and billowy and extended below her waist.”

(She stopped getting her hair cut when she was thirteen because she couldn’t take any more of the “Chatty Cathy act”:

“In the beauty parlor. Talk, talk, talk; those places are crawling with talk. The women there start going before they even sit down–talk about boyfriends, husbands, mothers-in-laws. Roommates, jealous girlfriends. Feuds and misunderstandings and romances and divorces. How can they find so much to say? I could never think of anything, myself. I kept disappointing the beautician. Finally I went, ‘Shoot. I’ll just quit getting my hair cut.'”)

Then Dr. Battista brings Pyotr home to dinner. And snaps photos of her and Pyotr with his cell phone, which he never uses because he’s a little afraid of it. And tells her that in two months, Pyotr’s visa will expire and he’ll have to leave the country, and he’s the best assistant Dr. Battista has ever had, ever could have, and the whole scientific community knows about Pyotr Cherbakov, and he’s the only one Dr. Battista can possibly work with, and without Pyotr he might as well abandon his research, because it’s doomed . . . unless . . .

“Unless, perhaps, we could get him an . . . adjustment of status.

“Oh, good, get him an adjustment of status.”

She brushed past him and went out to the hall. “Bunny!” she shouted. “Supper’s on!”

“We could adjust his status to ‘married to an American.'”

“Pyotr’s married to an American?”

“Well, not quite yet,” her father said. He trailed her back to the dining room. “But he’s fairly nice-looking, don’t you agree? All those girls working in the building: they seem to find different reasons to talk to him.”

“So he could marry a girl in the building?” Kate asked. She sat down at her place and shook out her napkin.

“I don’t think so,” her father said. “He doesn’t . . . the conversations never seem to develop any further, unfortunately.”

“Then who?”

Her father sat down at the head of the table. He cleared his throat. “You, maybe?”

And so it begins. Such fun.

Or maybe not.

Shrews aren’t usually born shrewish. Shakespeare shows that Baptista favors Bianca; it’s no wonder Katherina is out of sorts.

Kate Battista, too, is the daughter of a widowed father who seems to take her for granted while focusing his attention on his younger child. When Pyotr observes Kate is pretty, Dr. Battista says, “You should see her sister.” That must hurt.

And then he makes a heartless request, urges her to marry a man she doesn’t know so he can keep his research assistant.

“I guess I just couldn’t believe my own father would conceive of such a thing.  . . . You would never ask Bunny to do this . . . Your precious treasure Bunny-poo.”

The Taming of the Shrew poses a problem for modern audiences: It is misogynistic? Maybe. Maybe not. Some scholars say Katherina isn’t tamed at all, but that she and Petruchio are putting on an elaborate show for the banquet guests and are enjoying every minute of it.

Vinegar Girl poses no such problem. Kate is no Katherina, rife for taming. But after ten years of routine, she suddenly has a lot more to think about than doing taxes and cooking meat mash and keeping Bunny in line. The idea of marrying Pyotr is unthinkable. But it’s so important to her father.

Will she please her father or herself? Can she do both? Will her sense of honor and self-respect survive the ordeal?

Does she have the tact, diplomacy, and restraint to carry her through? Or will her own mysterious etiquette be enough?

And, by the way, where does Pyotr fit into this puzzle?

Tyler’s Vinegar Girl is a delightful romp, part Shakespeare, part Jane Austen, all Anne Tyler. It would make a fine summer read. Or fall. Or winter.

Or now.

***

Anne Tyler. Vinegar Girl: William Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew Retold. Hogarth Shakespeare, 2016.

My 3.14 Day Poem*

 

With thanks to Abbie Taylor,
who told me about Pi Day Poems,
and to Shakespeare, whose sonnet
provided the form.

“Mosaic” by Holger Motzkau licensed under CC-BY-SA-3.0  via Wikimedia Commons

 Anti-Ode on Pi

 

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?

Thou‘rt such a strange shape, legs much like a chair,

A top so curved there’s just no stinkin’ way

It’d seat a current Cabinet secretaire

Or former. Neither dost thou have a crust

Of lard and flour or crumbled crackers graham

That Grandma or Nabisco make, or just

Some chocolate or a blob of strawb’ry jam.

Thou art a cold, hard number made to hurt,

Confuse, and boggle students young and old,

A plethora of digits that exert

Thy pow’r and squeeze, with rude and vile chokehold.

Thou three point one four one six, now I say

I’ll not compare thee to a summer’s day.

 

 

 

 

 

For the poem’s sake, 3.1416, rather than 3.14159, is used in the third stanza. Because it is not March 14, 2016 (3-14-16), 3.14 is used in the title.

