Exit, Pursued by a Bear

For me, the bear is Senior Year and the impending task of entering adulthood. It’s fierce and ambiguous, just like in The Winter’s Tale, but unlike the poor soul devoured by Shakespeare’s brainchild, I plan to fight and conquer it.

In other words, my time as a SURP-CCEP researcher has come to an end. And, continuing the trend of Emma’s last post, I’ll be reflecting on my summer researching Shakespeareana. Before I get into that, here are a few cool drawings from the Philbrick art collection of actors as their characters.

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This summer, my fellow researchers and I came across many items that took Shakespeare and altered it to suit their needs. Some people took out anything they thought was inappropriate for families (which takes out a lot of the fun, honestly), some made tragedies into comedies, and some made the plays into short stories for children. To me, this points to a level of audience participation, or, an extension of the co-authorship of plays at that time, since fans of Shakespeare’s work would remake the plays in an experimentation of form. They were putting their own spin on Shakespeare, which as I have found working with multiple versions of the same play, opens up new readings of both the inspired and the original works.

Seeing these kinds of interpretations and alterations to Shakespeare’s plays shows me that Shakespeare is bigger than himself. By that, I mean he is not only a cultural icon, but he is also a genre in and of itself. He uses tropes that others reproduce in order to imitate his style. He has characters that he reuses. He even has overlapping and repeating plot points and structures. And even today, we tap into those structures that Shakespeare set in place, furthering and reinforcing the definitions of his self-perpetuating genre.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my work this summer, and I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my posts. Even if you don’t feel compelled to go out and read anything by the Bard, hopefully you’ll look at him in a new light.

Thank you for being my readers.

Until the Spring,


The End, and hopefully the beginning

Well, this is it! My final week at CCEPS, and thus my final blog entry. As the case is in most summers, I must ask the question, where has the time gone?!

Picking up from last week, as I began entering all of the necessary information into Archivist Toolkit, all of the front matter I needed to create has now been written and completed. These included the processing information, which was neat to recap all of the different processing decisions and methods used over the course of the summer and include the details within the Processing note. The other key remaining pieces of front matter I still had to work on were the Biography, Scope and Contents, and the Abstract. 
At first, approaching the biography, scope and content, and abstract seemed intimidating. First off, when I initially started working on the front matter, I knew that this meant writing what would be seen by all future researchers when they visit the collection’s finding aid. A bit intimidating at first. Plus, unlike most of the other pieces of front matter, there was no template for the remaining three; rather, a description of what was expected. Therefore, I had to look at other examples of a processed collection’s front matter and had to conduct my own research as well. However, writing the biography was extremely interesting, since it not only allowed me to do some research and learn more about Char Miller, but it also provided a nice way to “wrap” everything I have been working on, to provide some context for all of his materials within the collection. The Scope and Content notes also proved a valuable exercise. By the end, this process was enlightening and not nearly the daunting task it had seemed. I also learned how to wrap a text in AT, so that it would appear as an italicized title once produced in the finding aid!
This summer has truly been a unique and worthwhile experience. I learned a great deal about processing an archival collection and many of the “behind-the-scenes” aspects of Special Collections. I also learned a lot about environmental history – a subject in which I am increasingly interested – merely through processing the collection of Char Miller. Despite not being able to read the actual materials in full, by perusing them in order to understand the scope and content (it is useful terminology!) of the material and then create adequate folder titles, I was able to gain an awareness of Professor Miller’s work and many of the topics he studied that I simply did not have before I started at CCEPS. And, of course, the experience proved invaluable as an introduction to working with archives and understanding the intricacies of archival processing and cataloging. It is with this experience that I hope to build on what I have learned and incorporate it into my future endeavors. Working with CCEPS has certainly enhanced my interest. The work was challenging at times, even frustrating, but overall, the benefits surely outweighed any of these concerns.
I must also thank the Special Collections staff, particularly Lisa Crane, with making sure the process never posed too much of a challenge or burden.
Finally, sharing my experiences with this blog really enhanced the overall experience and helped make the work more exciting, as I knew I had to recap the week and tried to do so in an informative and interesting manner. I look forward to hopefully gaining another opportunity in the near future, although I’m not sure there will be a blog involved again!
So, as I conclude my final day at CCEPS, I hope this will signify a beginning rather than an end. 
I hope you enjoy these final images of the collection, all boxed, labeled, and ready to go! The few boxes of different sizes contain items such as t-shirts, plaques, medals, and oversized publications. “Feels like only yesterday…” I was putting the picture of all of the stuff mixed throughout 13 miscellaneous boxes! 
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My Exits and My Entrances: Goodbye, SURP

