Friday, September 14, 2012

Othello: Seven Signs That You Aren’t in a Healthy Relationship

Othello page by Elizabeth E. Schuch for Immortal Longings Ltd.
Shakespeare had beaten our contemporary self-help magazine articles to the punch with The Tragedy of Othello, The Moor of Venice. The play deals less with race than it does with relationships, and there a lot of cautions here that modern would-be lovebirds would do well to watch out for. So, if you find yourself wondering if there are any romantic red flags in your current interpersonal entanglement, Shakespeare is here to help. Here are seven key relationship problems from Othello that, if you are experiencing currently, should be causing you substantial alarm:

[I here make the conscious choice to address the ladies, as I am unconvinced that most dudes are willing to be self-reflective about their dating lives. A blogger needs to make these tough choices about how to help the most readers he can.]

1. Your Family Doesn’t Approve 
While your freedom to choose your love interest is certainly your own, and inevitably opinionated family members will test and complicate your relationship, remember that these are the people who have proven over time to love, or at least to tolerate, you. They are the people most likely to act in your best interest. If there is something about your significant other that concerns them, it’s probably at least worth your consideration.

Of even more concern, as is the case with Desdemona and Othello, is your unwillingness to let your family weigh in on the issue. Here in Othello, Desdemona marries Othello in secret, sans consultation with Dad, who then has to find out from some shady heckler in the street (more on Iago later). Does this build trust? Does it earn your new husband any points with the family? Certainly not. Furthermore, it shows a decided lack of confidence in your guy’s credentials, whether such little confidence is warranted or not.

2. You Need to Travel Just to Get Time with Him 
Does your man’s command of a military action in Cyprus mean that you need to sail out from your Venice hometown to even try for some quality time? Didn’t you guys just get married in secret? Geez. In this sense, Desdemona makes the classic “being too available” mistake – why does she need to follow him around? Okay, Desdemona, so you’re going to go ahead and give all the power in the relationship to him, and let him know that he’s way more important than you. This girl is so 0 for 2.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Shakespeare's Theater Hits the U.S.

This fall, Shakespeare's Globe Theater will be hitting movie theaters across the United States!  The Globe on Screen series will bring three productions to our screens:

All's Well That Ends Well beginning October 11th
Much Ado About Nothing beginning October 23rd
Doctor Faustus beginning November 8th

The casts are properly star-studded, but they had my number when I saw that Joseph Marcell, who played Geoffrey on The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, was playing Leonato in Much Ado, and I geeked out when I realized that Arthur Darvill (Rory from Doctor Who) would be playing Mephistopheles in Marlowe's Doctor Faustus.

Enjoy the trailer!  I am tremendously excited for this, and will definitely be sharing more info as the premieres get closer - whether on the blog, on Facebook, or on Twitter - but in the meantime, check out for more details.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Much Ado About Nothing (1993)

Kenneth Branagh’s second Shakespearean adaptation for the screen, Much Ado About Nothing is Branagh in top form, dynamically presenting a faithful interpretation of Shakespeare’s original.

El director also quite notably dons his acting hat in this production, playing Signior Benedick in a battle of wits, wills, and wooing opposite the Lady Beatrice, played by Branagh’s real-life wife at the time of production, Emma Thompson.  Branagh and Thompson are a fantastic pairing here, bringing crucial chemistry as their love/hate relationship is so central to Much Ado.

Thompson and Branagh as Beatrice and Benedick
Branagh and Thompson aren’t the only two bringing their A-game to this adaptation; several other big-time actors deliver big-time performances here.  Denzel Washington, playing Prince of Aragon Don Pedro, is outstanding.  Washington simply commands the screen, and brings Shakespeare’s prince to life with the same exceptional conviction as he has so many modern characters throughout his career.  Washington does Shakespeare so well that I was surprised to not find more of it in his resume leading up to this film (apparently he played five characters, presumably more or less as an extra, in a 1979 production of Corialanus, starring Morgan Freeman in the lead role – I’ve got to see it!).

He knows he's good: Denzel as Don Pedro
Despite such steep competition, taking home the Shawn and Shakespeare Show Stealer Award for Much Ado with relative ease is Michael Keaton.  As Master Constable Dogberry, Keaton is just tremendously fun to watch.  He’s got great source material here of course; Dogberry is a particularly memorable character in the Shakespearean comic canon, but Keaton’s fantastic charisma and comic timing, that so light up the screen here in Much Ado, help to make Keaton’s performance remarkable in its own right.  He’s right on par here, for my money, with his brilliant performance as Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice.

Keaton as Dogberry, ignoring his partner Verges (Ben Elton)
While there is so much going for this production of Much Ado, it is worth noting there are some plot points in Shakespeare’s original that are not the most modern – I’m thinking particularly of some less than empowering moments for the ladies, which I look forward to discussing in an upcoming blog on the play – and Branagh is, as I mentioned, admirably faithful to Shakespeare’s play.  Far from being a fault in the film, I personally appreciate Branagh’s respect for the play as it was written – there’d be too much to change to bring it up to date in that sense.  The feminist critique got my wheels turning in terms of analyzing the play, but it did nothing to deter my enjoyment of the film, which is outstanding.

See it for yourself: Much Ado About Nothing