 

 

 

To see 100,000 digits of pi, go to http://www.geom.uiuc.edu/~huberty/math5337/groupe/digits.html

To see 1,000,000 digits of pi, go to http://www.piday.org/million/   (This page just goes on and on.)

 

 

 

Photograph: Mosaic outside the Mathematics Building at the Technical University of Berlin.

 

Political Poetic Parody: Sonnet #1

Last month, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristoff announced a contest for Trump poems. Guidelines called for verses written from any political stance. I wrote two sonnets but forgot the October 8 deadline for submission. It seemed a shame to let them languish on the hard drive, so I share them here. The first appears below. Views expressed are mine alone and reflect my rights as set out in the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. President Putin would call them disrespectful, but he is not the boss of me.

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?

A darling bud of May

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art too blowy and inelegant.
Sweet-scented, like the darling buds of May?
Thou art like offal sans refrigerant.
Thou’rt graceless, racist, foul-mouthed, cold, and mean,
Misogynistic; driven to inflame
Rank passions: malice, hatred, spite, and spleen.
The sun doth blush and hide his face in shame.
A tweeting fool a-twitter in our ears;
A braying donkey sends forth sweeter sound,
And tells more truth, than thy bleats breeding fears.
The Ship of State thy bullying runs aground.
But when bold Nancy plays her final card,
Thou’ll find thyself hoist on thine own petard.

***

My thanks to William Shakespeare for Sonnet 18.

Young and Brave and Naive and Amazingly Stupid… but Successful

A long time ago, when I was young and brave,* I herded about forty ninth-grade students onto a school bus and took them to San Antonio, thirty miles away, to a matinée performance of Franco Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet. 

The day before the event, I learned that two girls planned to skip the trip. They were going to attend school but to sit in the library while the rest of the English class sat in a theater.

I consulted the principal. He consulted the girls. The girls decided they would go to see Romeo and Juliet with the rest of us.

English: Woodcut "Verona" from "...
English: Woodcut “Verona” from “Romeo and Juliet” from the 1847 edition of The Illustrated Shakespeare (Photo credit: Wikipedia). See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
I hadn’t seen the movie and was surprised to learn that at least one major event–the sword fight between Romeo and Paris outside the Capulet tomb–had been omitted. Shakespeare’s plays are long, movies move more slowly than dramas at the Globe did, so something had to go.

Still, of all the deaths in the play–Mercutio’s, Tybalt’s, Paris’, Romeo’s, Juliet’s–Paris’ seems to me the saddest. Paris is the one innocent character: neither Montague nor Capulet, he has no enemies, seeks no revenge, but simply loves Juliet, and dies trying to prevent Romeo from (as he thinks) desecrating her tomb. Friar Laurence describes what he found in the churchyard when he came to wake Juliet:

But when I came, some minute ere the time
Of her awaking, here untimely lay
The noble Paris and true Romeo dead.
She wakes; and I entreated her come forth,
And bear this work of heaven with patience:
But then a noise did scare me from the tomb;
And she, too desperate, would not go with me,
But, as it seems, did violence on herself.

Three deaths in the last minutes of the play. Omitting one lessens the impact of the other two. But only for viewers already familiar with the play, I suppose. If you don’t know that much about Paris, you probably don’t miss him.

Something else surprised me, too: the unobstructed view of Romeo’s bare backside we got when he heard the lark and hopped out of bed. But in a theater packed with fourteen-year-olds, I heard not one giggle. That is my definition of success.**

And the day got even better. On our return to school, the principal came out to meet the bus. He and I were standing together, making sure students headed toward the building and not away from it, when the girls who’d threatened to boycott the play walked by.

“Well,” he said, “what did you think of it?”

One of them tossed her head and said over her shoulder, in the tone of bored superiority only a fourteen-year-old can produce, “They didn’t even show the scene where Paris died.”

That, dear reader, is my other definition of success.

Why do I write about R&J tonight? Because the Zeffirelli version is on the late movie, and I’m watching as I remember.

But now I’m going to turn off the television and make my way to bed.

