St. Crispin's Day Special!

Tomorrow, October 25, is the feast day of Saints Crispin and Crispian, and consequently the 599th anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt, where Henry V's ragtag bunch of brave, marauding Englishman defeated a vastly superior French army. To celebrate, I've got not one, not two, but three different things to share with you!

First of all, a comic. As I've mentioned before, Laurence Olivier's 1944 film version of Henry V was what first sparked my present-day infatuation with Shakespeare. My father introduced me to it when I was about nine years old, but his own association with that particular movie goes back much further.


Apparently my grandfather thought the entire escapade was hilarious, and said it was "the greatest movie he almost saw". It was the only time either he or my father were ever thrown out of a movie theatre. 

The only reason anyone still mentions Crispin's Day today, of course, is because Shakespeare wrote a whopping great speech all about it, in which Henry psyches up his men before the big battle of Agincourt. It's a fantastic speech, and probably one of the first bits of Shakespeare that I memorized from start to finish.

Here's a video mash-up of six different Henrys giving six different renditions of the Crispin's Day speech. I'm running through them in chronological order, and each of them gets one verse line at a time. And so, without further ado, here are Laurence Olivier, Robert Hardy, David Gwillim, Kenneth Branagh, Jamie Parker and Tom Hiddleston!

As you can see, there are two broad types of Crispin's Day speeches: the bombastic and loud rallying cry bellowed to the troops, and the more introspective and private version shared with only a few captains. I happen to be a fan of the former, which is not to say there is anything wrong with the latter. The joy of Shakespeare is that his words can be endlessly interpreted and reinterpreted to suit the productions, the actors, and the times. (I will admit, though, that Olivier's classic delivery is nearest and dearest to my heart.)

If you want to see the full versions of some of these speeches, check out my Crispin's Day post from last year. 

Finally, here's a look at how depictions of Henry V's hair in popular culture have evolved over the past 70 years. 

Now, I'm not saying this is a bad thing, but we have moved further and further away from the historical source material. Just an observation. 

Happy Crispin's Day (tomorrow) to everyone!

Shakespearean Character Spotlight: Gonzalo

Point One: Hurricane Gonzalo has recently battered Bermuda the British Isles.

Point Two: The random number generator I use to select which Shakespearean character I am going to feature in my weekly spotlight selected Gonzalo... from The Tempest...

Conclusion: Random number generators have sick and inappropriate senses of humor, and are also Shakespeare aficionados. I apologize.

Gonzalo is so Good and Honest and Kind that you sometimes want to smack him around a bit, but then you feel guilty about thinking such evil thoughts about such a Good and Honest and Kind person.

Tune in on Friday for Crispin's Day Special!

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.