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  • feedwordpress 08:01:44 on 2018/11/01 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , new words, Shakespeare, ,   

    “The language mint is more than a mint; it is a great manufacturing center, where all sorts of productive activities go on unceasingly”*… 

     

    Words

    Language is, famously, a living thing.  Just how alive is powerfully demonstrated by Merriam-Webster’s Time Traveler: enter a date; see the words and phrases that “officially” entered the language that year.

    Your correspondent entered the distant year of his birth… and got a list that ran from anti-matter and carpal tunnel syndrome through federal case and Maoism to sweat equity and tank top.

    Try it for yourself.

    * Mario Pei

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    As we contemplate coinage, we might recall that it was on this date in 1604 that Shakespeare’s Othello was performed for the first time, and on this date in 1611 that The Tempest premiered (both at the Whitehall Palace).

    Shakespeare was a prodigious coiner of words and phrases, creating over 1,700 across his works, several hundred of which are still in common use.

    blog_Shakespeare.words_-240x300 source

     

     
  • feedwordpress 08:01:57 on 2018/08/16 Permalink
    Tags: Ben Jonson, , , comedy of humours, , , , Shakespeare,   

    “A town isn’t a town without a bookstore. It may call itself a town, but unless it’s got a bookstore, it knows it’s not foolin’ a soul.”*… 

     

    bookstore-slide-2MCD-jumbo source

    It was in Athens in the 4th Century BC that a man named Zeno walked into a bookshop. He had been a successful merchant, but suffered a terrible shipwreck on a journey out of Phoenicia, losing a priceless cargo of the world’s finest dye. He was 30 years old and facing financial ruin, but this catastrophe stirred his soul to find something new, though he didn’t quite know what.

    One day, immersed in browsing a bookstore collection, many volumes of which have been lost to history forever, Zeno heard the bookseller reading out loud a passage from a book by Xenophon about Socrates. It was like nothing he had ever heard before. With some trepidation, he approached the owner and asked, “Where can I find a man like that?” and in so doing, began a philosophical journey that would literally change the history of the world. That book recommendation led to the founding of Stoicism and then, to the brilliant works of SenecaEpictetus, and Marcus Aurelius — which, not lost to history, are beginning to find a new life on bookshelves today. From those heirs to Zeno’s bookshop conversion, there is a straight line to many of the world’s greatest thinkers, and even to the Founding Fathers of America.

    All from a chance encounter in a bookshop.

    It would be an understatement to say that great things begin in bookstores, and that countless lives have been changed inside them…

     

    Why spend time amongst the shelves? “Good Things Happen in Book Stores.”

    * Neil Gaiman, American Gods

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    As we browse in bliss, we might spare a thought for Benjamin Jonson; he died on this date in 1637.  A poet, actor, literary critic, and playwright (he popularized the comedy of humours), he is best remembered for his satirical plays Every Man in His Humour (1598), Volpone, or The Fox (c. 1606), The Alchemist (1610), and Bartholomew Fair (1614), and for his lyric and epigrammatic poetry.

    Eclipsing Christopher Marlowe, Jonson is generally regarded as the second most important English playwright during the reigns of Elizabeth I of James VI and I (after Shakespeare, with whom Jonson had a professional rivalry, but on whose death Jonson wrote “He was not of an age, but for all time”).  Indeed, while Shakespeare’s impact continues apace to this day, Jonson’s impact was arguably even bigger in the relatively-more immediate timeframe: he had broad and deep influence on the playwrights and the poets of the Jacobean era (1603–1625) and of the Caroline era (1625–1642).

    220px-Benjamin_Jonson_by_Abraham_van_Blyenberch source

     

     
  • feedwordpress 08:01:38 on 2018/07/25 Permalink
    Tags: , Andreas Libavius, , , , , Shakespeare,   

    “In Nature’s infinite book of secrecy I can read a little”*… 

     

    shakespeare science

     

    Shakespeare explores the philosophical, psychological, and cultural impact of many more scientific fields besides human anatomy, reflecting poetically on theories about germs, atoms, matter, falling bodies, planetary motion, heliocentrism, alchemy, the humors, algebra, Arabic numerals, Pythagorean geometry, the number zero, and the infinite. The inquiries that drove Renaissance science, and the universe it disclosed, are deeply integrated into Shakespeare’s poetic worlds.

