Tag Archives: william shakespeare

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.

Poems for National Poetry Month

April is my favorite time of year. Not for the showers (although, rain’s nice), nor for the beginning of spring; rather, April is my favorite time of the year because it’s officially National Poetry Month and that means I get to spam everyone I know on Facebook with poems everyday, and sometimes twice a day, for a whole month. It’s also the month of William Shakespeare’s birth and death, so I like to pay special attention to his sonnets and poems, as well as poetry that celebrates his work, during my favorite time of the year.

It’s really an English degree holder’s dream.

I want to share poetry with everyone this time of the year, and you are not immune. Here’s a poetry month starter kit of poetry for you to share with your friends, or to just read an enjoy, during my favorite month of the year.

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.

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.

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: Wearable Shakespeare

It’s no secret – I’m a fan of Shakespeare. And April is a special month for Shakespeare fans. April 23rd, 1616 is the day Shakespeare passed away. His final resting place is Stratford-Upon-Avon in the United Kingdom. Instead of mourning for someone we lost almost 400 years ago, I instead want to celebrate the work of his life. For the month of April, all of the Literary Paraphernalia posts will be Shakespeare themed in order to honor his memory and his work. Today’s post is all about wearable Shakespeare gear from Etsy.Com.

Hamlet Scarf

To be or not to be…cold. You don’t have to be with this.

Shakespeare Zombie Tank

What better way to celebrate Shakespeare’s death than to imagine what he’d be like if he were a zombie?

Ophelia Skirt

This skirt is the painting Ophelia by Sir John Everett Millais, inspired by Ophelia’s death in Shakespeare’s play Hamlet.

Hamlet “No” Quote T-Shirt

Well, that’s oddly specific. It’s also a pretty cool t-shirt.

Springtime Poetry

Well, it’s officially five days into spring. To celebrate the hopeful end of snowstorms in the east and the coming of April showers in the west, today we’re sharing some of our favorite springtime poetry.

Lines Written in Early Spring
by William Wordsworth

I heard a thousand blended notes,
While in a grove I sate reclined,
In that sweet mood when pleasant thoughts
Bring sad thoughts to the mind.

To her fair works did Nature link
The human soul that through me ran;
And much it grieved my heart to think
What man has made of man.

Through primrose tufts, in that green bower,
The periwinkle trailed its wreaths;
And ’tis my faith that every flower
Enjoys the air it breathes.

The birds around me hopped and played,
Their thoughts I cannot measure:–
But the least motion which they made
It seemed a thrill of pleasure.

The budding twigs spread out their fan,
To catch the breezy air;
And I must think, do all I can,
That there was pleasure there.

If this belief from heaven be sent,
If such be Nature’s holy plan,
Have I not reason to lament
What man has made of man?


A little madness in the Spring
by Emily Dickinson

A little madness in the Spring
Is wholesome even for the King,
But God be with the Clown —
Who ponders this tremendous scene —
This whole Experiment of Green —
As if it were his own!


Poem to Spring in a Time of Global Warming
by Michael Graves

The withholding spring,
The long-delayed,
The miser-like who will not spend
The wealth of warmth and light,
Or open up the long-denied,
Season most desired,
Salve for the wind and ice oppressed,
Yearned-for spring,
Is like a god
Who will not send a sacred child,
But unlike an omnipotent deity
Spring is neither doubted in its essence
Nor blasphemed against
By those who suffer winter’s bite.


After the Winter
by Claude McKay

Some day, when trees have shed their leaves
And against the morning’s white
The shivering birds beneath the eaves
Have sheltered for the night,
We’ll turn our faces southward, love,
Toward the summer isle
Where bamboos spire the shafted grove
And wide-mouthed orchids smile.

And we will seek the quiet hill
Where towers the cotton tree,
And leaps the laughing crystal rill,
And works the droning bee.
And we will build a cottage there
Beside an open glade,
With black-ribbed blue-bells blowing near,
And ferns that never fade.


Stories: A Love Affair

I fell in love with stories at a very young age. I wasn’t raised by people – I was raised by books and television. When I was in grade school I’d come home to an empty house. I would get a snack and turn on the T.V., stashing my backpack full of homework in my room for later in the evening.

What I ended up watching never really mattered – I loved the structure and the telling of the story. I loved how everything would be neatly wrapped up in a half hour, or, if it was an after school special, it would take a full hour. I loved it when little clues and hints were dropped in the beginning of an episode that would bloom later and become completely relevant to the story, and sometimes be the thing that gets the main character out of whatever trouble the episode had in store for them.

I always had a library book, from my grade school’s library, in my backpack. By the fourth grade, I had finished every book in its walls, with the exception of the Babysitter’s Club books because, well, I couldn’t relate to the upper-class white affluent girly protagonists. Instead, I read and reread the Choose Your Own Adventure series and, admittedly, made sure I got to read every plot line and ending before turning the books back in.

And then I started writing too.

Teaching Shakespeare? Check Out These Three Common Core Lesson Plans.

Last year I started an undergraduate research project titled Integrating Technology into the California Common Core Performance Classroom. From inception to completion the project took me a year, but I am very happy with the results. Here’s the abstract to get a taste of what my research was on:

In 2010, President Barack Obama set forth a plan called “Transforming American Education: Learning Powered by Technology” which mandated that technology needed to be integrated into American classrooms to enhance student learning (Ash). The need for technology in the classroom is not only government endorsed but helps improve students’ familiarity with the use of technology in a future job market that is becoming globalized and technology-driven (Ehrlich). In 2013, the Los Angeles Unified School District spent one billion dollars to distribute Apple iPads to over 47 schools in an effort to comply with the directives set forth through President Obama’s plan and ended up recalling the iPads in under a week due to the operating system being hacked (“L.A. Unified”). The purpose of this project is to find ways of meeting the 2010 mandated use of technology within a performance-based classroom teaching Shakespeare by creating learning opportunities in which technology can be incorporated into the classroom through the use of student-generated content. Through examination of other successful classroom models incorporating technology, looking ahead at some proposed, yet still controversial, technology-driven classroom models, utilizing performance approaches to teaching Shakespeare, and studying the new Common Core standards being implemented in K-12 schools throughout the nation, a hybrid of technology and the study of 16th century Shakespearean plays can be successfully implemented in a Common Core classroom.