That’s right, my SURP is over. I am now out of Claremont to hang out with my family (and then come back to do my junior year of college – oy). 

This week’s post will be a little lighter on the critical analysis of specific works of and relating to Shakespeare, and a little heavier on me talking about my time this summer. 
Although please, enjoy this picture of Yorick smoking a pipe…I know I do. 
As to my work this summer, it has done a lot for me for my future in research, especially considering I didn’t really know what research was when I first got here. This summer has been one of embracing ambiguity and going on random tangents that may or may not be helpful to answer research questions that are not actually fully formed. But it is possible to do important intellectual work whether for myself or for the research, even when you don’t know what the research is. 
An important part of research, and something that I’m still working on, is taking my expectations or assumptions and flipping them. I came into this summer viewing Shakespeare’s words as the ultimate versions of his works, which meant that all kooky adaptations were a bit of an affront to the original Shakespeare. Although I still think there is a lot to be gained from reading the original plays, with all their possibilities, the idea of an “ultimate” Shakespeare is not the best way to go about enjoying or trying to understand the work. I needed to rethink my expectations for “ultimate,” by trying not to have an idea in my head about what ultimate means.
I’m still not sure exactly what I expect from Shakespeare, nor what that means about the orignal plays or the experience of viewing/reading Shakespeare. But I have learned a lot about research and my own thoughts this summer, and I’m glad to be able to hopefully share some of those thoughts in the exhibit this spring. 
Thanks for reading these blog posts, and good luck with your lives! Enjoy the exhibit in Special Collections and Denison in the spring.
Signing off

Falstaff’s Legacy

Sir John Falstaff, the boisterous, bumbling knight, is one of Shakespeare’s most beloved characters. It is even rumored that Queen Elizabeth loved the character so much that she commissioned the Bard himself to write another play with Falstaff as the lead. Now, his personality has become larger than life, in a way, taking on a life of its own beyond the context of the plays in which he appears.
Today, I’ll be talking about a book about Falstaff and his squad (conveniently titled Falstaff and His Companions). Located in our special collections, this book features illustrations of Falstaff and co. with excerpts from the plays in which they appear to provide context. what makes this book especially interesting is that all of the characters are in silhouette.
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There does not seem to be any particular reason for the illustrator to make the characters into silhouettes, other than a possible test of his skill. If he can make the characters recognizable as just a black outline, then he has managed to capture their essence without fretting over unnecessary detail. 
Personally, I think using silhouettes gives the reader more control over how they view the characters and allows for variability of actor representation. If the illustrated characters are a blank slate, then anyone can fill the void without disrupting the image of the character. 
Some of my favorite Falstaff images feature him interacting with other characters, like a little boy and a married woman.
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In addition to showing Sir John in a different light, this book also takes the time to depict his companions, giving the reader a greater sense of depth while adding to visual representations of Shakespeare’s literary universe. Below, we have a few minor characters. The decorative designs underneath their silhouettes nicely augment their frames.

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I had my doubts when I picked up the book, but Falstaff can still be captivating even without his devilish grin. It seems a testament to the power of Shakespeare’s characters that they can live even in shadow.

