Tag Archives: shakespeare

The Ways I Use Poetry

When I was in grade school, I used poetry for entertainment. My grade school had regular book fairs, and one of the first books I bought on my own was The Random House Book of Poetry for Children because, in the first few pages, it had a funny poem about a boy that would take off all his clothing and could never figure out how to put it back on. The book was large and full of various poems. When there wasn’t anything to watch on television, or when I finished some of my homework, I’d sit in my room and read through my book of poetry and try to memorize the poems that were on the pages. As I aged, the appeal of the book of children’s poetry faded, and it was placed into a box and given to Goodwill.

It wasn’t until high school that I started to use poetry again. This time, I used poetry as a form of self-expression, as many teens end up doing. Sometimes I wrote poems and sometimes I wrote song lyrics, but they were always dark and angry and honestly, not very good. I used poetry to help form my self-identity and to work through an extreme level of teenage angst. These works often found themselves on napkins, or on ripped up pieces of paper, or inside of one of my textbooks. The poetry I wrote back then is long gone, which is probably a good thing. If I had to classify the type of use this poetry was, it would fall under the category of misuse.

400 Years After Shakespeare’s Death

The Cobbe Portrait, William Shakespeare

On April 23rd, 1616, it is believed that William Shakespeare passed away. While we don’t have records of his death, we do have records of his funeral which occurred two days later on April 25th, 1616.

At the age of 52, Shakespeare left behind a body of work that has captivated pop culture and has been the favored subject of academia (think of your high school literature classes) for the past 400 years. Shakespeare’s works have lead to an unparalleled phenomenon across cultures and well past his time.

This blog has continually looked for Shakespeare from searching for Shakespeare in bookstores in Taipei, Taiwan to visiting a bookstore with his namesake in Berkeley, California. Speaking of books, we’ve reviewed the Star Wars Shakespeare-style books, have shared our own stories about Shakespeare, and have made so many freaking posts about Shakespeare loot it’s kinda ridiculous.

WWII: Not an Original Setting Anymore

I’m part of a book club at work. We enjoy getting together and discussing a book every two weeks over lunch. But, for some reason, more than half the books we read are set in WWII. All of the villains are, generally, Nazis.

This is the current book I’m working on for book club. It’s not bad, but I’m tired of WWII. Maybe if I hadn’t of read 6 other WWII related books for book club before, I’d be more into this one.

I was wondering if this was just related to the tastes of my book club – maybe they all are WWII enthusiasts or like, really hate Nazis.

But then I realized, maybe, just maybe, the reason we read so many WWII fiction books is because there are so damn many of them on the market.

When I do a search in Amazon, for example, for WWII under books, I get 20,203 results. If I narrow it down to non-history books, I still get about 5,000 books from literature, fantasy, mystery, thriller, suspense, romance, teen, etc.

I hate to say it, but guys, WWII is an unoriginal theme. Don’t make it your setting. Don’t make your bad-guys stereotypical Nazis. It’s been done. It’s been done so many times. How many times? 20,203 overall, or, if you just want to go into the fiction realm, at least over 5,000 recently.

What’s in a Name?

While Juliet from Romeo and Juliet felt that names weren’t as important as character, when it comes a story, names give away a lot about the characters. While Juliet asks the following question:

What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet

The playwright, Shakespeare, has fair Verona divided between two feuding households—making name loyalty and the power behind influential names a theme within the play itself. Indeed, it is the young lover’s last names that keep them apart and their struggle to overcome their names to be together which leads to the character’s deaths. So, Juliet, a name is a very important thing.

J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series, named her characters carefully so that the character names reflected the personalities of the characters themselves. This may be more obvious with her characters that have Latin and Greek-based names, like Severus, Latin for stern or Sirius—a Greek name associated with the Sirius dog star Alpha Canis Major. Even the more simple names in the series, like Harry, have carefully selected meanings. Harry is an English name that means army ruler and is a diminutive form of Harold or Henry, former kings of England.

The power of names can stretch across series and authors as well. A good example of this is the name Sam. In J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings series, George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones series, as well as Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse novels, characters named Sam share many characteristics.

Politics and Poetry: Early Modern English Poetry

I like to write poetry. I can’t say I’m the best at it, but I’ve been published a few times and I continue to study rhetoric and poetic form as well as continue to try to write and publish the work that I do. I’m also a passionate person when it comes to politics and social justice. My major in college was English, but my minor was political science.

