Punk Rock Shakespeare!

 

audeince 2

Are you watching TNT’s new series ‘Will’, about the life of young William Shakespeare as a newcomer in the London theater scene, circa 1588?

And if not, WHY NOT???

Okay, okay.  I know Shakespearean scholars are rolling their eyes, saying how DARE this series take such liberties?  They have changed Elizabethan London into a gritty  punk rock world of mohawks and warpaint!  They have used historically inaccurate costumes! They have made up a background story of Will as a persecuted Catholic.  They have given him a fictional lover named Alice Burbage and set him in a (horror of horrors)  rap showdown with fellow playwright Robert Greene! And they expect any educated sincere student of Shakespeare to watch this trash?

The answer is YES!!

For far too long, Shakespeare has been buried in a dusty old cellar of books marked ‘highbrow’, ‘difficult’ and ‘boring’.  People do not realize he was once a 24 year old trail blazer, full of talent and ambition, thrown into a vicious, provocative and cosmopolitan city.  He had a wife and three children to support and was determined to make his mark.

I am here to defend this series and tell you why — if you are interested in the Bard and his ilk — you must watch at once!  Or at leas watch this trailer.

 

First of all, there is very little we  know for sure about young Will Shakespeare. He married Anne Hathaway at age 18, had three children, somehow ended up in London and became the most famous playwright in the world.

Documentation tells us that his twins, Hamnett and Judith, were baptized on Feb. 2, 1585. In 1592 there was a derogatory review written by playwright Robert Greene which referred to Shakespeare as an ‘upstart crow’ and a ‘Shake-scene’.

upstart-crow

Other than that, no one really has any idea what young Master Shakespeare was doing between the ‘lost years’ of 1585 to 1592.

Most likely he was in London, perfecting his craft, making contacts and worming his way into the theater.  Anyone who has read the plays knows  he was a man of passion. He could not possibly have written all he did without some actual life experience.

There are  some other things, though, that we DO know about the young Bard  —  which give clues to possible truths portrayed in the new series

1)  Being Catholic?

Shakespeare very well may have been a closet Catholic.  His mother’s family, the Ardens, were devout Catholics.  Years later, Catholic artifacts such as rosaries and Extreme Unction kits (which had been forbidden) were found in Shakespeare’s childhood home.

rosary pd

Being a closet Catholic was dangerous and life threatening in Protestant England.

When Queen Bess came to the throne in 1558, Catholicism was outlawed, but people still practiced in secret.  Bess would probably have been lenient, but eventually, as more Catholic plots threatened the Queen’s life, laws against Catholicism got stricter. Practicing Catholicism could get you drawn and quartered.

This meant basically that they would cut you in quarters and pull out your intestines before hanging you as a traitor.

Quartering

Yeah. I’d keep it a secret too.

 

2)  Elizabethan Theater = Punk Rock? You bet!

The entertainment scene of the 16th century was not  respectable in the least. Theaters were bawdy places full of raucous nut jobs who engaged in drinking, whoring and pick-pocketing.  All along the south bank of the Thames River, arm in arm with the theaters were houses of prostitution and dens for bear baiting.   Some theaters even doubled as bear pits on their off days!

Bear baiting was like dog fighting — on steroids. A chained bear would be teased and tormented  by dogs, then let loose to claw them to pieces.  Which shows just how dangerous/ crazy this environment was.

Playwrights were often arrested for writing seditious material.  It was a constant envelope-push to see how much politically incorrect  and offensive stuff they could get away with.

British Design at V&A - God Save The Queen Poster by Jamie Reid

Plays provided cheap, rowdy entertainment. Any peasant could come in off the street, pay a half-penny entrance fee and stand in front of the stage. These were known as ‘groundlings’  —  unwashed, unkempt, swilling ale, and not beyond throwing stuff at the stage if the entertainment was not good enough.  Sound familiar?

audience Will

Besides that, the costumes used in the series are creative, stunning and tailored.   Queen Bess meets Vivienne Westwood.  It may not be historically accurate but…

Would you really want to watch guys dressed like this?

tudor style

No, I wouldn’t either.

 

3)  The Many Loves of Will Shakespeare?

