Great Old Octopus

Pray indulge a short, non-Shakespearean digression as we approach Halloween. I have a penchant for winter hats shaped like animals and/or monsters, and I recently acquired the following masterpiece from a shop in Stratford, ON.

It is, of course, a ski mask knitted to look like H.P. Lovecraft’s iconic Elder God Cthulhu. Because why not? The tentacles do keep your face warm.

I’ve tried it out in the office a couple times, but the problem is that (with the exception of my awesome co-worker, who irresponsibly encouraged me to acquire the hat in the first place) nobody knows who Cthulhu is. Which means I’ve had the following conversation several times:

I’m an octopus.

We return to your regularly scheduled Shakespearean content on Wednesday.

Shakespearean Character Spotlight: Peter Bullcalf

Today our Shakespearean Character Spotlight random number generator alights upon a sturdy and morally-flexible country lad from Gloucestershire. 

As far as Falstaff’s recruits go, Bullcalf is all well and good, and really drives home the point that FALSTAFF HAS NO MORALS, in case you hadn’t realized that already. However, I’ve always been much more fond of his fellow recruit, the woman’s tailor Francis Feeble. More on him later, I’m sure… 

Return to Stratford

I realize I’ve been harping on about the Stratford Festival a lot recently. I’d apologize, but I’m not actually that sorry about it, as it is such a major part of my theatre-going life. This time I managed to “convince” my conveniently pliable co-worker and her sister to accompany me to see A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Crazy for You one last time before the end of the season. I recount the saga here:

I’m just going to go ahead and own my half-crazed theatre junkie tag. It’s me. I don’t deny it.

That’s my co-worker. She was actually much more enthusiastic about the prospect of going to Stratford than I give her credit for here. Although my half of the conversation is pretty spot-on….

True story: When I drove up to Stratford by myself for the first time, the border guard was extremely dubious about me going to the theatre all by myself. I invited my co-worker and her sister along mostly to stop the border guards from further prying into my apparent lack-of-life. It worked.

The set changeover tour was fascinating, by the way. It also ended early enough for me to squeeze in dinner before the evening show. So you can have your cake and eat it too.

After they got their coffee, my co-worker and her sister agreed that it was a lot of fun. I’m always right about things like this. 

This. This is the definition of tragedy.

Anyways, thanks again to all the fantastic actors who took the time to chat with me! As always, it is such a pleasure to meet the people behind the performances that I have enjoyed so much over the years. (Not pictured: my awesome co-worker and her sister, in case they wish to remain semi-anonymous and not associate themselves with my incurable theatre obsession.)

Also, that Shakespeare statue has really creepy eyes. It’s great.

Shakespearean Character Spotlight: Smith the Weaver

It’s time for another Shakespearean Character Spotlight! After featuring a couple of prominent heroines, we’re back to taking a closer look at the unwashed masses of background characters. Meet Smith the Weaver!

Among Jack Cade’s followers, poor Smith the Weaver very much plays second fiddle to the ore flamboyant Dick the Butcher, who gets to say the famous “kill all the lawyers” line. Nobody remembers Smith’s “toasted cheese” line. Poor old Smith.

In case you’re wondering what is around Smith’s neck, it’s supposed to be a scarf. He wove himself a little scarf. 

I Have Done My Work Ill, part 2

In Monday’s comic we saw what happened when Antony tried to get someone else to kill him. (Spoiler: it didn’t work out.) Today we’ll take a look at what happens when he takes matters into his own hands. (Spoiler: it doesn’t work out.)

I have to admit, this bit always makes me laugh, in a slightly self-conscious and macabre way. Poor Antony is having one of those days where nothing goes right for him. Antony, world-renowned soldier and fearsome warrior, can’t even stab himself properly. And, to top it all off, Cleopatra’s not dead. She’s just been having a lark. 

I Have Done My Work Ill, part 1

If you know anything about Antony and Cleopatra, you probably know that Antony kills himself. What you might not know is just how hard it is for him to kill himself. Seriously, he sucks at killing himself. 

Eros is one of the great “minor” roles in the Shakespearean canon. He spends most of the play running around after Antony like a faithful puppy, but then in his last scene he punches you right in the feels. I haven’t really done him justice here.

But really, if you want something done properly, you have to do it yourself. Tune in on Wednesday to see what happens when Antony takes matters into his own hands. 

Shakespearean Character Spotlight: Desdemona

The random number generator has hit upon another major character for this week’s Shakespearean Character Spotlight! Today we take a look at Desdemona.

The vast majority of Shakespeare’s female characters are strong and powerful, which is why I give the more insipid women like Hero such a hard time. I was quite prepared to run roughshod over Desdemona for meekly putting up with an obviously irrational husband who emotionally and physically abuses her. However, the more I thought about it the more I realized Desdemona is actually quite spunky. She (understandably) loses it a bit in the last act, but up until then she is admirably froward. 

Of course, my favorite character in Othello is Emilia, but more on her later…

Spot the Rogue Plot Element (Cymbeline Edition)

I occasionally get asked what is my favorite play. This is, of course, an almost impossible question for me to answer, but I must declare primary allegiance to the history plays, which first ignited my passion for Shakespeare and thus will always occupy the first chapter of my heart (with the exception of Henry VIII, which is, in all honesty, kind of boring.)

However, one play that I am inordinately fond of that often gets overlooked is Cymbeline. If you’ve never heard of Cymbeline, don’t worry. You’re not alone. It is one of the most obscure Shakespeare plays and is very rarely performed. This is a pity, as it is, essentially, a “Best Of” compilation of all of Shakespeare’s greatest cliches and dramatic tropes. Here, take this quick quiz and see how you do:

There are more ludicrous plot elements that I had to leave out for time’s sake, but you get the general idea. Cymbeline is not really a comedy, but is definitely not a tragedy. It’s more of a riotous melodrama, and its final scene is probably my favorite single scene in all of Shakespeare. 

No, there aren’t any dinosaurs in Cymbeline. However, I am sure that if Shakespeare had known about dinosaurs, he would have figured out how to squeeze in one or two of them.

There also aren’t any drug-dealing biker gangs in Cymbeline, but don’t tell Ethan Hawke that

One Year Old

First of all, apologies for this comic being a bit late. I had a busy and eventful weekend… but more on that later. First of all, I want to thank you! Yes, YOU. Because you’re wonderful. 

As Sondheim said, “A vision’s just a vision if it’s only in your head. If no one gets to see it, it’s as good as dead.” So thank you for seeing my comic, and for enjoying it, and for sharing it. I wouldn’t be doing this without your readership and your support. I’m looking forward to another year of Shakespearean shenanigans to share with you!

Anyways, the reason this comic is late is that I went up to the Stratford Festival again this weekend to see Christina, the Girl King (the one show I had missed on my last trip). I also ended up seeing Mother Courage and King John again. This was one of the most uniformly excellent Stratford seasons I can remember, and was made even more special by so many of the actors who took the time to chat with my when I stalked them at the stage door. It turns out actors are warm, lovely, and generous human beings. Who knew?

Anyways, here’s a snapshot of my Stratford trips. I’m the unkempt-looking one with glasses.

So, along with all of you lovely readers, I want to thank the Stratford Festival for inspiring a love of theatre in me at an early age that had compelled me to devote (almost) every free waking hour I have to drawing theatre-related stick figure comics. You’ve totally ruined my social life, Stratford. I hope you’re happy.