Hey everyone! I’m back from my break! Well… sort of. Various personal crises and professional obligations have reared their heads, and I need to take some time to work them all out. Fortunately, I have lots of amazingly generous Shakespeare friends who have agreed to help me out by answering some (hopefully) fun questions about Shakespeare and themselves.
Now, I try never to ask anyone to do something I would not do, so I’m going first.
1. Who are you? Why Shakespeare
I'm Mya Gosling, the artist and author of Good Tickle Brain, the world's foremost and possibly only stick figure Shakespeare webcomic. (But, since you're reading this, you probably already knew that...) My love of Shakespeare started when I was around 10 years old and my father showed me the Laurence Olivier film of Henry V. Since then I've been fortunate enough to see almost all of Shakespeare's plays performed live. For the past six years I've been sharing my love of Shakespeare with people through the incongruous medium of stick figure comics. My attitude towards Shakespeare can be summarized in two main points: a) he's a lot of fun, and b) don't take him too seriously.
2. What moment(s) in Shakespeare always make you laugh?
In the middle of the chaotic final scene of Cymbeline, in which about a dozen improbable dangling plot threads are being improbably resolved by a series of improbable revelations, the Doctor pipes up with the line "O gods! I left out one thing..." It's a line that, while not funny in and of itself, is absolutely hysterical in context and never fails to make me laugh.
3. What's a favorite Shakespearean performance anecdote?
I saw a local university production of Much Ado About Nothing where the actor playing Claudio had come down with a nasty stomach bug. There were no understudies, so the actor playing the Sexton was drafted to step in. He wandered around the stage, clutching the script binder like a life raft and exuding a genuine insecurity that made his hapless Claudio much more sympathetic than usual.
I spent the entire first two acts waiting eagerly for Beatrice to say "Speak, Count, 'tis your cue." It was an appropriately cathartic meta-theatrical moment.
4. What's one of the more unusual Shakespearean interpretations you've either seen or would like to see?
I was lucky enough to see the RSC's current production of The Taming of the Shrew, which is set in an Elizabethan matriarchy with an almost entirely gender-flipped cast (Petruchio is played as a woman by a woman, Kate is played as a man by a man, etc.). It was very well done, and surprisingly thought provoking on a number of levels that I did not expect. Even the way the costumes were used, with the women's large dresses not being seen as encumbrances but rather a means for them to physically take up more space (i.e. woman-spreading), was fascinating. I’d like to see more productions play around with the gender of characters and see what effect it has.
5. What's one of your favorite Shakespearean "hidden gems"?
He’s not hidden, and he’s definitely not a gem, but I’ve had a character crush on Hotspur ever since I first saw Henry IV part 1 back in 2001. Objectively, he’s a totally thoughtless and impulsive jerk, but he’s so charismatic and compelling and entertaining that he just completely carries me away. I’m mature enough now to realize he’d be absolutely terrible for me, but I’m still carrying a tiny torch for that gunpowder Percy.
6. What passages from Shakespeare have stayed with you?
This is awfully cliched, but one of the first bits of Shakespeare that I committed to memory was the opening chorus from Henry V: "O for a muse of fire, etc. etc." How can you not fall in love with a paean to the imagination? The ability to conjure something out of nothing has always excited and inspired me, and this speech so perfectly encapsulates the imaginative and collaborative magic not only of theatre, but of any creative profession.
(The Salic Law speech, which I memorized when I first started this comic back in 2016, has also stayed with me, mostly because it's a great party piece, if also an unfortunately effective way to get people to punch you in the face.)
7. What Shakespeare plays have changed for you?
From first impression to most recent impression, the play that has changed the most for me over the years is The Winter's Tale. I really didn't like it the first time I saw it: Leontes was obviously an irredeemably horrible character, so I didn't see why I should care about him getting an undeserved happy ending, plus the Bohemia bits were interminable and pointless. However, each successive time I've seen it, a little bit more of its magic has been unlocked for me. I still think the Bohemia bits are interminable and pointless, and that Autolycus is an immensely overrated and tiresome character, but the hope and forgiveness permeating the latter half of the play is starting to melt my stony heart. I still don't love it, and I may never love it, but I appreciate it more and more every time I encounter it.
8. What Shakespearean character or characters do you identify the most with?
Recently I've identified very strongly with Peter Quince. All he wants to do is entertain people, but nothing quite works out the way he's planned, and it looks like everything is going to be a disaster, and he's very worried and stressed out all the time, but in the end he (inadvertently) produces a work of comic genius. I relate very strongly to all of that. I have aspirations to be a Beatrice, but honestly compels me to admit that I am not.
9. Where can we find out more about you? Are there any projects/events you would like us to check out?
If you’re reading this, you already know all about me! But if you’re interested in supporting my work, head over to Patreon. Also, be sure to follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr, if you happen to be on any of those platforms.
COMING THURSDAY: You’ve almost certainly seen him in (very fast) action, making a professional fool of himself. It’s my Comedy Fairy Godfather!