Marley was dead, Jesus was born


Merry Christmas everyone!

I absolutely love, Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. This little book is written by a true word smith a master of story and it’s short.

I love the story, a classic tale of the changing of a human heart, but the absolutely best, most entertaining part is the first page and a half. I loved it so much that I memorized it. Dickens has this lovely moment where he wonders about the actual dead-ness of door-nails. To the point that he proposes that Coffin-nails might actually be deader. To this day my family can not let the phrase Dead as a Door-nail slid without goading me into repeating it.

“Marley was dead, to begin with.” Isn’t that a great opening line? Within that first page and a half Dickens reminds the reader exactly five times that Marley is dead.

“(1)Marley was dead, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that.. . .  (2)Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail. Mind! I don’t mean to say that I know of my own knowledge what there is particularly dead about a door-nail. . . You will therefore allow me to repeat emphatically that (3)Marley was as dead as a door-nail. (4)Scrooge knew he was dead. Of course he did. How could it be otherwise? . . . (5)There is no doubt that Marley was dead. This must be distinctly understood or nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going to relate.”

Marley was not a figment of Scrooge’s imagination, he did not fake his death, time travel, get caught in a extra dimensional limbo, or get stuck in the teleporter for fifty years. He was dead. He was a ghost. This story is about life and death and afterlife.


How many other stories could benefit from persistent reminders?

Dickens own example is Hamlet. “If we were not perfectly convinced That Hamlet’s father died before the play began, there would be nothing more remarkable in his taking a stroll at night, . . . literally to astonish his son’s weak mind.”

I know right! The Shakespeare nerd in me smiles at this reference. How little would the play Hamlet have mattered if we hadn’t known for sure that his father the king was dead? You must admit Shakespeare really liked the whole missing person restored plot a lot. If the king had only been missing then how could Prince Hamlet have placed any stock in the words of a wandering spirit?

What about the story of the first Christmas?

Jesus was born, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that.

There is no doubt that Mary was a virgin. This must be distinctly understood or nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going to relate.

The Shepherds knew he was God. Of course they. How could it be otherwise? ( What with the angels telling them and all.)

On his first page Dickens gives us a life lesson and a lesson in writing:

Make sure your reader, and everyone you meet, understands what they are in for.

Dickens wanted to make sure that everyone knew there would be no trick ending, fantastical revelations, and most of all, no doubt that Marley was dead.

If Dickens could state five times that Marley was dead, then Christian’s shouldn’t be afraid to state that Jesus was born, at least five times. Then five times state that he died. Then Five times state that he rose again.

Again I say Merry Christmas, and to quote Tiny Tim: “God bless us everyone.”


Top Ten Reasons Why Romeo and Juliet is Unromantic

Hi, Sorry I’ve been A.W.O.L. for a while. But sometimes life gets busy, I get lazy, I get writers block and sometimes all three. 

Anyway here is another random musing from me. It’s a Shakespeare one. 

Top Ten Reasons why Romeo and Juliet is the least romantic play ever.

10) Remember Rosaline? Romeo doesn’t even though he claims to love her at the beginning of the play. Romeo Falls in and out of love too easily. Would he really know true love if cupid hit him in the rear?

9) In Act III Scene V After he is banished Romeo abandons Juliet. I don’t think that qualifies as loves. Take her with you stupid. Seriously he finds plenty of time to sneak into her bedroom to consummate his marriage but he doesn’t even think to take his wife with him into exile?

8) Just like today people under a certain age needed parental consent. Juliet’s Father would have been legally allowed to annul the Marriage, though Juliet’s virtue would be compromised and she would have at best ended up in a convent.

7) A Secret Marriage means nothing if no one knows about it. Seriously, Juliet, if your Father doesn’t know you’re married then how can he know that he is causing you to sin? Yes I am sure she is trying keep her Father from annulling the marriage, but can you see how their getting married really didn’t solve anything?

6) What do a 14 and 13-year-old know about true love? They really were that young their ages are given in the play. Putting the character’s ages right out in the open like that makes you rethink the whole Marriage/Suicide thing huh?

5) Can you picture them with kids? Well can you? (See Blog Post)

4) Paris really did love Juliet. Did anyone ever stop to think that maybe her parents knew what they were doing? This guy fought Rome to protect the body of someone who he probably believed killed herself to avoid marrying him. That has to be love.  At least more love than Romeo ever showed for her.