Because I’ve already seen my favorite part, Mercutio’s Queen Mab speech:

MERCUTIO
then, I see Queen Mab hath been with you.
She is the fairies’ midwife, and she comes
In shape no bigger than an agate-stone
On the fore-finger of an alderman,
Drawn with a team of little atomies
Athwart men’s noses as they lie asleep;
Her wagon-spokes made of long spinners’ legs,
The cover of the wings of grasshoppers,
The traces of the smallest spider’s web,
The collars of the moonshine’s watery beams,
Her whip of cricket’s bone, the lash of film,
Her wagoner a small grey-coated gnat,
Not so big as a round little worm
Prick’d from the lazy finger of a maid;
Her chariot is an empty hazel-nut
Made by the joiner squirrel or old grub,
Time out o’ mind the fairies’ coachmakers.
And in this state she gallops night by night
Through lovers’ brains, and then they dream of love;
O’er courtiers’ knees, that dream on court’sies straight,
O’er lawyers’ fingers, who straight dream on fees,
O’er ladies o’ lips, who straight on kisses dream,
Which oft the angry Mab with blisters plagues,
Because their breaths with sweetmeats tainted are:
Sometime she gallops o’er a courtier’s nose,
And then dreams he of smelling out a suit;
And sometime comes she with a tithe-pig’s tail
Tickling a parson’s nose as a’ lies asleep,
Then dreams, he of another benefice:
Sometime she driveth o’er a soldier’s neck,
And then dreams he of cutting foreign throats,
Of breaches, ambuscadoes, Spanish blades,
Of healths five-fathom deep; and then anon
Drums in his ear, at which he starts and wakes,
And being thus frighted swears a prayer or two
And sleeps again. This is that very Mab
That plats the manes of horses in the night,
And bakes the elflocks in foul sluttish hairs,
Which once untangled, much misfortune bodes:
This is the hag, when maids lie on their backs,
That presses them and learns them first to bear,
Making them women of good carriage:
This is she—

ROMEO
Peace, peace, Mercutio, peace!
Thou talk’st of nothing.

MERCUTIO
True, I talk of dreams…

And I already know what happens later. They don’t even show the scene where Paris died.

*****

*  … and naive and amazingly stupid.

** On network TV, Romeo’s bare backside is blurry. That is my definition of turning tragedy into comedy.

Eye of Tot and Toe of Tad…

Two witches stand over a boiling cauldron, one stirring, the other sampling the brew from a spoon.

And the stirrer says to the sipper, “I only use local children.”

If Shakespeare had been a locavore, he might have written this. Or not.

 

Eye of tot, and toe of tad,

Lambkin’s hair, and lip of lad,

Nipper’s nose, and small fry’s ear,

Moppet’s tooth, and rug rat’s tear,

But for charms of most unrest,–

Teenyboppers serve up best.

 

###

Thanks to author  Kaye George, for posting on Facebook the cartoon that inspired the flight of fancy resulting in my (questionable) homage to William Shakespeare and Macbeth. The cartoon is on her FB page.

Jeff Stahler is the cartoonist. To see more of his work, click on his name.

Select Tender Type or, Another Reason Literature Is Useful (Repost)

Below is a piece I originally posted, under a slightly different title, several years ago. I don’t know why the text looks as it does, but it will stay that way until tech support and I find a remedy. I hope you will read and enjoy anyway.

Ophelia, oil on canvas, size: 49 x 29 in
“Ophelia,” oil on canvas, size: 49 x 29 in (Photo credit: Wikipedia) John William Waterhouse [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
At HEB this afternoon, having verified that I had, indeed, spent my last sou on a cup of coffee at Waterloo Writers, I ran my credit card through the scanner. The resulting screen read, Select Tender Type.

Tender.

Such a formal, old-fashioned word for this new-fangled device.

It reminded me of the scene in which Polonius asks Ophelia about her relationship with Hamlet:

Polonius: What is between you? give me up the truth.

Ophelia: He hath, my lord, of late made many tenders
Of his affection to me.

Polonius: Affection! pooh! you speak like a green girl,
Unsifted in such perilous circumstance.
Do you believe his tenders, as you call them?

Ophelia: I do not know, my lord, what I should think.

Polonius: Marry, I’ll teach you: think yourself a baby;
That you have ta’en these tenders for true pay,
Which are not sterling. Tender yourself more dearly;
Or–not to crack the wind of the poor phrase,
Running it thus–you’ll tender me a fool.

Poor Ophelia. She was a sweet thing, and young, and the men in her life treated her so shabbily.

But even while Polonius belittles his daughter to her face, the way Shakespeare moves tender through the passage, varying its meaning from one line to the next, makes the language as briliant as its meaning is dark. Polonius, as Hamlet later implies, is a rat—and he pays for his treachery a couple of acts down the road—but he has such a way with words.

Thinking of Polonius and Ophelia reminded me of Lord Capulet‘s rage when Juliet tells him she will not marry Paris. He explodes, and Juliet adds fuel to the fire.

