Posts tagged ‘Shakespeare’

August 7, 2014

#Book #Review — The Serpent Of Venice by Christopher Moore

by C. Michael Eliasz-Solomon

The Serpent Of Venice  by Christopher Moore —

contact:  Christopher Moore .

The Serpent Of VeniceStanczyk is  a bibliophile, possibly even a bibliophage. Being a jester for three kings gives me an especial fondness for authors/stories that have a jester/fool as one of the characters. So Stanczyk has a special fondness for William Shakespeare. Imagine how this jester was jolted to find a story mashed-up from Shakespeare with a jester … wait-a-minute  … who has a monkey  … named Jeff? Oh rapture, huzzah! How did I miss the fact that Christopher Moore had these characters in a prior novel  … Fool? Note to self go back and buy Fool !

I had only just finished the first chapter when I realized this story was a mash-up.  It appeared to me to be a mash-up of Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice (comedy) and Othello (tragedy) and Poe’s The Cask of Amontillado (mystery). I was lured by the clever riff upon the Merchant of Venice title and naïvely assumed this would be a take off of that story. But I got more, much more than even I had bargained for and a monkey named Jeff to boot.

I like to examine a book like some kind of genealogy document. What is its structure? Is there anything unusual or unexpected? How many pages/chapters? So after I read three chapters, I decided to do this kind of examination. I recommend you read the first three chapters too before you do this examination. I saw an afterword. It was by the author and he gives his deconstruction of his novel — most interesting! But it can be a bit of a spoiler. Still I did read the Afterword before I read the last chapter  … I just could not help myself. I already decided to invest myself in the book and was uproariously entertained so far. Having the author give insight, also added to my wanting to complete the book, but I did appreciate some of the inside “skinny” he gives, so I can ensure I get all that Mr. Moore dishes up.

I laughed at his wit. Its right there in the preface (called The Stage and after  the Cast [Dramatis Personae] ). So even before the story begins, the humor has already set in. So I was surprised at his droll wit — not that he had it. Its just that I had Mr. Moore pegged in my mind as a Terry Pratchett. Indeed, I assumed he was some kind of Londoner. So I was surprised when I read his Wikipedia page that he was born in Toledo, Ohio. He writes the dialogue with such obvious British humor and dialect that I had assumed British, not someone born where many of my ancestors had settled, land of the algae bloomed water supply (that has not, so far, caught fire as Lake Erie has been known to do).

The surprise character (at least I think she/it will be a surprise since I was given an inkling in the Afterword which I read beforehand) and its introduction into the storyline called to mind for me, a bit of Beowulf. Especially since this story was already known by me (before the Afterword) to be a mash-up, so perhaps I was now hunting for mash in this uplifting and funny story. So many of the characters are very likeable that I do not know who to cheer for and who to jeer for. What a delightful diversion.

Its a novel in a guise of a play. Hence, the Cast and the Stage. But there is also a Chorus (like some kind of Greek play) and the Chorus is a character too! The book is so clever, this jester decided to Follow @TheAuthorGuy on Twitter.

Stanczyk recommends this book to all who like a good story infused with humor ala Pratchett. Its absurdist proportions appeal to my Slavic soul. The meta joke that an American can write the British dialect with such humor and panache will appeal to Terry Pratchett or Douglas Adams fans.  Do not wait for this book to become available as an e-book on your library’s e-book facility, the line is too long. Go directly to your local library (or bookstore) and get the physical copy — much quicker than waiting for the Overdrive download to become available. I guess most people are afraid to enter the physical world and reticent to  leave their Internet bus stop. Excuse me, I will have to go to Marseilles now.


April 23, 2014

Happy 450th Birthday William #Shakespeare – #Bard #Birthday

by C. Michael Eliasz-Solomon

Happy 450th Birthday William #Shakespeare – #Bard #Birthday

Shakespeare Birthday ?

That is the question.

This jester wanted to wish the Bard a Happy 450th Birthday today! You have inspired more than 1 of my blog articles and entertained me and certainly been a part of my education too.  Finally, your affinity for employing Jesters in your stories deserves my admiration.

 

#Shakespeare – technically nobody knows your birthday. We know you were baptized on 26-April-1564 and that you died on 23-April-1616

[just wanted to get that genealogical factoid in play]


 

Baptismal Register – 1564

[notice the triple ‘XXX’ entry …

 

20140423-051224.jpg

 

Related Posts …

8 Dec 2011 — Recipe For Disaster … #Literary, #Politics, #Humor

14 Jan 2012 — Poland 1794, The Tempest, & Catherine The Great – #Polish, #Genealogy, #History

30 Dec 2012 —  Auld Lang Syne – #2012

 

 

 

January 14, 2012

Poland 1794, The Tempest, & Catherine The Great – #Polish, #Genealogy, #History

by C. Michael Eliasz-Solomon

Stanczyk’s blog has a blog roll that includes the talented, Donna Pointkouski’sWhat’s Past is Prologue”. Her blog’s title is from Shakespeares’ play, “The Tempest”. Today’s article is NOT a paean to her fine works, nor to Shakespeare really though this jester has a fondness for the bard – I know I’ve said that before.