So often when I write, I write politically-themed poetry. This struck one of my friends as odd. When I got to thinking about the link between politics and poetry, though, I have to say it’s really not all that odd for politics and poetry to be combined.

Politics and poetry have always been aligned. Poetry has always been a place for marginalized people to make their voices heard or to covertly challenge those in power. Today poetry continues to be an arena for social commentary and pushes for social change, and, above all else, a way for people to make their voices and opinions heard.

Queen Elizabeth I in her coronation robes.

Early Modern English Poets

Also known as the English Renaissance, this period lasted from the late 15th century into the cusp of the 18th century and was filled with political turmoil. Protestant and catholic monarchs kept being crowned which meant every time the power passed between faiths, the people of this time period were expected to convert. The idea behind a monarchy is that the political leader, the king or queen, is ordained by the Christian God to be in power. So when a protestant was in power, everyone from the nobles to the peasants were expected to convert and to believe, in their heart of hearts, that this new religion was the one true religion. Then when a Catholic took the throne, the people would again have to convert and know that in their heart of hearts, that this new religion was the one true religion. Some monarchs, like Elizabeth I, said, you know what? This isn’t fair. As long as you practice the faith you believe in, I don’t care if your religion matches mine. That worked for about five minutes, until Pope Regnans in Excelsis said that, because she was a protestant, she was not the legitimate Queen of England and anyone who assassinated her was doing God a service and would be forgiven. Now Elizabeth had to be wary of all Catholics, which did little to ease political tensions in the time period. Add in some international conflicts, like wars between England and Spain, and mix in a Virgin Queen and the fear of no apparent heir causing another War of the Roses (for you Game of Throne fans, the War of the Roses is the political conflict that inspired the fantasy series) and you get a lot of turmoil and a lot to criticize.

During this time of constant conversion, poets like John Donne issued a challenge through his poem Satire III to the logic behind forced conversion with such lines as:

Keep the truth which thou hast found; men do not stand
In so ill case, that God hath with his hand
Sign’d kings’ blank charters to kill whom they hate;
Nor are they vicars, but hangmen to fate.

Donne states that God has not given Kings the right to force conversion, nor execute the populous for their religious beliefs. In England during the Early Modern Period, religion and politics were intertwined so criticizing the way the crown handled religion was a political issue and one, as Donne alludes to in this poem, that can lead to execution.

Alan Rickman Reads

When I read, I don’t hear my own voice in my head. Generally, I’ll hear someone with a British accent. Why? Because I like the way it sounds.

And, after watching some of my favorite movies like Sense and Sensibility or, you know, any Harry Potter film, I get Alan Rickman’s voice stuck in my head. For about a week on out, his voice echoes in my head as the voice of every play, poem, and novel I read.

And now I’m going to get Alan Rickman’s voice stuck in your head too. Youtube – beautiful, wonderful Youtube, has entire playlists of Alan Rickman just reading stuff, like poems and excerpts from novels and plays. My favorite reading, because the only thing I love more than Alan Rickman’s voice is Shakespeare’s works, is Alan Rickman’s reading of Sonnet 130.

Damn, Poetry’s Hard

In Adam Frank’s recent article on NPR, the writer compares poetry to physics. He begins his discussion with T.S. Eliot’s Wasteland, which is 434 lines. In other words, it’s long. For some readers, that length provides something to hold onto a bit longer. An author might claim that more space allows for them to create greater meaning. But for some readers, longer poems can be daunting.

However, length isn’t the only thing that makes certain poems more difficult for some than others. Why someone may not “get” a poem can be for many reasons. In Frank’s article, the writer interviews John Beer, poet and professor at Portland State University. Beer had this to say about the subject:

There are, it seems, as many ways for a poem to be difficult as there are for it to be a poem at all. For most people, a lot of poetry written before the twentieth century will be a challenge: the vocabulary will often be unfamiliar, the syntax may be more complicated than we are accustomed to reading, and allusions, especially to classical learning, abound.

Literary Paraphernalia: All Things Shakespeare

This month we’ve done lots of Literary Paraphernalia posts featuring Shakespeare-related goods. This Friday we’re continuing that trend with a pretty cool collection of awesome things from Etsy.Com – from bags to tea to, well, there’s a hamster in there too. I’m not really sure what to classify that hamster as, except really damn adorable.