Shakespeare’s plays deal with love in all its forms — forbidden, absurd, sublime, fulfilled and unrequited. He arguably knew the minds of women better than any other male writer of his time and beyond.  Much like the 90’s movie ‘Shakespeare in Love’, the TNT series attempts to show how young Will may have gotten his inspiration.

Her name is Alice. She is the daughter of theater owner James Burbage  and sister to actor Richard.  In real life, James Burbage had no known daughters, but Alice’s character is an ambitious, intelligent woman stifled by 16th century rules. She defies her father and often cross-dresses for her own safety — providing the inspiration Will would have needed for his female characters.  (Think Portia, Viola, Desdemona and Juliet.)

And what of Christopher Marlowe?  The notorious playwright/ spy who dominated the Elizabethan theater scene  until his untimely death at age 29 is played by the amazing Jamie Campbell Bower.  Marlowe, openly gay and staggeringly handsome, may prove an additional temptation for Will.

Who was the ‘Fair Youth’ of Shakespeare’s love sonnets? (Hint: Not a woman!)

jcb 2

 

4) Eerie Resemblance?

No one really knows what young Will actually looked like.  This portrait, dated from the late 16th century, unearthed with other actor’s portraits and coinciding exactly to his age, is often thought to be Shakespeare.

shakespeare-grafton-portrait

Compare to the actor cast as Will:  Laurie Davidson

will 2

Weird  resemblance, right? Perhaps a ghost is present!

By now I should have convinced you to take a look a this series. You can watch the first episode free here: Will Sneak Peak.

Let me know what you think!

 

 

 

Póg mo thóin

 

greenfairy

The river is green, the Guinness flows freely, the leprechauns are out and about. You never know what may be at the end of their rainbow.  However, it would not be Saint Patrick’s Day without music from the FABULOUS POGUES!!!!

pogues

This Celtic punk band was formed in 1982 by front man Shane MacGowan (aka Shane Hooligan), a rabble rousing displaced Irishman who had plenty to say about politics, prejudice and poetry.

The band was originally named ‘Pogue Mahone’, which is the phonetic pronunciation of the Irish phrase Póg mo thóin. Translated to English it apparently means “Kiss my ass.”  🙂

Shane chose the name as a joke and figured no one in English speaking countries would be able to figure out the meaning, but au contraire.  The name caused a massive uproar.  The BBC banned performances by Pogue Mahone and they could not get a record deal, so they shortened their name to ‘Pogues’. (This was acceptable, the Irish word póg meaning ‘kiss’.)

Shane had the last laugh though, when the Pogues released an album called ‘Rum, Sodomy and the Lash’. Reportedly the title was a quote by Winston Churchill. When asked about the state of the British Navy during World War 2, Churchill allegedly replied “Don’t talk to me about naval tradition!  It’s nothing but rum, sodomy and the lash!”

 

captain jack

 

At any rate, you won’t find a better band to celebrate Paddy’s Day. Here are two of their classics, ‘If I Should Fall From Grace of God’ and ‘Waxie’s Dargle’.  Break out the whiskey, kick up your heels and have a listen!

Lá Shona Fhéile Pádraig! (or Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!)

If I Should Fall From Grace With God — an Irish patriot grapples with his own sins and mortality. “Let me go down in the mud where the rivers all run dry.”  Worth listening just to hear Shane’s banshee scream mid song. I dare you not to dance, or at least toe tap!

 

‘Waxie’s Dargle’ is a traditional folk song, made punk by the Pogues.  A Waxie (candle maker) wants to go to the party (dargle).  Sadly she is so poor she cannot raise the money to go, not even by selling her husband’s suspenders.  “When food is scarce and you see the hearse you know you died of hunger!”

For such a morbid song, this version is hilarious! Sorry about the poor quality of this video, but nonetheless —  you can’t beat their loopy energy.  Sláinte!

 

 

 

 

Silent Night

 

ned-stark

I LOVE CHRISTMAS MUSIC!!!!

The day after Thanksgiving is of course my excuse to start listening. I originally began my youtube channel because I wanted to make Christmas music videos. This music helps me get through the darkness until Solstice arrives.

Today I give you Silent Night by The Dickies. (The vigorous version.)

Hope you like it 🙂