*billions and billions served since 1592
BY CAROLINE BICKS AND MICHELLE EPHRAIM
Welcome to Chicken McShakespeare, where two Shakespeare professors (and moms) serve up juicy nuggets of parenting advice, courtesy of The Bard and his cast of characters.
SPRING FASHION "AYES" AND "NAYS"
The runway is hot with Ladies' Spring Fashions, and our Shakespearean fashionistas can't wait to tell you moms what they think about the season's newest trends!
Meet the Shakespearean Fashionistas:
Ophelia: One part self-destructive outsider and one part fashion insider, Ophelia's a complex girl who's not afraid to be on the edge. Of a brook.
Juliet: Considered a style icon at St. Maria Theresa Ignatius Bonavista Academy, Juliet enjoys lace, silk, and outfits that are "virginal but fun."
Lady Macbeth: Here's a queen who's put a lot of time into planning her kingdom and her wardrobe. Lady Macbeth will stop at nothing to get the hottest, newest stuff on the market!
Antonio: When he's not getting into trouble betting a pound of flesh with Shylock, this international merchant and special "friend" of Bassanio's has an eye for sumptuous fabrics and fresh prints.
Fashion Trend 1: CITRUS
Juliet: Why not just hang a sign around your neck that says: "I left my hymen in Slutsville?" This one gets a huge "nay" from me.
Lady Macbeth: Does blood count as citrus?
Antonio: Bassanio loves citrus! And sometimes when he sucks on an orange, a little bit of juice trickles onto his chin.
Fashion Trend 2: FUTURISTIC MILITARY
Lady Macbeth: Love. This. I can go from battlefield to banquet with one cool look.
Ophelia: Hamlet once asked me to dress up like this. He called me "Mommy" and I cried. Then I wrote about it in my journal.
Antonio: Bassanio once asked me to dress up like this. Then he took my money and I cried.
Fashion Trend 3: HIGH-WAISTED PANTS
Juliet: High water alert!
Ophelia: That's not funny.
Antonio: These remind me of the time I was sailing around the Cape of Good Hope and was boarded by a group of pirates. They blindfolded me and made me scrub their poopdeck in my underwear, and then we sang sea shanties.
Lady Macbeth: You can rip me a pair of these any time. They're just my style. God, I love to wear the pants.
Fashion Trend 4: FUNKY FLORAL MIX-AND-MATCH
Ophelia: There's rosemary, that's for remembrance. And there are pansies; that's for thoughts. And tulips for depression. And violets for the six pints of Ben and Jerry's that I ate last night.
Juliet: Ophelia, you're such a nut! I think this outfit is sweet, girly, and so spring. I'd pair it with a Boyfriend Jacket.
Fashion Trend 5: SEVENTIES DISCO
Lady Macbeth: Well, slap my ass and call me Donna Pescow. This is a dress that'll keep me stayin' alive (even if no one else is!).
Ophelia: "Sun is comin' and it's getting warmer/Tell me spring is just around the corner/I'm sitting watchin' all of the flowers/Birds are singin' getting louder and louder." That's Jefferson Starship.
Antonio: Bring it, girlfriend! This takes me back to the hot nights of Gibraltar: bodies, sweat, dancing, and pounds of flesh.
Fashion Trend 6: FLATFORMS
Juliet: These get a big "nay" from me. A girl is never supposed to be taller than her boyfriend, right? Still, they're super-cute.
Ophelia: "How should I your true love know/From another one?/By his cockle hat and staff/And his sandal shoon."
Antonio: Bassanio and I have the cutest matching sandals. We got them from a tribe of Pygmies after they gave us a ritual massage on our legs and...feet.
Screw T.S. Eliot. Anyone with kids who lives anywhere near a snow belt knows that January is the cruelest month. You've barely survived "vacation" with the in-laws and your little darlings, only to be assaulted by the unpredictable, yet inevitable onslaught of school closings and sick days. You're heavier, hairier, and have chipped toenail polish. Not to mention the fact that your husband's still upset about the "final sale" Christmas gift he can't return.
But, we here at Chicken McShakespeare have some good news for you. When it comes to craigslist, January is also the month of opportunity. With just a few clicks, you can find childcare, self-improvement, a warm-weather vacation, and a home for all the clutter you've collected over the holidays. And who knows? Maybe you'll also find a new lover.