Ruff and Tumble

Try as I might, I can never seem to internalize the fact that people in Shakespeare’s time really wore the tights and ruffs and doublets as fashion. I can’t picture anyone choosing to wear that unless it was a joke, or a costume party, although that is probably just an effect of the fact that I’m commenting on these fashions ~450 years in the future (I guess skinny jeans are sort of like the modern version of Elizabethan hose so I really can’t talk), but regardless, I can’t see those outfits without interpreting them as a throwback to Shakespeare rather than a representation of the world at that time – Shakespeare is likely the most culturally significant person from that time, but all over the world people dressed somewhat similarly, and seeing a whole style of dress as a reference to a playwright whose work is often not performed in Elizabethan dress ignores the trend of fashion all over Europe.

For your viewing pleasure today I have a few images of French nobility dressed as they would have been in the late 1500s. Side note: the sassy hand gestures in most portraits of people from the past consistently give me happiness.

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IMG_7063.jpgIMG_7066.jpgThese pictures have some elements that remind me of the French period dramas I love so much: the socks with the tie at the top, the fan that Lady In Pink carries.  The rest of the clothing – the wide skirts, the almost ludicrously large ruffs, the doublets, and yes, the hose – are all staples of Elizabethan fashion. As it turns out, ruffs were clothes for both the nobility and the lower classes – after the addition of starch, they could be worn over and over again, and thus became popular for many classes of people. These outfits were normal for everyone.

More interesting to me (besides reminiscing about historical fashion in movies) is my reaction to seeing people in these clothes. As I mentioned, my first thought upon seeing these, and likely the first thought for many other people, is, “Whoa. Shakespeare throwback.” History tends to crystallize into the greatest hits of a century or a decade or what have you; Elizabethan times are Shakespeare and the plague and ruffs, for me. My focus on Shakespeare makes me wonder what other history and life I’m unaware of; of course, Shakespeare is the most talented playwright of that time, but just because J.K. Rowling is the most successful young adult fiction writer of our time doesn’t mean that everything else in that genre is worthless.

In terms of this SURP, my time is almost up; I have one more week (and one more blog post!) to go. If you’ve liked the sort of analysis my co-researchers and I have been putting forward, come see the exhibit in Spring 2016, and come talk to us at the poster conference this September 3! 

Titus Andronicus: The Original Sweeney Todd

Titus Andronicus is, frankly, often considered sub-par when compared to Shakespeare’s other works. It’s historically inconsistent and at times, the composition (plot, writing, characters) is clunky. Some of the characters’ actions seem far-fetched at times, and the play mixes several different periods of Roman history with little abandon or regard for the accuracy we see in later works. 

But, I think we can cut this play a little slack in part because it was one of Shakespeare’s earliest plays, and because there is something to be said for its shock value. I’m not just referring to the general gore and possible insanity of some of the characters, either. I’m talking about the ending of the play. Unlike, say, Cymbeline, A Winter’s Tale, or even Pericles, where I was able to predict part of the end (a happy ending where lovers were reunited) based on the general set-up and act structure, I didn’t know what was going to happen in Titus Andronicus. I suspected murder, but not to the extent we see in the play.
Shakespeare’s contemporaries didn’t like this play, with some even doubting that the Bard himself wrote it. They excluded the play from the First Folio, though it later appeared in following publications. Titus fell out of favor (and performance) for hundreds of years. Recently (think mid 1900s), though, it has seen a resurgence, perhaps due to our increasing cultural fondness for violent media like the shows Hannibal and Dexter. I think it’s fascinating to see increased representation of the play, which brings me to the image below.
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Here, we see Titus (missing a hand), carrying a platter of food, fresh out of the oven, to his diners. The dish is a revenge specialty: meat pie. But this is not just any kind of meat. Titus has made his daughter’s rapists into dinner. Not only does Titus murder the Queen of the Goths’s two sons, he has his daughter watch. At his dinner party, Titus serves the son-pies to Tamora herself (along with the rest of the diners). After seeing Tamora partake of his twisted confection, Titus reveals his secret recipe, sparking an all-out brawl. It ends in a bloodbath, with nearly everyone dead. 
What I find interesting about this image is that it carries (at least) two interpretations, one for the knowledgeable reader and another for an uninformed peruser of the book itself. To the latter, this image of Titus may seem innocent and possibly even friendly. It looks like a battle-scarred Roman is taking dinner to his friends or family. Nothing scary there. But when you know the story, the tension builds. Since we see the moment before everything explodes, readers may feel a sense of anxiety, suspense, and/or dread. Since we know what’s coming, we may read Titus as mentally unhinged, murderous, or even grave instead of calm. 
There is so much an image can do to augment a text. Even the decision to make Titus young in the Scripps edition influences how the reader sees him. Another portrait of Titus shows him as an old man (pictured below).
I’m not sure about you, but if this is how I saw Titus, I’d be even more shocked at his behavior, since I’d have a hard time imaging someone this fragile-looking would have the strength to brutally murderer two young men before killing his own daughter in the name of her purity and honor. I know he has the sword, but he seems so calm and soft (maybe it’s the light blue).
They say a rose by any other name would smell just as sweet. With that logic, a Titus in any other image would be just as violent, regardless of how jarring it may seem. 