Shakespearean Insult Mosaic

You never know when you’ll need a handy-dandy Shakespearean insult at your disposal, and this mosaic is here to help you remember them.

William Shakespeare Cookie Cutter

What better way to show your adoration for Shakespeare than to eat his face in the form of a cookie?

Shakespeare Pillow

I think this item is supposed to be for children, but I would totally cuddle with it still.

Hamlet Hamster

I can’t think of one damn functional purpose for this thing, except that it’s ultra adorable and that I want one for my desk.

Story Shots: Shakespeare

Story_Shots

Today, in 1616, William Shakespeare, beloved playwright and poet, passed away. For the past 399 years, Shakespeare has continued to live through his work. An author, you see, can die twice. Once is his or her actual, physical death, and the second death is when no one reads nor remembers your work any longer. While Shakespeare has died once, he has yet to experience this second death. This blog isn’t about Shakespeare’s death, but rather is about his continued life through his works.


Sonnet 74

But be contented when that fell arrest
Without all bail shall carry me away,
My life hath in this line some interest,
Which for memorial still with thee shall stay.
When thou reviewest this, thou dost review
The very part was consecrate to thee:
The earth can have but earth, which is his due;
My spirit is thine, the better part of me:
So then thou hast but lost the dregs of life,
The prey of worms, my body being dead;
The coward conquest of a wretch’s knife,
Too base of thee to be remembered.
The worth of that is that which it contains,
And that is this, and this with thee remains.

– William Shakespeare


I am a rumor – a story. I just happen to be true.

I started one day in a Shakespeare course at Cal Poly Pomona.

They were paired up – the brightest and most talkative girl in the class – big in size and personality. And he was the handsome, fit, and quiet boy – quiet because he slept through most of the class.

He had all of the lines, literally. He was Henry V and she was Catherine – his French speaking princess. Only, she didn’t speak French. But Catherine did in eight lines of the scene they were assigned.

Henry V had issues remembering his long-winded speeches. It might have been because they were so long. It was most likely because he had put off practicing them until the day of the scene.

Catherine had issues remembering how to say things in French. She tried to write the lines down on her hand, but she realized she also had issues reading French. French, overall, was the issue for the princess of France.

Henry V and Catherine, while never having practiced the scene completely through together, did have one agreement though – they would end their production of Henry V right before Henry’s line “Catherine, you have witchcraft in your lips.”

Catherine was happy with that plan. Henry V had a surprise.

This is where the rumor was born. This was how I was made.

Henry V pulled the teacher aside before class and begged to use his copy of Shakespeare’s play to remember his words.

Catherine declined and tried to read her horribly scribbled French lines off of her hand.

Henry V and Catherine both forgot about Catherine’s maid, Alice. An Alice was pulled out of the audience and stuck into the scene.

Alice didn’t know her words either nor any of the staging. She assumed there would be staging. Henry V and Catherine never really got that far.

Alice was standing between Catherine and Henry when the dreaded line was said “Catherine, you have witchcraft in your lips.”

Catherine’s eyes opened wide and a slight look of horror swept across her face as Henry pushed aside Alice and took Catherine in his arms.

Henry V pulled Catherine close. His hand touched her cheek.

His thumb found itself over her lips, so when his lips approached, they were both kissing his thumb.

The class gasped.

Catherine exhaled.

Henry V thought himself clever.

Overall, the performance was awful. The Bard was probably rolling over in his grave.

The teacher gave Henry V and Catherine a solid B.

And now everyone remembers me as that time that one girl got kissed in Dr. Aaron’s Shakespeare class.

– Amanda Riggle


Literary Paraphernalia: Shakespeare Home Decor

To continue with our celebration of The Swan of Avon, I’ve found some really cool items to turn your ordinary, 21st century home into a Shakespeare extravaganza. It’s not quiet like The Globe, but hey, what in life is like The Globe?

Hamlet Mixed Media Print

Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio, a fellow of infinite nest, of most excellent fancy bird hats.

Lady Macbeth Soap Dispenser

You too can feel like a murderess cleaning her hands of her sins every time you go to wash your hands.

The Tempest Poster

Take a leap and stick this bold poster inspired by The Tempest up on your wall and see what devils come to play in your life.

As You Like It Stained Glass

This stained glass quote would look cool in any window or hanging out in a garden – wherever you may like it.