Ok, get out your Shakespeare’s 1st Folio and follow along. You will not have to flip too far. The Tempest is the first play in the tome. Just do it. Donna’s quote (“What’s Past is Prologue”) comes from Act II, Scene 1 and is said by Antonio. Today’s article is about Act I, Scene I and how that scene appears in another case of life imitating art. Never fear this is an historical tale from Russian Poland …

Dateline – Easter Week 1794. Poland has already been partitioned twice, the second time was just last year (1793) following the War of the Second Partition. The Empress of Russia is Ekaterina (Catherine) the Great. This Tsarina seems to have had a ‘soft spot” for the Polish diplomat and it was her seduction of Stanislaw August Poniatowski, whom she had caused to be installed as the last elected King of Poland that brought us to this day. It was Poniatowski’s duplicity in trying to move Poland closer to his lover’s Russian Empire that led to the Four Year Sejm only the Empress did not want Poland to re-arm nor Poland’s help in suppressing Turkish aggressions. So the Sejm left to itself,  enacted the world’s  2nd Democratic Constitution on May 3rd, 1791 which led to the War of the Second Partition and finally the 2nd partition in 1793. Violence begets violence and so we find ourselves here Easter Week 1794.

Tadeusz Kosciuszko emboldened by his success in the American Revolution, leads a successful Insurrection in Krakow, where his heroic charge against the Russian General Tormasov results in the capture of the Russian cannons and defeat for the Russian General and his overly small force. This victory results in the ensuing liberation of Warsaw followed by Wilno. Thereby commencing a killing spree led by a tailor whose name (ironically in English) is Jan Kilinski and also by the Guild of Slaughterers (the fascinating occupations of our ancestors). The Russian Ambassador in Warsaw was able to flee eastward across the Vistula bridges[1] just ahead of the Insurrection.

However, the remainder of the Russian sympathizers who were too slow to follow the Russian Ambassador were summarily tried and hung by the Insurrection Council and/or by angry mobs. Amongst those fleeing, was a certain Hetman named Szymon Kossakowski who was caught trying to escape by boat …

Kossakowski  was caught and hanged under the rather literate inscription, “He who swings will not drown.” [1] .

Now compare that quote to Shakespeare’s text in “The Tempest”, published in the 1st Folio in 1623[2]  (performed prior to that publishing in 1610/1611). Near the end of Act I, Scene I  Gonzalo says, “He’ll be hanged yet, though every drop of water swear against it …[3]  .  That scene also contained more dialog about the loathsome boatswain being hanged rather than drowning.

Now we have arrived at the point of Stanczyk’s thesis. That Poland’s rebels were literate and familiar with Shakespeare’s Tempest. They cleverly used this paraphrase in proper context and it was directed at Poniatowski and of course the hangings left no doubt what would happen to other Russian sympathizers when caught. How do I come to suppose such a thing?

Poniatowski, despite his flaws was linguistically talented and mastered many languages, including English due to his mentorship in Russia by the British Ambassador, Sir Charles Hanbury-Williams, who was responsible for introducing Poniatowski to the Russian Empress[4].  Poniatowski was so enamored of the bard he erected a statue at Lazienki Palace of Shakespeare[5] ! Poniatowski’s brother, Michal Poniatowski (a Polish Primate) committed suicide rather than meet his fate at the hands of the Insurrection Council. So the Primate knew more certainly than most what Kossakowski’s hanging meant to all Russian sympathizers.

The Insurrection was short lived and was put down by the Catherine the Great and her Russian Generals. This historical story is what led to the third Partition of Poland.

However, it appears 171 years was ample time for the 1st Folio to be transported to Poland, translated to Polish and understood and used in appropriate context during a rebellion. So Stanczyk lays the events of Easter Week 1794 squarely at the foot of Stanislaw August Poniatowski, including the rebels literate scholarship, and the resulting third Partition of Poland which made Poland’s borders (not her people or her culture) disappear for 123 years (1795-1918). Poniatowski had to abdicate in 1795 (at the 3rd Partition) and he died 3 years later … in St Petersburg, Russia.

Catherine The Great : Portrait of a Woman

I’ll have you know that today’s article was inspired by my wife, Tereza. She is reading the above named book  by Robert K. Massie and because she knows my interest in and knowledge of matters about Poland and our shared Slavic genealogies, we have had many wonderfully animated conversations about this book she is reading.  It was nice for her to hear another viewpoint and for me to be further informed by Massie’s scholarly work. We both recommend the book to biography/history readers. My wife reads the book as Catherine, and Stanczyk pretends he is Potemkin !!!

;-)

That is my meme for today.

References

[1] Norman Davies, “God’s Playground”, Volume 1,  2005 Revised Edition, pages 406, 407.

[2] Editor, G. Blakemore Evans, “The Riverside Shakespeare”, page 56.

[3] Edited by Cross & Brooke, “Yale Shakespeare, Complete Works”,  2005 Edition, page 1407.

 [4] Robert K. Massie, “Catherine The Great: Portrait Of A Woman”,  2011  1st Edition, page 175.

[5] Czeslaw Milosz, The History of Polish Literature”, page 169.

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