    Until relatively recently, Shakespeare’s contact with the scientific world has gone largely unnoticed both among scholars and general audiences. Perhaps Shakespeare scholars and audiences don’t notice the way he takes up science because they are unfamiliar with much of the science he was exposed to, while most scientists don’t see Shakespeare as valuable for reflecting on science because they assume he was unfamiliar with it. Usually, even when readers are made aware of Shakespeare’s references to this or that scientific subject — perhaps Hamlet’s reference to infinity or Lear’s allusions to atomism — these are treated as little more than interesting artifacts, window-dressing to Shakespeare’s broader human concerns.

    A small but growing number of scholars are now taking up the connection between Shakespeare and science. And, spurred perhaps by science fiction, by the ways that science factors in the works of key late-modern writers such as Nabokov, Pynchon, and Wallace, and by the rise of scientific themes in contemporary literary fiction, a growing number of readers are aware that writers can and do take up science, and many are interested in what they do with it.

    When we familiarize ourselves with the history of science, we see the imaginative worlds Shakespeare creates to demonstrate science’s power to shape our self-understanding, and the power of the literary arts to shape our response to science. We also see that Shakespeare was remarkably prescient about the questions that science would raise for our lives. He explores, for example, how we are personally affected by the uncertainties that cosmological science can introduce, or what it means when scientists claim that our first-hand experience is illusory, or how we respond when science probes into matters of the heart…

    He was a poet of Copernican astronomy before the telescope, of microbiology before the modern microscope.  What can we learn from the Bard’s vision of cosmic upheaval?  Explore at:  “Shakespeare’s Worlds of Science.”

    * Shakespeare, Antony and Cleopatra

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    As we put it all into perspective, we might spare a thought for Andreas Libavius; he died on this date in 1616.  A rough contemporary of Shakespeare’s, Libavius was a celebrated physician and chemist, the author of over 40 works in the fields of logic, theology, physics, medicine, chemistry, pharmacy, and poetry.  At the same time– and in a way that reflected the fuzzy boundary between the emerging empirical sciences and the occult– he was one of the leading alchemical thinkers of his time: his 1597 Alchymia was the first systematic chemistry textbook, in which he showed, for example, that cuprous salt lotions are detectable with ammonia (which causes them to change color to dark blue)… and in which he also described the possibility of transmutation (the conversion of base metals into gold).

    220px-Andreas_Libavius source

     

     
  • feedwordpress 08:01:28 on 2017/09/03 Permalink
    Tags: , , , playwright, Shakespeare, Tang Xianzu, ,   

    “A novelist may lose his readers for a few pages; a playwright never dares lose his audience for a minute”*… 

     

    Archaeologists working in southeastern China have identified the tomb of Tang Xianzu, a renowned late 16th-century playwright who is often dubbed the country’s Shakespeare.

    Known for his defiance of nobles in the Ming dynasty, Tang specialized in exploring the triumph of humanity over hierarchy and authority through works like The Peony Pavilion, which depicted a poor scholar’s love for a noblewoman. In the 55-scene drama, Tang portrays the struggles of a relationship imbued with supernatural power—a young woman is brought back to life by the handsome scholar she had fallen in love with in a dream. The woman’s father, a nobleman, accuses the scholar of being a grave robber (link in Chinese) and has him imprisoned. Fortunately, in a theme that must still resonate today, the scholar is pardoned after securing excellent results in an imperial examination.

    Tang died at the age of 66 in 1616, the same year that saw the death of English playwright William Shakespeare…

    More at “Archaeologists have found the tomb of China’s Shakespeare.”

    * Terence Rattigan

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    As we note that Shakespeare might be known as the Tang of England, we might spare a thought for Ivan Sergeyevich Turgenev; he died on this date in 1883.  A novelist, short story writer, and playwright, he helped define Russian Realism with his first book, A Sportsman’s Sketches (1852); his 1862 novel Fathers and Sons is regarded as one of the major works of 19th-century fiction.

