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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Shakespeares After Shakespeare.

This week we received an interesting new reference book: Shakespeares After Shakespeare: An Encyclopedia of the Bard in Mass Media and Popular Culture, Volume I, edited by Richard Burt. It includes essays and lists of Shakespeare references in cartoons, comic books, films, and pop music.

For instance, did you know that there are at least 54 references to Hamlet in various cartoons and comic books? From a 1906 Buster Brown strip to a 2005 Zits strip, various references to Hamlet abound, although most are variations of Gertrude’s line “Methinks he doth protest too much,” a person holding a skull (“Alas, poor Yorick”), or plays on the phrase “to be or not to be.” A large number of comic characters find themselves in productions of Hamlet, such as the gang from Archie (Jughead offers to play the part of Yorick) and Donald Duck.

There are a couple of stretches, though: in Act II of Hamlet Polonius says, “Though this be madness, yet there is method in’t”; therefore, the authors cite every use of “madness” and “method” in the same breath as a Shakespeare reference…even when the Incredible Hulk says it. Although I guess a reference is still a reference, even if you don’t know you’re making it!

In the pop music section, I learned that the Smiths song “Cemetry Gates” contains this reference to Richard III:

The singer takes issue with the way his friend recites texts without acknowledging sources, first “claim[ing] these words as [his] own: ‘Ere thrice the sun done salutations to the dawn.’ The singer retorts that he’s heard these words ‘a hundred times,’ which is all the more ironic because it seems to hint that the line in question is already an echo, already double-voiced. In his popular adaptation of Richard III (1700), Colley Cibber gives a very similar line. . . to Catesby, while in Shakespeare’s play, Ratcliffe alerts the king that, since “[t]he early village cock / Hath twice done salutation to the morn,’ his friends have been arming for battle. (387-88)

And it should come as no surprise that this section contains many, MANY references to Romeo and Juliet!

Stay tuned for a fairly silly Shakespeare-related entry on Thursday, April 23, which is the day Shakespeare’s birthday is observed.

Burt, Richard, ed. Shakespeares After Shakespeare: An Encyclopedia of the Bard in Mass Media and Popular Culture. Volume I. Greenwood Press, 2007.

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