3) In what way is biting your thumb an insult? Is this some Elizabethan version of flipping the bird? (see Act I Scene I)

2) Romeo and Juliet went to Hell. I am sorry but according to the Roman Catholic beliefs they would have had as Italians: People who kill themselves go to Hell. Why is Juliet worried about the Sin of having two husbands but not about the sin of suicide? What about the sin of lying to your parents for that matter?

And the number one reason why R & J is unromantic is because of the lack of a SPOILER ALERT before the Prologue. The prologue to the play gives away the whole ending. Why Mr. Shakespeare Why? Don’t you believe in surprises at all?

Don’t believe me read the play here:

The Big Three

There are three great works that are so deeply ingrained into our popular culture that there isn’t a person on the planet who wouldn’t recognize quotes from one of  The Big Three.

These three opuses will forever be around to shape the human imagination and to inspire future generations.

The three greatest collections of knowledge and inspiration, which are so powerful that each was built on the shoulder of the one before, are:

The Holy Bible — which is the very truth of God. This is the work of works. It has shaped our modern culture into what it is.

The Christian Bible tells us why we are the way we are and what we should yet strive to be.

The Complete Works of Shakespeare — Encompasses of the human spirit. It tells us what we are as the Human race. Shakespeare shows us how we think and how we feel.

Like the Bible, Shakespeare requires Faith. denying that Shakespeare wrote his own plays is like denying that Jesus was the Son of God.  In the same way that no one would die for a madman, would Shakespeare’s friends have bothered spending the money to publish the First Folio if someone else had written the plays?

And the last but definitely not the least is. . .

Star Trek — Take the franchise as a whole or just take the three original seasons of The Original Series, either way it would be hard to deny Star Trek’s influence over our modern way of life. Just flip open your Cell phone and talk, you are holding the communicator from Star Trek.
Star Trek inspires us to look to the future. It encourages progress and it shows us what we can achieve and what the future can become.

Star Trek also embraces the past and reminded the generation of the late 60’s and the early 70’s of the moral lessons that were no longer being taught in their class rooms. Maybe not a lot of people realize it but Star Trek is actually a series of Morality plays that expound Biblical morals and Shakespearian ethics.

Go ahead question me but then sit down and really watch it. Even if the show is lacking in direct quotes you have to admit that the ideas are there.

So there they are the Three most important contributions to modern society. The inspirations for everything  we achieve.

The Record of the past that tells us how we began and why we are here.

The poetry and plays of The Bard that move  us to thought and spark our imaginations.

And the Futuristic morality plays that dare us to move forward without losing sight of the past.

Interesting how the Big Three move through the different mediums from written record to stage plays to television production.

One wonders, Will there be a fourth and what form will it take?

What if Romeo & Juliet had lived?

So everyone seems to think that the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet is so sad but really what kind of future could they have had together? This week I ask the question: What if Romeo and Juliet had lived? This is just a little bit of fun. I don’t mean to actually rewrite Shakespeare but seriously: Can you picture them with kids?

 Romeo what a hypocrite he has become. Let’s see how the once great lover handles young love when the shoe is on the other foot.

Romeo with sword in hand, “Stay away from my daughter you prepubescent villain.”

“But father I love him,” pleads his little girl, “you and mother were younger still than us when you snuck away to Friar Laurence’s hidden bower and wedded at a secret hour.”

“It matters not,” Her uncaring father shouts, “I’ll shan’t have this scoundrel within my house.”

His daughter Portia begs and pleads but watches helpless as her lover bleeds.

While Romeo breaks his daughter’s heart his wife is dealing with her own problems.

“Tybalt please come back from there. I’ve told you a hundred times if I’ve told you once to not play on the balcony. If you fall from there you’ll break your neck and be as dead as your namesake, my poor cousin.”

And what of the warring in-laws? Have they made peace? Or is peace only found in tragic death?

“I’ll have none of this Grandfather,” Lord Capulet tells Tybalt’s twin Metrucio. “I’ll not share a term of endearment with that Montague scum. Call me Ompa if you must but never address me as equal to your father’s sire.”

The little boy runs off and alerts his brother to Lord Capulet’s desires.

Meanwhile, Lady Montague is having quite the chat with her generational counter part.

“Really they were quite the match. I will never know how it all went so wrong.” Lady Capulet bemoans. “Paris would have provided everything; Money, Power, A place in court. I will never understand that girls logic.”

“Yes you’re right it is quite tragic. For my Romeo I could have gotten a Danish lady if only the wench hadn’t drowned herself.”