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:43 on 2016/06/20 Permalink
    Tags: Bert Williams, , Florenz Ziegfeld, , , , Shakespeare, , ,   

    “If there really is such a thing as turning in one’s grave, Shakespeare must get a lot of exercise”*… 

     

    Your correspondent is off on a whistle tour of the Midwest.  While altogether auspicious, it packs what may be too many stops into too few days…  Thus, regular service will likely be interrupted until late this month…  See you all again as Independence Day approaches.  Meantime, something to keep you amusedly occupied…

    A newly redesigned website from Emory University, Shakespeare & the Players, displays a collection of nearly a thousand photo postcards of actors depicting Shakespearean characters on stage, in the late -19th and early-20th centuries. The site is browsable by actor, character, and play.

    In the 19th century, scholar Lawrence W. Levine writes, many Americans, even if illiterate, knew and loved Shakespeare’s plays; they were the source material for endless parodies, skits, and songs on the American stage… in the first half of the 19th century, theater “played the role that movies played in the first half of the twentieth … a kaleidoscopic, democratic institution presenting a widely varying bill of fare to all classes and socioeconomic groups.”…

    from The Taming of the Shrew

    Richard Carline, writing in 1971, says:

    Those who only know the postcards of today can scarcely be expected to appreciate what they meant to people sixty or more years ago. Many of us seldom think of buying a picture postcard, except as a matter of convenience; but during the quarter of a century that preceded the Great War in 1914, it would have been hard to find anyone who did not buy postcards from genuine pleasure…

    More at “Browse Nearly 1,000 Photo Postcards of Late-19th-Century Stage Productions of Shakespeare,” and at the curator’s preface.

    * George Orwell

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    As we bark the Bard, we might recall that it was on this ate in 1910 that Florenz Ziegfeld, in a blow against racial prejudice, opened the Ziegfeld Follies of 1910, with actor Bert Williams as co-star, marking the first time white and black entertainers appeared on stage together in a major Broadway production.  Williams was one of the pre-eminent entertainers of the Vaudeville era and one of the most popular comedians for all audiences of his time. He was by far the best-selling black recording artist before 1920. In 1918, the New York Dramatic Mirror called him “one of the great comedians of the world.”  Fellow vaudevillian W.C. Fields, who appeared in productions with Williams, described him as “the funniest man I ever saw – and the saddest man I ever knew.”

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:15 on 2016/04/05 Permalink
    Tags: , Hobbes, Ian McKellen, , Leviathan, , , , Shakespeare, ,   

    “Recognize yourself in he and she who are not like you and me”*… 

     

    The British Library has recently digitized part of a multi-authored play, “The Booke of Sir Thomas Moore,” written between about 1596 and 1604. Three pages of this draft of the play are apparently written by William Shakespeare, and they represent the only available sample of his handwriting in a play script.

    Another playwright, Anthony Munday, wrote the bulk of the play, about the life of Henry VIII’s chancellor Sir Thomas More. Shakespeare was apparently called in to add a single scene to the middle of the script: a speech the historical More gave on May Day 1517, calming rioters who were looting and destroying property in an attempt to expel foreigners from London

    “Though proving that More’s words were indeed written by Shakespeare is not straightforward, in their keen sympathy for the plight of the alienated and dispossessed they seem to prefigure the insights of great dramas of race such as The Merchant of Venice and Othello,” the British Library’s Andrew Dickson writes. “Whoever wrote them had a fine ear for the way rhetoric can sway a crowd … but also a sharp eye for the troubled relationship between ethnic minorities and majorities.” …

    The complete text of the speech, with more of the backstory, at “A Plea on Behalf of Immigrants, Written (Most Likely) in Shakespeare’s Hand, Now Digitized.”  Watch it delivered beautifully by Sir Ian McKellen in this short video:

    email readers click here for video

    * Carlos Fuentes

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    As we marvel that plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose, we might send absolutist birthday greetings to Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury; he was born on this date in 1588.  A father of political philosophy and political science, Hobbes developed some of the fundamentals of European liberal thought: the right of the individual; the natural equality of all men; the artificial character of the political order (which led to the later distinction between civil society and the state); the view that all legitimate political power must be “representative” and based on the consent of the people; and a liberal interpretation of law which leaves people free to do whatever the law does not explicitly forbid– all this, though Hobbes was, on rational grounds, a champion of absolutism for the sovereign. His 1651 book Leviathan established social contract theory, the foundation of most later Western political philosophy.

