Blogging Contest · NaNoWriMo

#13 Thoughts on Shakespeare?

Image attributed to Tracy, from North Brookfield, Massachusetts, USA via Wikimedia Commons.
Image attributed to Tracy, from North Brookfield, Massachusetts, USA via Wikimedia Commons.

Ha! I even already had an image from a long ago post on the subject. Well, feels like long ago, anyway.

I loved studying Shakespeare in college. I know I took at least three classes which focused on him and his plays. My favorite class was online at USF and studied how different scenes had been produced on-screen in different ways. We usually had to explain why we agreed or disagreed with the interpretation and cite our answers with evidence from the text.

Talk about an in-depth approach!

As a kid, my parents used to take my sister and I to Shakespeare in the Park. I remember being mesmerized by scenes, but of course, I had no idea what was going on. After all, the actors spoke (what I thought at the time to be) Old English. But the construct and flow of words still pulled me in and I was hooked on that wonderful iambic pentameter.

I have an easier time understanding the plays these days, though I still pull out my trusty Bevington if I want  to make certain that I’ve got a firm grasp of a scene. Some of the more archaic terminology continues to elude me unless I look up the definition.

But my, aren’t some of these words fun?

Robustious periwig-pated, bare bodkin, orisons, argosies, beshrew, peck of provender, scambling…

Why did they ever fall into obscurity?

My favorite play is Hamlet and my favorite production is the beautiful Kenneth Branagh version, though I enjoyed the 1980 BBC version as well. I loathe the Mel Gibson version. I felt Gibson put too much of his own spin on the character and lost all the charm that Shakespeare put into him. I’d go into more detail, but it’s been too long since I’ve seen that one, and I have no desire to subject myself to it again.

As a final note, yes, we named our first son William because of Shakespeare. Though hubby will tell you that he’s named for William Wallace. 😉

[This post was written as a part of the NaNoWriMo Pre-game Kick Off over at Jessica Schmeidler’s blog.]

NaNo word count: 10,744



Um, are we saying that I belong in a museum too? Oh, I’m saying that! Okay.

A while back, I wrote a post about writing with pen and paper. Recently, I’ve participated in my first two writing sprints with some of the other authors from Astraea Press. The winner gets bragging rights and a bunch of virtual chocolate. 🙂

Yeah, that winner will never be me…

After an hour of writing, the superstars cranked out 1500 -2300 words. WOW! This past week’s winner was Heather Gray. Who, by the way, just released a new short story Late for the Ball? With 2300 words in an hour, no wonder she has two books scheduled for release this summer and one for this fall!

My grand total? 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, … yeah, had to count by hand too. Oooh! A whopping 596! Twelve words short of the week before, but the pen I chose ran out of ink and I had to stop and find a new one.

I’ll just pull over to let the Corvette pass me. I’m quite comfortable in my Model A. Um, I like the way it drives. Yeah. I, uh, love to take my time… looking at the scenery…

Don’t get me wrong, the other authors were super sweet when I posted my meager number. They knew I was writing by hand. I knew I had no chance of winning. Winning wasn’t my goal. My goal was to write with my comrades for an hour and see how many words I could manage.

But maybe I’m too nostalgic?

Right now, I think that it’s awesome that I’m writing this particular book in a red leather-bound journal. After I got started on it, and then was doing some research on Irish faeries, I found that the color red was a significant magical color in the stories. That was completely unplanned.

I’m totally writing about a red leather-bound book of faery magic spells IN a red leather-bound book!

Ooooh! My book of magic! It's almost full...
Ooooh! My book of magic! It’s almost full of my scribbles…

Sometimes I go to the journal section of the book store and just study the beautiful bindings and think, “Hmm, maybe that one next… is it worth $30 though? But it’s just soooo pretty!!”

I wonder if there’s a way for me to un-see the hand written copy of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre when I went to the British Museum in London. Maybe that was too influential. My nerdy heart fluttered wildly when I was looking down at her penmanship.

*snaps fingers in face* “Er, Shea? You’re not anywhere near the level of Charlotte Bronte.”

The thing is, I knew that writing this way is slow. But until these sprints, I never quite realized just how slow. I think for my next book, I’ll try to break out of my comfort zone. I just hope I don’t end up staring at a blinking cursor for hours.

Maybe one day, I’ll do a sprint and actually be a contender. 😀

What are your thoughts? Do you think that there are just some things that need to be done more efficiently? Have you been screaming at me as you read this post, “Get with the program?”

Books I Love · Harp

My thoughts on The Hobbit vs Beowulf

Reconstruction of the Sutton Hoo Lyre

If you haven’t guessed already, I love the poem Beowulf. During that England/Ireland trip, I was very excited to see Sutton Hoo. Even several of you folks from England are asking, “What on earth is Sutton Hoo?” In short, it is a viking burial ship which dates back to the culture that brought us Beowulf.

On the ship, they found an instrument believed to be a lyre that the scop might have played while singing such epic poems. Fortunately, I happened to see the Sutton Hoo exhibit at the British Museum in London first because that was where the remnants of the instrument were displayed at the time.

Sutton Hoo Lyre fragments

So what does all that have to do with The Hobbit?

Well, since you’ve already dipped your toe into Lake Nerd by reading thus far, perhaps you like to wade out a bit farther with me? I promise it will be fun! 😀

Tolkien also enjoyed Beowulf and would begin his lectures on the poem with a dramatic recitation of the opening lines in Old English. (Oh! to have been in that room at that time!) For anyone who has read both The Hobbit and Beowulf, you can see how Bilbo Baggins is Beowulf.

To compare (spoiler alert for both Beowulf and The Hobbit):

We’ll start with Beowulf. In the poem, King Hrothgar’s men are being attacked by Grendel, who essentially is a violent, cantankerous neighbor who doesn’t like Hrothgar’s parties. He chases them all out of the mead-hall and for 12 years terrorizes the people.

