Want to know where William Shakespeare wrote Romeo and Juliet? Up until now you’ve been left in the dark, but thanks to theater historian Geoffrey Marsh the answer is finally clear.
CNN broke the news how Mr. Marsh, the director of the Victoria and Albert Museum’s Department of Theatre and Performance, has spent a decade “meticulously researching the home of the English dramatist and poet by cross-referencing official records to pinpoint…” the home of this wondrous playwright.
In 2008 ‘The Theatre’, an Elizabethan playhouse in East London’s Shoreditch, was discovered. Infamously, this centerpiece of human visual art predated ‘The Globe’ as our good old Billy Shakes’ workplace. This got Mr. Marsh curious and, never a man to heed the old saying ‘curiosity killed the cat’ he went on a search through tales upon tales to find this mouse.
Image Via Time
The first key piece of evidence was the knowledge that the writer of classic literature lived in Central London near Liverpool Street Station. Where, exactly? Well, taxpayer recorders in 1597 and 1598 weren’t exactly clear on that.
Mr. Marsh wasn’t satisfied. A detective on the case, he got out his magnifying glass and looked at every word from that faded 1550s document. What did he fine in that near-indecipherable erratic spelling?
Well, “[a]ccording to Marsh, evidence suggests Shakespeare had lived in a property overlooking the churchyard of St. Helens as a tenant of the Company of Leathersellers, a guild that organized the Elizabethan leather trade.”
So that’s where Shakespeare wrote his classic love story about star-crossed young lovers. Why is it important? Well…
“The place where Shakespeare lived in London gives us a more profound understanding of the inspirations for his work and life.”
My Shakespeare professor in college was a loud guy; he was also extraordinarily controversial. They’ve probably fired him from his third university by now, but that’s beside the point. On my first day of class with him, he warned us all that we would probably be offended at some point—he would run around the room quoting plays like Measure for Measure, The Merchant of Venice, King Lear, and Macbeth verbatim whilst taking scenes from those plays and applying them to recent news or daily experiences. Before him, Shakespeare was annoying and difficult—just early modern English nonsense.
Other teachers just focused on the plot points of William’s plays and brushed over the lyrical nuances of his words. Great art transcends time with eternal themes that strike deep through the heart of existential struggle. With subtly that is sometimes hilarious, over the top romance and gore, Shakespeare created plays that are still relevant to this day. I can only think of one pair of contemporary artists (not really) that so subtly tackle existential shit with ease: the Coen Brothers. This brings me to the news of how Joel Coen is set to direct Macbeth—courtesy of Variety.
Image Via Everymantheatre.co.uk
Whenever I think of either of the Coen brothers, my mind wanders to their adaption of Cormac McCarthy’s novel No Country for Old Men. I feel it is appropriate to mention that film here because of its thematic ties to Macbeth. Greed is bad and it will ultimately lead to a destructive end unto itself. Macbeth chases power while the characters in No Country chase drug money—albeit for different reasons. In both tales, violence is the result of the chase. Now, I could easily draw some parallels between the character of Macbeth and Llewelyn or Lady Macbeth and Carla Jean, but instead I’m going to focus on some more OMINOUS scenes.
Early on in Macbeth, the titular character runs into three witches who throw a bunch of prophetic—mind-effing—jargon his way; unfortunate for him, ominous for us. It sets the character of Macbeth on his arc. Similarly, there’s an ominous scene early on in No Country where Sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) is cautioned by his wife Loretta (Tess Harper):
Loretta Bell: Be careful.
Ed Tom Bell: Always am.
Loretta Bell: Don’t get hurt.
Ed Tom Bell: Never do.
Loretta Bell: Don’t hurt no one.
Ed Tom Bell: [smiles] Well. If you say so.
Image Via Mymeaningfulmovies.blogspot.com
I love that scene. Not just because it contains loads of macho nonsense (kind of) that makes me want to crush beer cans on my face, but also because of the subtle characterization that happens within it. The foreshadowing cements this character as someone who is about be involved with the plot but not ‘deathly’ involved. A narrator. A voice. A shadow.
The protagonist of McCarthy’s novel (more so than the film), Ed Tom Bell is the aging sheriff of Terrell County, Texas; he’s a bit of a jaded, yet hard-nosed character. Being an old-fashioned, ethical man, he finds it difficult adapting to all the violence, greed and corruption of society. He is the character the reader most identifies with… basically, he’s Shakespeare. If Shakespeare wrote himself into Macbeth, it would be as a jaded captain in Macduff’s army—as a character who sees the world as it is and is simply exhausted by it.