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  • feedwordpress 09:01:48 on 2016/01/22 Permalink
    Tags: , , , Miniatur Wunderland, model railroad, , , Shakespeare, ,   

    “I have seldom heard a train go by and not wished I was on it… Anything is possible on a train”*… 

     

    Remember when Google Street View only allowed you to explore streets? Since its launch in 2007, the service has been expanded to include things like coral reefs, hiking trails and the Amazon River. In its latest “off-road” adventure, however, Google Maps has thought smaller – it’s used miniaturized Street View cameras to visually map a model railroad.

    The li’l railway in question is actually the world’s largest such exhibit, and it’s much more than just trains and tracks. Located in the city of Hamburg, Miniatur Wunderland spans 1,300 square meters (13,993 sq ft), recreating a number of European and American attractions at a scale of 1:87. It’s full of moving bits and pieces, along with 230,000 miniature inhabitants.

    Previously, however, visitors had to view most of it from above, as if they were in an airplane. With the new Street View option, they’re now able to explore its various roads and parks as if they were right down in there…

    Ans so one can: wander through the Lilliputian landscape (and check out the video tour) at “Google Maps gives the Street View treatment to world’s largest model railroad.”

    * Paul Theroux

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    As we get small, we might light a birthday candle for Sir Francis Bacon– English Renaissance philosopher, lawyer, linguist, composer, mathematician, geometer, musician, poet, painter, astronomer, classicist, philosopher, historian, theologian, architect, father of modern science (The Baconian– aka The Scientific– Method), and patron of modern democracy, whom some allege was the illegitimate son of Queen Elizabeth I of England… but who was in any event born on this date in 1561.

    Bacon (whose Essays were, in a fashion, the first “management book” in English) was, in Alexander Pope’s words, “the greatest genius that England, or perhaps any country, ever produced.”  He probably did not actually write the plays attributed to Shakespeare (as a thin, but long, line of enthusiasts, including Mark Twain and Friedrich Nietzsche, believed).   But Bacon did observe, in a discussion of sedition that’s as timely today as ever, that “the remedy is worse than the disease.”

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  • feedwordpress 09:01:42 on 2015/02/07 Permalink
    Tags: , , Essex, federal, , land, , ownership, rebellion, Richard II, Shakespeare,   

    “Just like heaven. Ever’body wants a little piece of lan’… Nobody never gets to heaven, and nobody gets no land”*… 

     

     larger version here

    The rough beauty of the American West seems as far as you can get from the polished corridors of power in Washington DC. Until you look at the title to the land. The federal government owns large tracts of the western states: from a low of 29.9% in Montana, already more than the national average, up to a whopping 84.5% in Nevada…

    More on government land, the uses to which it is put, and the issues it raises at “How the West Is Owned.”

    * John Steinbeck, Of Mice and Men

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    As we wonder what Horace Greeley was on about, we might recall that it was on this date in 1601 that agents of Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, paid Shakespeare’s theater troupe, The Lord Chamberlin’s Men, to perform Richard II.  The group had been reluctant to dust off the by-then old piece of repertoire, but were convinced by a 40 shilling “gratuity.”  Essex’s purpose in the endeavor was to stir the public against Queen Elizabeth (who identified– and was identified with– the childless, and thus heir-less Richard II, who is deposed in the play).

    Essex had squandered and blundered his way into financial trouble and out of the Queen’s graces; desperate, he had plotted a rebellion that he launched two days after the play’s performance– only to find that he had garnered no support at all from the people.  He was quickly captured by Elizabeth’s Lord High Admiral (the Earl of Nottingham) and his men, tried, convicted, and on February 25th, less than two weeks after his patronage of the stage, beheaded at the Tower of London.