Capulet: How! will she none? doth she not give us thanks?
Is she not proud? doth she not count her blest,
Unworthy as she is, that we have wrought
So worthy a gentleman to be her bridegroom?

Juliet or The Blue Necklace (1898) by John Wil...
Juliet or The Blue Necklace (1898) by John William Waterhouse (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 Juliet: Not proud, you have; but thankful, that you have:
Proud can I never be of what I hate;
But thankful even for hate, that is meant love.

Capulet: How now, how now, chop-logic! What is this?
‘Proud,’ and ‘I thank you,’ and ‘I thank you not;’
And yet ‘not proud,’ mistress minion, you,
Thank me no thankings, nor, proud me no prouds,
But fettle your fine joints ‘gainst Thursday next,
To go with Paris to Saint Peter’s Church,
Or I will drag thee on a hurdle thither.
Out, you green-sickness carrion! out, you baggage!
You tallow-face!

“Thank me no thankings, nor, proud me no prouds, / But fettle your fine joints ‘gainst Thursday next,…” Beautiful. Just seeing it on the page gives me the shivers.

To some, Capulet sounds like a terrible father, but, as I pointed out to my freshmen, year after year, Juliet starts it. She’s rude and disrespectful. Her father doesn’t know she’s already married; he thinks she would be thrilled to marry Paris. But she behaves like a brat. It’s no wonder Capulet threatens to drag her on a hurdle thither.

The two female characters present an interesting contrast: Ophelia refuses to speak for herself; Juliet shouts. But neither one lasts to the end of Act V.

A scholarly paper might lurk in there somewhere: “Shakespeare’s Women: A Study of the Consequences of Self-Actualization Within the Context of the Father-Daughter Relationship Complicated by Nascent Heterosexual Bonding, with a Focus on Hamlet’s Ophelia and Romeo and Juliet’s Juliet.”

Or perhaps not.

By the time I finished with the Capulets, the cashier had almost finished scanning. While she bagged the items, I had time to wonder whether the name of Jasper FForde‘s protagonist, Thursday Next, was inspired by the once-projected date for Juliet’s wedding.

I also remembered that The Idylls of the King contains a line echoing Thank me no thankings, nor, proud me no prouds; I believe it’s spoken by Guinevere–maybe–but I’ve not been able to locate it, and it looks as if I’ll have to re-read the entire Idylls to ease my mind.

But I did catch the next lines that drifted by: Guinevere, jealous of Elaine, takes up Lancelot’s gift of diamonds

“And thro’ the casement standing wide for heat
Flung them and down they flash’d, and smote the stream.
Then from the smitten surface flash’d, as it were
Diamonds to meet them, and they past away.”

That image—diamonds falling into the sunlit stream, and water splashing up, like diamonds to meet them—remains with me when the rest of the book has passed from memory.

Well. By this time, the cashier and I had completed our transaction. I wheeled the groceries to the car. End of shopping.

End of post.

Except to point out that I stood for ten minutes in one of the most boring places imaginable and forgot to be bored.

I was busy elsewhere.

 

 

 

Bani-shed!

Romeo Juliet
Romeo Juliet (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Tybalt is gone, and Romeo banished;
Romeo that kill’d him, he is banished. ~
Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, III.ii

They are free men, but I am banished.
And say’st thou yet that exile is not death?
Hadst thou no poison mix’d, no sharp-ground knife,
No sudden mean of death, though ne’er so mean,
But “banished” to kill me? “Banished”? ~ Romeo and Juliet, III.iii

Lake Superior State University has published its 2013 List of Banished Words, and, judging from what I found on Google, so has everyone else.

I intended to write about the LSSU list, which introduced me to the word YOLO. (That shows how far behind I am with regard to popular culture.) But while researching, I came across LSSU’s archive of banished words and decided to share them–as many as I can before I have to post this–starting at the beginning.

(Since 9:00 a.m., I’ve changed topics about fifteen times.)

1976 At this point in time – A holdover from the Watergate hearings

1977 To Share – Do we still do this?

1978 Nuk-U-Lar – Still here, but not widely used since President Obama took office

1979 Energy Crisis – Still here, and for good reason

1980 Interface – From a full professor in a faculty meeting I attended, regarding an outside candidate for a tenured position: “I’m not voting for anyone who says he wants to interface with students.”

1981 De-plane – Gone. No one de-planes any more. Airlines make travelers stay on planes for hours before taking off and after landing.

1982 Sit on It – To discourage graffiti in the boys’ restroom, one of my principals hung a small chalkboard and some chalk there. During a subsequent potty patrol, he discovered the message, “Sit on it.”

TBC