Image Via Ny Times
I’m exhausted by all the Macbeth adaptions we’ve had in the past. I’ve read the play numerous times and watched it at least a couple: the Mel Gibson version blew (or was that Hamlet?) and the Michael Fassbender one was eh. I didn’t expect to see or be excited about another adaptation anytime soon. Then I heard Joel Coen is going to try his hand at Shakespeare with the help of top tier talents like production company A24, Denzel Washington, and Francis McDormand. The long list of complex films that are (if this article is any indication) easily equatable with Shakespeare plays under his belt prove him more than capable of adapting the said source material. He must have something fresh, quirky, maybe even offensive up his sleeve—able to demolish prior stabs at Macbeth. Hopefully, he reinvigorates a new wave of WS enthusiasm. I will full-on seek it out upon its inevitable limited release. Maybe I’ll run into my unemployed professor in a darkened theater. I’ll throw popcorn at him.
Any 90s kid—sorry, 90s adult—will remember Andrew Clements‘ Frindle, the classic middle grade tale of a defiant boy who invents a word just to spite his by-the-book English teacher. (The word, naturally, is Frindle.) Since this is obviously silly, made-up nonsense, the school intervenes to reinforce the notion that only the dictionary determines the proper use of language. But wait, you say, aren’t all words invented? Well, that’s exactly what we’re getting at. Here are just a few of the many words that authors had the good sense to make up.
Image Via Eldacur.com
Theodor Giesel, code name Dr. Seuss, is known for being hyper intelligent, politically astute, and child friendly. It is then especially surprising that Seuss would invent the number one insult for too-smart kids, the bane of the middle-school hallway—nerd. One of the original spellings of nerd is knurd, a word for someone who doesn’t like fun and also ‘drunk’ spelled backwards. Those young If I Ran the Zoo readers might not be sure what to make of this—you’re a nerd if you’re ever sober? Probably not.
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We all know Shakespeare invented between four and five hundred words—and that’s only counting terms still in use today. Without his strong knowledge of Latin roots and his literary mind, we would have Twilightwithout ‘bloodsucking,’ Divergent without ‘dauntless,’ Gossip Girl without ‘gossip.’ (An alternate title might have been Rich People Lying to Each Other.) Shakespeare’s coinage of the word bedazzled, first appearing in The Taming of the Shrew, is an excellent case study of the way language evolves over time. While initially referring to sunlight striking particularly vibrant eyes, the word now calls to mind badly-rhinestoned jeans—arguably, the only way to rhinestone jeans.
Image Via Booktryst.com
You may not have heard of Gelett Burgess, but you’ve definitely heard the word ‘blurb,’ the most common term to describe the text snippets on a book jacket. The word has a surprising origin—the name of a sexy lady. In 1907, Burgess created the character Belinda Blurb, an alluring woman whose spot on the book cover was supposed to boost its sales. While there’s nothing particularly funny about the word itself, it is amusing to imagine that Belinda Blurb was the most titillating name Burgess could invent for his fictional woman. (Since it was 1907, perhaps we’re just lucky her name wasn’t more like Ermengarde.)
Image Via Quotefancy.com
The word ‘boredom’ first appeared in Charles Dickens‘ Bleak House, which sounds like the exact sort of dismal spot where boredom might take place. Before Dickens, the word ‘bore’ already existed as a verb, but there was no noun for the specific condition of being bored. Since boredom is such a commonplace human experience, one has to wonder what they called it before the invention of the word. Early philosophers sometimes dubbed it ‘the noonday demon,’ a term that’s simultaneously more ominous and more accurate. Now all you high school students out there can say Dickens literally invented boredom and get away with it.
Gif Via Wifflegif.com
Lewis Carroll, author of the notoriously weird Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, was no novice at inventing words. His poem “Jabberwocky” opens: “twas brillig and the slithy toves / did gyre and gimble in the wabe.” You might not remember the last time you yourself gyred or gimbled, if such a thing is even possible. The reason is simple—all words are inventions, but not all inventions catch on. (Take, for example, the goldfish walker or shoe umbrella.) The word ‘chortle,’ an amalgam of the words ‘chuckle’ and ‘snort,’ is one of Carroll’s more popular creations. We’re all probably grateful he didn’t go with snuckle.
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Sir Thomas Moore entitled his most impactful work Utopia, a word with an exciting dual meaning: either ‘good place’ or ‘no place,’ depending on the translation. Considering the popular definition—a perfect society—this confusion seems both reasonable and appropriate. The irony comes in when you realize that Coca Cola’s 1990s beverage Fruitopia is a clear play on Moore’s word. Most likely, Moore’s utopia didn’t include a sugary beverage empire.
Image Via Interviewmagazine.com
Though this word now describes children between early childhood and the full-on teenage years, ‘tween‘ once implied a very different age range. Invented by J.R.R. Tolkien, the word initially described hobbits in their twenties (given that hobbits come of age around thirty-three). It’s worth noting that many human twenty-somethings have also not yet reached full maturity. Another example of how language evolves beyond its original context, tween conjures more images of braces and shopping malls than it does chucking rings into volcanoes.