Just see how well it works for Shakespeare's characters...
willslist: January 26, 2011
babysitting offered by three loving sisters
Hi! My sisters and I are available *all* day to watch your kids if you need help on a snow day! We LOVE kids!! Especially if they weren't baptized, or were ditch-delivered by a whore! We can definitely scare up some references if you need them. firstname.lastname@example.org
my son needs BALLS!
f/t Manny asap for role-modeling. As in MAN-ny. Our lazy, squishy prince needs to MAN-UP so that he can fight for England and take over my job when I drop dead. Send c.v., references, and video clips of your 225lb. bench press repetitions to email@example.com
FOR SALE: HOUSEHOLD
Toro snow blower no longer needed since the winter of our discontent is allegedly made glorious summer by blah, blah, blah. Yeah, right. What are you looking at, asshole? I know where you live. firstname.lastname@example.org
my emasculation=your lucky day
Extenze Male Enhancement, Max Strength Tablets 30 ct. in unopened package. Wife gave them to me for Christmas, but now won’t sleep with me. Macbeth@screwcourage.gov
lamest xmas present EVER -- only $1
Justin Bieber: My World CD. My boyfriend gave it to me, but I think he got it for himself and now I'm like totally over him because he is SOOOOOO full of himself and what I really wanted was a necklace. Anyway, I'm going to a nunnery because I am like SO sick of guys, so you can write me if you want the stupid CD. Ophelia--c/o Dominican Priory and Convent; Roskilde, Denmark.
new balls that i don’t need b/c I already have balls
Box of tennis balls. Unused. Made in France so probably aren't that good. Plus I already have a set of REALLY BIG BALLS. Henry5@bigman.gov
find your inner warrior
Traditional "Model Mugging" as well as new "listen to your voices" technique developed and patented by certified soldier of God and the King. Women only. Contact Joan of Arc at email@example.com
the most monstrously lofty acting classes 4 kids
Under the tutelage of us, renowned players of the earthly orb, your child will move storms and condole! He/she will also learn how to roar as gently as any sucking dove. Children with learning disabilities and non-native speakers are more than welcome. Contact us anon at firstname.lastname@example.org
stop the blame game!
Learn how to let go of past mistakes and to embrace yourself unconditionally. Let Gertrude of Denmark, certified Forgiveness Coach, help you to move forward and ENJOY the LIFE YOU DESERVE! email@example.com
PERSONALS: MEN SEEK WOMEN
Do u have what it takes to end my Kingdom's eternal winter????
Widowed King of Sicilia looking for attractive and compliant companion for immediate marriage and childbearing. Must be mute and enjoy being locked away from all human contact. firstname.lastname@example.org
PERSONALS: WOMEN SEEK WOMEN
ready for a new start
Former Queen seeks female companion for fun and outdoor winter adventures. Recently broke up with girlfriend because she was too possessive and wanted to keep me in her art collection. Send letter by secret messenger to: Statue Lady, Paulina's Chapel, Sicilia.
PERSONALS: MISC. ROMANCE
it’s complicated . . . can you handle it?
Venetian fellow seeks man dressed as a woman dressed as a man. Must be Jewish and rich. No attachment issues, please. Serious inquiries only to Lorenzo at email@example.com
will you be my undiscovered country?
Handsome reclusive bachelor seeks lovely lady, age 14-16, to share romantic walks on my private island beach. I have a magic wand and I like to use it. I want to take you to my cave and show it to you. I like lady smells. [WARNING: this IP address under investigation for possible identity theft and associated sexual assault charges]
HOUSING: VACATION RENTALS
Luxury Palace, Alexandria, Egypt
Looking to beat the winter blahs? Come live like a Queen at this exotic Egyptian getaway. Comes with personal fortune-teller, plus use of eunuch and gold barge. $2,000,000/wk. (Landlady will provide "special" services for heads of state, Brad Pitt, or Bono.) firstname.lastname@example.org
Illyrian paradise awaits!
Fully-staffed luxury home comes with Fool, nightly vocal entertainment, and drag-king shows. Alternative lifestyles welcome! (But no yellow stockings allowed: Mistress can be moody, so don't push this one.) email@example.com
FALSTAFF'S TURKEY BREAD BOWL
If you were pioneering enough to dress your kids in our Shakespeare-inspired Halloween costumes, then you're ready to dive into Falstaff's Turkey Bread Bowl! Maybe you're looking to make a statement this Thanksgiving (like: "Yeah, okay, maybe I don't have time to make an organic sweet potato pie and handmade origami turkey centerpieces, but, damn, I know my Shakespeare!"); or maybe you just want to party like it's 1599. Either way, this sweet and savory recipe is a stress-free winner!