“As [Hrothgar’s] woes became known widely and well,

Sad songs were sung by the sons of men” (Beowulf, lines 129 &130)

Songs! Hmm… I wonder who heard them? You guessed it! Beowulf, an outsider, comes to defeat this Grendel guy who couldn’t be pierced by any of the blades of Hrothgar’s men.

But Beowulf is different. He is a wrestler!

After watching Grendel eat one of his own soldiers, Beowulf gives Grendel… a handshake? Well, his grip breaks Grendel’s fingers and rips off his arm. So much for attempting friendship.

Anyway, Grendel slinks off to his lair and dies of his wounds. Yay Beowulf!

Now for The Hobbit. We’ve got Thorin (Hrothgar) whose people were driven out of their mountain (mead-hall) by the dragon Smaug (Grendel). I know, I know. Beowulf has a treasure hoarding dragon/worm creature too. There are a lot of blending of symbols in The Hobbit. I’m simply going over my favorites. Then, there is Bilbo (Beowulf). He too is an outsider who does not use weapons.

But Bilbo is different. He is a burglar!

Much like Beowulf has a natural strength to defeat Grendel when no one else could, Bilbo has the natural ability of stealth. This not only helps them to defeat Smaug, but many other foes along their journey.

But what inspires Bilbo to help the dwarves? Here’s an excerpt from Chapter 1:

“They came back…with Thorin’s harp wrapped in a green cloth. It was a beautiful golden harp, and when Thorin struck it the music began all at once, so sudden and sweet that Bilbo forgot everything else, and was swept away into dark lands under strange moons, far over The Water and very far from his hobbit-hole under The Hill.”

What was that? Was that music? A harp even? Whether Bilbo likes it or not, he has already started his journey with the dwarves when he first heard the song describing their sad history.

*deep breath* Okay I should probably stop now because I’m entering the realm of what really inspires me, but may bore you guys. 😉 Maybe soon I’ll post my thoughts on the new Hobbit movie 😀

Have you read either of these works? Have they inspired you in any way? Have you ever seen Sutton Hoo?

Glutened Goals update: (a letter)

Dear Rocks In My Belly,

I get it. I’m not supposed to injest gluten of any size. It was a complete accident and happened a month ago. Please stop punishing me! It makes it very difficult to get anything done.

Thank you,

Hasn’t Written Much Of Anything

Books I Love

Remembering The Globe

Attributed to Tracy, from North Brookfield, Massachusetts, USA.
Attributed to Tracy, from North Brookfield, Massachusetts, USA.

I was fortunate while finishing my Literature degree at USF to be able to attend the summer study abroad program at Cambridge England in 2005 (a big shout out to my hubby for facilitating that!). While there, there was no way that I was going to pass up the opportunity to attend a play performed at Shakespeare’s Globe. The only night that I was able to go offered a modernized production of Pericles, Prince of Tyre. I managed to read the first half of the play before attending, but I have yet to actually see the play through to the end.

I was so disappointed.

I’d taken numerous college courses on Shakespeare including one which focused on effective theatrical accounts of the plays based on textual evidence from the scripts. Perhaps this was my undoing and why I had no problem with leaving the playhouse to catch the train before midnight back to Cambridge.

I’m not stuffy enough to say that it was because only “traditional” productions are the best. One of my all time favorite Hamlets is Kenneth Branagh’s set in the 19th century. In fact there were parts of the Pericles play that weren’t even in the script that I somewhat appreciated, but it was also where I started to say, “Hey, come on now. What are you guys thinking?”

In the production I saw, they had an older version of Pericles looking on his younger self during the play; much like Scrooge with the Ghost of Christmas Past. This wasn’t in Shakespeare’s script, but I was okay with it and looked forward to what else they would offer.

But then each Pericles spoke their lines.

The young Pericles (quite appropriately) spoke with a mediterranean accent, while the older Pericles spoke with a decidedly British accent. Huh. Maybe they thought that they could pull off what Madonna couldn’t? I mean, come on, they were supposed to be the same person! So much for continuity.

Then came the tournament in Pentapolis. We were subject to sit through about 15 minutes of acrobatics and rope tricks. While they were impressive, it added nothing to the story. Just after the intermission, the “narrator” came out and made a big speech about how he knew we were all thinking “This is not Shakespeare!” but then made some argument about how Shakespeare would have loved it. I’m sorry, but he just did not convince me.

Maybe I haven’t studied enough plays, but I never saw where Shakespeare added spectacle except where it moved the story along. He might have enjoyed the stunts, but I feel as though he would have wondered at their point.

The point where I finally left was when Marina was trapped in the brothel. I hadn’t read that far, and if the actors were trying to do Greek accents, it was lost on me. They were speaking Shakespeare’s Early Modern English with really thick Italian accents. I had no idea what they were saying anymore, which was a shame because the language of Shakespeare is half the fun.

If I didn’t have a train to catch, I might have stuck it out. It was awesome to be inside the Globe and seeing a play performed after all, even if it was a disappointing production. By the time we were at the brothel, I admit, I stopped following the play and simply imagined what it might have been like to attend a play here in Shakespeare’s day. Though I don’t think they had any night performances due to lack of light. The seats were uncomfortable and the groundlings were getting rained on. I felt that the experience provided a testament to the awesome plays that Shakespeare wrote. It just would have been nice to see a production that not only stayed a bit truer to Shakespeare, but also made sense.

I was amused to find a few months later that I was more impressed by a highschool production of The Secret Garden than a British acting troupe at Shakespeare’s Globe.

Do you think I was overly critical of the production? Have you been to the Globe? What was your experience?