Now, a Joke: Richard III, Othello, and Shylock Walk into a Bar…




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we have “The Muster of Bays’s Troops,” what appears to be a satirical cartoon featuring
many fictional characters getting ready to fight a war by singing a little ditty.
Most of these characters are unfamiliar or insignificant in terms of
Shakespeare (although it is fun to see Punch of Punch and Judy in there), but
scattered around the battlefield we see King Richard (#2), Shylock from
Merchant of Venice (#8), and Othello
from the play of the same name (#17, holding the flag in the middle).

three Shakespearean characters span the range of Shakespeare’s works; Richard
(I believe he is Richard III but I
can’t really tell) is from a history, Othello a tragedy, and Shylock a comedy. Unfortunately,
as I am not yet an expert on mid-18th century humor, and because the
internet was mostly unhelpful, I can’t tell you why these three characters
specifically made the cut, or even what this piece satirizes…Bibliotheca histrionica, a catalogue of the
theatrical and miscellaneous library of Mr. John Field which will be sold by
-the catchiest of titles- briefly mentions this image as a “satirical on Garrick and Lacy, with verses.”
David Garrick was a widely celebrated actor, well known for his performances of
Shakespeare. In the cast list of this image, King Richard is specified as the
performance of “G—–,” which I am interpreting as a reference to Garrick.


the song attached to this piece, characters are often referred to not as the character,
but as the actor who portrays them, which places the reader at a distance from
the characters and emphasizes the strong relationship that often arose between
actor and character. It also seems to suggest that the character no longer
matters; Garrick could be playing anyone at all and still have his spot in the
image. Character is secondary to actor.

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this song, each character is mentioned briefly as part of the army that will
overwhelm the rebels. Part of the joke, I think, is that these men are mostly
unassuming/unimpressive… The viewer should “See puny Richard with high Heels, / In G—–‘s
Figure perking…And Serjeant Punch,
pure Sport afford, / With mauling these Rascallions.” Punch is dressed like a
jester, and although known for, well, punching, he is not the commanding physical
or leaderly presence one might expect from a sergeant. Richard here is
emasculated and used as an example of a non-intimidating fighter.

the writer here uses specific details from the plays – Shylock has sworn to “have
your Lights and Liver” – these characters do not seem meant to be faithful
representations of Shakespeare’s characters. They pass out of the realm of
being specific characters in his plays to being convenient archetypes or
examples to carry on a joke. In the Hamlet
burlesque (comedic, irreverent retelling of Hamlet in one act), the preface brings up the people who would be
offended by mistreating the Bard and his characters in such a way, and mentions
that there is no writer better suited to a burlesque. Not to change his plays
and characters in such a way would imply that Shakespeare’s work is not strong
enough on its own to withstand a liberal retelling, that Shakespeare’s
reputation is fragile and can be ruined by a parody. This idea reframes extremely
different productions as not taking away from the brilliance of Shakespeare but
adding to it by showing how recognizable the play is even in something like a
burlesque, and as a symbol of how far Shakespeare inspired the next writer to




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