“Oh Lord what fools our children be!” Exclaims lady Capulet to heaven.

“Indeed quite right. Have you heard how they fight?”

“It’s true of course the passion faded long ago. Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if Friar Laurence hadn’t had a change of heart and alerted the Prince of his secret doings.”

“Oh that I know right enough. Our children would be dead because our husbands would have killed them. Or the children would have killed themselves.”

“No not my Juliet. She is too pious and has such fear of Hell that she would never deign to take her own life.”


Go West Young Shrew

The National Players were at Owens Community College, in Perrysburg Ohio, last night (9/22/2011) performing a wild west interpretation of William Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. This interested me for two reasons firstly because as you may recall I have written papers on The Taming of the Shrew thus making it what the cowboys would call familiar territory. And secondly, if anyone has read “Souls are Wild” (Cross and Cosmos Issue 4) then you know that the Old west is also familiar territory for me.

 Sadly though Shakespeare’s entertaining Induction was cut, it almost always is, and replaced with a verisimilitude inducing prologue which provides the plot in a nut shell for those new to the play. Still it would have been interesting to see the drunk tinker Sly being kick out of a saloon and then getting taken in by a wealthy cattle baron.

 The set design was simple but very effective it consisted of two sets of swinging doors one stage left and the other stage right, the stage right doors decidedly more Saloon looking, and an open doorway center stage. The lumber, looking aged and weathered, was rough cut and gave a very Boomtown impression to the city ofPaduaItaly. I guess that made this a Spaghetti Western.

 The National Players gave a truly rough and tumble performance with comedic sound effects adding emphasis to stage punches and kicks. And in true frontier style extra effort went into making sure that none of Shakespeare’s physical innuendos went over anyone’s head. While, thankfully, the production avoided sprinkling Shakespeare’s words with the old western clichés of ‘taint and I reckon I do have to mention actor Chad Tallon who played Grumio. He managed to maintain a particularly thick “westerny” accent while at the same time speaking clearly and giving wonderfully comedic timing to an already hilarious character.

 Everyone who worked on this production did a great job and deserves praise but I only have so much room. Still, just one more nod. This nod goes to Costume designer Ivania Stack. All of the costumes looked fantastic and, I think, perfect for the time setting but I have to say that I really loved Kate’s coat that she wears in the final Act. It is just stunning and I really want one. Sorry I couldn’t find a picture.

 Unfortunately the there was only one performance at OCC but here’s the link to their web site. If anyone reading this hears about a production coming to your area I hope you’ll mosey on down and take in the show.

Shakespeare’s Crossover

Some of you may know that I have written and presented papers at the 2009 and 2010 Ohio Vally Shakespeare Conferences.

Both of these papers were based on Shakespeare’s play The Taming of the Shrew.  The 2009 paper was about screen adaptations of the play and the 2010 paper was focused on the mysterious “Induction” that is the introduction that actually has nothing to do with the main play which is really a play within the Induction. If you don’t follow my meaning please read the play.

Anyway while reading Romeo and Juliet I found an interesting line. It just wasn’t interesting enough to devote a paper to,  so now you get to read about  it in my Blog. 

In Romeo and Juliet at the end of the ball scene Juliet is asking her nurse the names of many young men in order to learn Romeo’s identity.

Juliet: What’s he that now is going out of door?

Nurse: Marry, that, I think, be young Petruccio. (1.5 127-128)

In case you aren’t familiar with  The Taming of the Shrew the main characters are named Katherine and Petruccio. The plot doth thicken for Romeo and Juliet  takes place in Verona, Italy. It just so happens that Petruccio is also from Verona. His entrance line in The Taming of the Shrew is “Verona, for a while I take my leave.(Shrew 1.2 1)” Thus saying that he lives in Verona but has left there for a temporary visit elsewhere.

That elsewhere is Padua, Italy where The Taming of the Shrew is set.

I am not the first one to make this connection, though, the 2006 YA novel Romeo’s Ex by: Lisa Fiedler included a young Petruccio as minor character in the story of Romeo and Juliet’s demise.

I suppose that it doesn’t really matter. It’s not like I can actually prove that Shakespeare meant for it be recognized as the same character. Though I do like to think that it was a special treat that he slipped in for his faithful play goers. On the other hand Petruccio is not the only name that Shakespeare recycled but I would never claim that the Katherine in Henry the VIIIth is the same one as in Shrew. 

I guess it’s up to people with higher degrees than mine to argue about it.

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