Falstaff's Turkey Bread Bowl
50 c. ale
Turkey (small pieces)
Loaf of Wonder Bread
1. Marinate turkey pieces and Halloween candy separately in 2 c. ale overnight. Liquid should be absorbed completely.
2. Butter each slice of Wonder Bread on both sides and reassemble into loaf shape.
3. Sit on loaf, making sure that the stack stays vertical. Apply pressure until loaf is reduced to approximately 3-inch thickness.
4. Using hand, scoop out hole in center of bread. You may discard removed bread or eat it.
5. Using hand again, carefully spread one layer of marinated turkey into the bottom of the "bowl," pressing down gently until you have a firm base. Add a layer of marinated candy. Repeat, alternately layers of turkey and candy until mixture peeks over the top of the bread.
6. Enjoy with a tankard of the remaining ale.
*Don't worry if you don't have any more Halloween candy (we never do!). If you ask around the neighborhood, the people who don't slam the door in your face will happily give you theirs.
HALLOWEEN, SHAKESPEARE STYLE
Halloween, as many of you beleaguered moms know, can be a walk of shame -- for you. It's the one day each year when all the "creative" mommies in the neighborhood get to strut their stuff. You know the ones we're talking about: the ladies who make their own, really unusual costumes for their kids and then act like it's no big deal. Like that "baby grand piano" outfit , or the "buttered popcorn" costume complete with individually hand-sewn buttered kernels. And then you feel even more like crap for buying the Ashley Tisdale High School Musical costume from Oriental Trading.
Well, this year you can be the smug Mommy on the block. We've come up with five simple, yet totally original, Shakespeare-themed costumes for your kids. We guarantee that they'll make you look creative and really well read.
Move over, Ariel! Just dip a fancy dress in cold water, and you're well on your way to creating this adorable Drowning Ophelia costume. All you need is a fishbowl filled with water, Saran Wrap to keep the water in, and a game little lady who knows how to use a snorkel!
Fair is foul, and foul is fair. Who wants to be a plain old witch when you can be one of the "Weird Sisters" -- the bearded witches who sport facial hair and terrorize men? When shocked creative Mommy asks you what's wrong with your little trick-or-treater, just flip open your Macbeth and read her Act 1, Scene 3.
King Richard III
My kingdom for a Snickers! If you have an old baby doll, you can make a convincing "withered" arm for this costume. Then, stuff your little guy with an extra shirt for a "hunchback," and top it off with a crown and beard. If he's game, give him a shoe lift for that "uneven legs" look.
Macbeth and Lady Macbeth
"Is this a dagger that I see before me?" This scary couples costume is perfect for a brother and sister pair with a flair for the morbid.
Recreate Macbeth's famous dagger speech with some duct tape, and give the Mommies something to talk about with Lady M.'s bloody baby handprints. Out, out damn spot!
BACK-TO-SCHOOL LETTERS OF THE HISTORICALLY OPPRESSED
As you are well aware, September is a month of back-to-school madness: scavenger hunts for school supplies, class placement anxiety, and elaborate travel arrangements for after-school activities. Shakespeare's characters face innumerable tragedies, for sure, but nothing is more poignant than these, the buried documents that reveal the hardships their parents endured at the beginning of every school year.
We are writing to inform you of the classroom supplies your child is required to bring on the first day of fifth grade. Each student must have 24 No. 2 pencils, one package of black ballpoint pens, and a notebook.
In addition, Shylock (and only Shylock) must bring in an electric pencil sharpener for each member of the class (24 total), 300 Ziploc bags (gallon or quart), watercolor paints (24 total), pocket-size Bibles (NEW TESTAMENT ONLY PLEASE, 24), and $1000 in unmarked bills.
All students will be handing in their summer essay assignment upon their arrival. In response to your earlier inquiry about the essay assignment -- "What I Like Best About The Aryan Golf and Racquet Club" -- yes, it is true that Shylock, like all Israelites, is not allowed entry at the club. We cannot exempt Shylock from this assignment, however, as this would be unfair to the other students.
In general, we strongly recommend that Shylock stops asking for such "special treatment" during the upcoming academic year and resorting to deception, guile, and other Israelite tricks to get what he wants.
We hope you had a wonderful summer at the Catskills. We look forward to another superior school year!
