Shakespeare By Any Other Name . . .

by Bob Sparrow

S birthday

The Birthday Boy . . . or is he?

While I was busy either hiking or trying to track down my friends in Nepal and Suzanne was selecting the menu for her ‘Last Supper’, we missed an important date last month on April 23, the birthday of William Shakespeare – he turned 451.  Don’t worry if you didn’t get him anything or even send a card, he’s used to being ignored. To wit:

Only four of the nation’s 52 highest-ranked universities require that an English major take at least one, yes one, Shakespeare class – those schools: Harvard, Cal, Wellesley College (Massachusetts) and the U.S. Navel Academy. Go Navy!

Dr. Chapman

Dr. Viola Chapman

Fortunately, my curriculum at Westminster College in Utah did include the study of several Shakespeare plays and sonnets.  I remember my first day walking into class and sizing up the professor, Dr. Chapman.  She was a elderly, diminutive woman with a stern continence, of course elderly to a college student in those days was anyone over 40.  She wore her hair in a bun and I thought she could have played the part of Norman Bate’s mother in Psycho.  I was petrified.  I was afraid not to pay attention, but once she opened her mouth, she had me. She was brilliant and quirky – she’d sit on her desk, swinging her feet to and fro, reciting, by heart and with an Elizabethan accent, long passages from Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets.  By the end of the first week, I was all in.  She brought the literature to life, she made me want to know more.  There is no question in my mind that my interest in and ultimate love of Shakespeare was a result of one person, Dr. Viola Chapman.  By the time I had graduated, I’d taken every class she taught and ended up with a minor in English.  She not only instilled in me a love of Shakespeare, but influenced my decision to become a teacher and ultimately try to turn high school students on to the ‘The Bard’.   She taught at Westminster from 1948 until 1972 and was the first professor to be honored as ‘Faculty Emeriti’ by the college.  She is without question, my favorite teacher of all time.

C Marlowe

Christopher Marlowe

If you haven’t really thought much about Shakespeare since you flunked that Merchant of Venice test in high school (like I did), then you may not be aware of the fact that there has been a long-standing debate as to whether William Shakespeare actually wrote all or any of the plays and sonnets attributed to him. Such luminaries as Mark Twain, Sigmund Freud and even Helen Keller have opined that Shakespeare wasn’t Shakespeare.  So who was?  Francis Bacon, Christopher Marlowe, the Earl of Oxford, the Earl of Derby and several others have been debated ‘to be or not to be’ the ‘real’ Shakespeare.  The debate will not be settled anytime soon, and it probably doesn’t matter because if Shakespeare didn’t write those plays and sonnets, the real author or authors are also about 450 years old and probably dead.

A line from Captain ‘Hawkeye’ Pierce, of the old TV series M.A.S.H., even references the debate when he complained about a bad tasting breakfast, saying,  “This bacon tastes as old as the Bacon that wrote Shakespeare’s plays.” 

Whoever he was, Shakespeare continues to influence our lives today.

West Side Story

West Side Story

Some plays/movies that you may be familiar with . . .

     West Side Story – based on Romeo & Juliet

     Kiss Me Kate – based on Taming of the Shrew

     The Lion King based on Hamlet

You’ve also probably quoted Shakespeare, maybe without even knowing it, as he coined too many phases to be listed here, but a few of the more familiar ones are:

     Love is blind

     Neither a borrower or lender be

     The world’s mine oyster

     He will give the devil his due

     This above all to thine own self be true

And a favorite of mine . . .

     The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers

So a belated happy birthday to whoever wrote all that wonderful literature and a tip of the cap to Dr. Viola Chapman for bringing it into my life.

There’s probably a Shakespeare play being performed somewhere close to you this summer – I say go see it; at 451 years old, he may not be around much longer and you just might enjoy it.

Class dismissed!

Hoax, Conspiracy Theories and the Truth!

by Bob Sparrow

“The great mass of people will more easily fall victim to a big lie than to a small one.”

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf

shower

The recent fiasco surrounding Manti Te’o’s non-existent girlfriend (photo at left shows her in the shower) and things like the 11 million views on YouTube showing how the federal government and the Screen Actors Guild conspired to create the ‘Sandy Hook Hoax’, have me convinced that our culture will not let the facts stand in the way of a good conspiracy theory.  Not that people haven’t been lied to by their government, or the Screen Actors Guild for that matter, but as a public service I’d like to put forth the real truth about some of our most popular conspiracies.

 

If you think that there is a possibility that Michael and Janet Jackson were actually the same person or that the ‘grassy knoll’ was never michael jacksonjanet jacksonreally examined as thoroughly as it could have been, then you need to read on.

global warmingConspiracy: global warming is a real threat

Supported by: Al Gore, who told us so

Anti-Conspiracy: Global warming is a hoax perpetrated by Carrier, the air conditioning people and a few awning and umbrella companies.

The Truth: My anecdotal findings are that the globe seems to be warmer in the summer, so I lean toward the global warming theory, but it seems to cool down in the winter, so I can’t be sure. I’m going to read Al Gore’s book, An Inconvenient Truth – it’s on the Internet, which he invented.

 

 abby roadConspiracy: Paul McCartney walking barefoot on the Abby Road album cover proves that he was actually dead.

Supported by: Those who had high-tech record players back in the day that could play Beatles records backwards and hear Paul actually say that he was dead at the time.

Anti-Conspiracy: Paul was late for the album photo shoot and forgot to put on his shoes.  What amazingly has gone unnoticed over the years is that Ringo is not wearing any underwear in the photo – he is not dead either.

The Truth: Paul is alive and actually came closer to death when a judge told him he had to pay Heather Mill $235 million in his divorce settlement.

 

elvisConspiracy: Elvis faked his death

Supported by: Elvis weighed approximately 275 pounds at the time of his ‘supposed’ death, yet the casket ‘they’ say he was buried in weighed only 210 pounds.

Anti-Conspiracy: The king didn’t fake his death, but actually died three days later after finishing second in a chili dog eating contest at the Dunes Hotel in Las Vegas.

The Truth: Elvis’ death has never been certified and rumors fly around this time of year when an elderly duet that looks an awful lot like an aging, 65 pound lighter Elvis and Jimmy Hoffa, appear for their dinner show in Sun City, Las Vegas.

shakespeare_winkConspiracy: Shakespeare didn’t write his plays

Supported by: All those who claim to have written them

Anti-Conspiracy: Shakespeare actually wrote the plays, but in a hurry to get to the airport one morning, left them at a table at Starbuck’s where they were ultimately picked up by Francis Bacon, Christopher Marlowe and Woody Allen.

The Truth: Who cares?

 

mood landing fakeConspiracy: We never landed on the moon

Supported by:  A ‘moon set’ was found inside an old cheese warehouse in the New Mexico desert; they also found a man in the warehouse with a large, round, glowing, orange face.

Anti-Conspiracy: No New Mexico license plates were found on the lunar lander.

The Truth: We of course landed on the moon and ended up bringing back some aliens and weather balloons and accidentally left them just outside a warehouse in Roswell, New Mexico.

 

I may be a little confused about that moon landing thing, but hopefully I’ve cleared up a lot of conspiracies for you theorists out there; although things like, ‘Is wedding cake really a birth control method?’ still remains a mystery to us.

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