    The rebellious Earl of Essex

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  • feedwordpress 09:01:40 on 2015/01/23 Permalink
    Tags: , Peacham, , , sewage, Shakespeare, The Rose, Titus Andronicus,   

    “Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you fall into an open sewer and die”*… 

     

    Further to Wednesday’s almanac entry on America’s first independent municipal sewer system

    Sometime in mid to late January, researchers from MIT plan to gather around a manhole on Portland Street in East Cambridge, dressed in plastic disposable biohazard coats and gloves. Each hour over the next 24, working in teams of two over four-hour shifts, they’ll sink a tube into the muck and pump one to two liters of sewage water into a plastic container. The container will be put into a cooler and taken to the nearby lab at MIT run by Eric Alm, a computational microbiologist. Alm’s lab will analyze all 24 of these sludgy samples to see what viruses and bacteria they hold; meanwhile, a vial of each sample will be sent to another lab to be analyzed for biomarkers (molecular or cellular flags for things like diseases and drugs, legal and illegal ).

    These researchers—who include architects, computational biologists, designers, electrical and mechanical engineers, geneticists, and microbiologists—will be testing an idea that’s attracting interest around the world: namely, that sewage can tell us important things about the people who excrete it. Already, research has shown that sewage can reveal illicit drug usage, the presence of influenza, the poliovirus and other pathogens, and the state of community health. So far, however, none of this has been tested in our local waste systems, other than some proof-of-concept sampling done in Boston. That has led to this first formal effort by scientists and public health officials to get a sewage snapshot of the people of Cambridge…

    Get to the bottom at “What does Cambridge sewage say about residents? MIT plans to find out.”

    * Mel Brooks

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    As we hold our noses, we might recall that it was on this date in 1594 that Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus was first performed (by Sussex’s Men at The Rose).  Titus‘s premiere is the first performance of a Shakespeare play of which there is precise record (though confident deduction dates other plays’ performances earlier); it was recorded in Philip Henslowe‘s diary.  It is also the only Shakespeare play for which a contemporary illustration survives, the work of a drawing master named Henry Peacham.

    The Peacham drawing (c.1595)

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:24 on 2014/04/23 Permalink
    Tags: birthday, , , Don’t Make Me Go Back Mommy, , , , satanic ritual abuse, Shakespeare,   

    “Where’s Papa going with that ax?”*… 

     

    From the Grimms and Mother Goose to Edward Gorey, children’s literature can be… well, pretty chilling.  But for pure shock value, it’s possible that Don’t Make Me Go Back, Mommy—about Satanic ritual abuse—is the scariest children’s book ever written.   The book’s description explains…

    The words of the text and the objects and situations illustrated are based on months of intensive research into the nature and practice of satanic ritual abuse. Any child who has been ritually abused will recognize the validity of this story.

    The book was apparently marketed to school counselors, mental health professionals and support groups, as well as to concerned parent, to help identify signs of Satanic Ritual Abuse (or “SRA”).

    Amazon reviewers weighed in with reactions including these:

    - One HELL of a good read. Devilishly funny. My son, Damian, thought it was the funniest book he’s ever read. An all around great book to read around the sulfur pit with the family. They say you can’t judge a book by its cover, but honestly, LOOK AT IT.

    - 4 year old saw this book and she is begging parents to send her to this school, where on earth are we going find a satanist school for the brat.

    - You have to be a detective to follow the “story.” The book forces you to deduce the storyline from the progression of settings, because the book never tells you what is happening or why, or even who is talking. The child in the “story” just materializes in new contexts without explanation. The reader’s reactions are constantly along the lines of, “Where is she now? What is happening? Who is this person? Who is talking?” Each page introduces a new disjointed scenario and a new unattributed quotation, and it’s up to the reader to try to figure out what’s going on.

    Via the ever-illuminating Dangerous Minds.

    * Fern, to her mother, as they were setting the table for breakfast. –E.B. White, Charlotte’s Web

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    As we make the sign of the cross, we might wish a grateful Happy Birthday to the greatest poet and playwright in the English canon, William Shakespeare; he was born (tradition holds, and reason suggests) on this date in 1564.  In fact, there is no way to know with certainty the Bard’s birth date.  But his baptism was recorded at Stratford-on-Avon on April 26, 1564; and three days was the then-customary wait before baptism.

    In any case, we do know with some certainty that Shakespeare died on this date in 1616.

    The Chandos Portrait

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