Charles Bradford C. Parish IV, Headmaster
Dear Duke and Duchess:
We hope that you and your family had a relaxing summer vacation, and that Richard learned some valuable coping skills at Camp Love Without Hurt. We're confident that he will have a productive first-grade year here at The York Academy for Boys, and that he will arrive ready to live up to our school motto: Leadership Without Tears. With this goal in mind, we'd like to suggest that Richard not partake in Show & Tell for the first few months since some of his classmates are still experiencing post-traumatic stress symptoms from his previous contributions.
As you may know, Richard's former teacher, Hank Lancaster, has taken an extended leave of absence at an undisclosed location. Unfortunately, I received a message from Mr. Lancaster indicating he was sent a package filled with lifelike "hearts on daggers," which set his recovery back at least one semester. We do not expect him to return any time soon.
Richard has been assigned to Mr. Caliban, an experienced teacher with an extensive background in wrestling and anger management.
Enjoy the last few weeks of summer.
Dr. Earnest Steele
Dear Gertrude, Queen of Denmark,
This letter is meant to accompany the "Welcome Packet" that each parent receives at the end of the summer. As you know, this packet includes a Volunteer Information Sheet, which parents are encouraged to complete and return to The Friends School's TRUST committee (Teaching Responsibility, Unconditional Support, and Thankfulness).
It is my awkward duty to inform you that TRUST will not be accepting your Volunteer Information Sheet this year. While they appreciated your enthusiastic submission of 10 forms last year, your involvement in, literally, every one of Hamlet's ninth-grade classroom activities and field trips may have hampered Hamlet's social development and independent skill-building. Furthermore, other parents were made uncomfortable with your inquiries into the students' personal lives and your candor about your own complicated family and marital situation. TRUST has passed along the suggestion that you volunteer for the fund-raising committee.
We look forward to Hamlet's return, especially as his spirits brightened so dramatically at our overnight camp this summer. His tremendous success in the Existential Philosophy summer course portends more academic achievements during the school year.
Willow Love Knutløøse, Educator and Life Coach
Dear Your Highness:
We eagerly await the return of your Exceptional daughters, Goneril and Regan. We entirely agree that they should skip three grades, and have placed them in Mrs. Mally Able’s fifth grade section.
We applaud your Exceptionally wise decision to ignore the ill-informed advice of former Headmaster, Dick Lackey -- that the girls be home-schooled. As you know, Mr. Lackey has been relieved of his duties and has checked into an in-patient rehab facility in Dover to treat his Oxycontin addiction. We are so grateful to Goneril for calling our attention to this troubling matter, and for providing detailed information about which of his pockets to check. You may also rest assured that Mr. Gloucester -- the Lower School math instructor who lost an eye last spring when your daughters accidentally removed one of the children’s safety harnesses on the "Wall of Trust" -- has been severely reprimanded for his lack of attention during the incident.
I look forward to serving you and your Exceptional daughters in the coming year.
Yours in every possible meaning of the word,
Mr. Kent C. Cophant
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Capulet,
As a result of the unfortunate incidents that cast a pall over last year's Feast of the Virgin festivities, we are instituting a school-wide augmentation of the classroom supplies list. It is our hope that the added and modified items will help our young ladies tread more securely on the right path.
Please make sure that Juliet brings the following items with her on the first day of school:
-- 24 No. 2 pencils (unsharpened)
-- Krazy Glue For The Body
-- 10-12 cans pepper spray
-- John Bugge, Virginitas: An Essay in the History of the Medieval Ideal (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 1975)
-- one pocket Bible
-- one ornate desktop Bible
-- one Kindle loaded with Revelations of Divine Love by Julian of Norwich, The Works of St. Augustine, and Of Domesticall Duties: Duties of Children (Chapter Five) by William Gouge. Students will be forbidden to upload more items.
Please pray for our girls every day. The world is full of sinners waiting to corrupt them.
May God Bless You and Your Family,
Sister Mary-Margaret Prudence Sanctimonia Scholastica
We hope your enjoying the final days of summer!
Regretably, we were passed over again this year for No Child Left Behind funding, so we have had to leave your child FALSTAFF behind for another year of half-day Kindergarten.
Please make sure that he comes to school with three extra pairs of pants and underpants, a plastic bag for soiled clothing, and his listening ears.
We would also appreciate it if you send us a check for $52.50, his outstanding milk-cart bill from last year.
Mr. Archibald "Andy" McMurray
SH** SHAKESPEARE'S FATHERS SAID (OR MIGHT HAVE SAID HAD ANYONE ASKED THEM)
It's that time of the year again: Summer. The season when dads really get to shine on the domestic front -- showing off their lawn-care skills, their BBQ-ing bravado, and revealing their big plans to build a back deck or take a chainsaw to that downed tree.
We thought it would be fun to ask our favorite Shakespearean dads what they're planning to do for the summer. What gives them that extra man-thrill when the livin' is easy? And we figured: who better to ask than Brendon and Marc -- the men behind the women of our blog: Everyday Shakespeare.
Meet the Everyday Shakespeare Husbands:
After initially resisting fatherhood, Brendon now accepts that the two minors living in his house are his children, and that they aren't leaving for many, many years. In his spare time, he enjoys serial trips to Home Depot to find the exact right screw size, trying to grow one tomato before the squirrels get it, and dreaming about using a chainsaw if only Caroline would let him risk it. When he retires, he thinks that Caroline is moving to Ketchikan, AK, to live on a fishing boat with him. Brendon is a dreamer.
Marc enjoys math, electronic devices, and steak tips. His childhood passion for programming video games has evolved into a day job involving data sets and Game Theory. He is a popular professor and boasts a full head of hair. Marc loves to spend time at the grill, which he affectionately refers to as "the only place in the f***ing house where the kids will leave me alone." He is proud of the impressive hunks of meat and fish he has served at his many dinner parties and enjoys teaching others about the pleasures of BBQ-ing. He does not like cleaning up.
Meet the Shakespeare Dads:
Hamlet, Sr. (Hamlet): After being murdered by his brother, this late King of Denmark doesn't call it quits. Now he's a ghost with an attitude who enjoys guilt-tripping his son from beyond the grave.
Shylock (The Merchant of Venice): This Jewish money lender has his work cut out for him. Anti-Semitism and a too-sexy-too-soon daughter are just the start to this guy's problems.
King Lear (King Lear): Two words: Control Issues. This dad thinks he's got parenting and home maintenance all worked out. He enjoys "dropping in" on his married daughters and staying for a few months, shirking all kingly responsibilities, and then threatening his children with disinheritance when they don't kiss his ass.
Prospero (The Tempest): This bookish dad enjoys using his magic to stir up tempests, to enslave humans and non-humans, and to control his teenage daughter. Maybe Mr. Happy-Wand should look at the man in the mirror. Maybe he should put down the magic and think about karma.
Polonius (Hamlet): Father Knows Best -- at least this dad thinks he does. When he isn't spying on his son or checking his daughter Ophelia's chastity belt, Polonius enjoys dispensing random pieces of "advice" to anyone who'll listen.
King Henry VIII (Henry VIII or What You Will, also real-life King of England from 1509-1547): Don't mess with this Big Daddy. Can you produce a male heir? No? Then watch your back, ladies, cuz he'll chop off your head while munching on a leg of mutton. In his spare time, he enjoys rewriting Papal Law so he can marry whomever it is he wants to knock up that month.
Leontes (The Winter's Tale): King of Sicilia and, in his own paranoid little mind, King of the Cuckolds. When he isn't putting his wife Hermione on trial for adultery and treason, he enjoys scrutinizing his son for genetic markers and bullying courtiers into killing his newborn daughter.
So, without further ado, let's hand things over to the DADS...
Brendon: Hi, guys. So, I have to admit, I was pretty nervous about becoming a father. Did you ever have doubts when it came to having your kids?
Leontes: If by "my kids" you mean "the small people birthed by my wife who live under my roof," then the answer would be: "Is the Pope Catholic?"
Henry VIII: What does it matter if the Pope's Catholic? I never let that get in my way. Listen, having my son was the greatest decision I ever made. So what if it took me a couple of wives? That's what you do for your son. Am I right, gentlemen?
Henry VIII: Excuse me?
Leontes: If you believe your son's your son, then I've got some primo oceanfront property for you in the Gobi Desert.
Brendon: Well, how about the rest of you? Now that you have your kids, don't you look forward to things like playing baseball with them and getting homemade Father's Day gifts?
Leontes: I banned Father's Day from my Kingdom. It's a sucker's holiday.
King Lear: Actually, Father's Day is a National Holiday in my kingdom. My, what a time we have! All of the fathers sit around all day while their daughters serve them. Or is that Dress-Down Fridays? Or every Wednesday? Oh, well, the point is, Father's Day is a perfect opportunity to remind children where they stand. And to remind yourself that cake is a nummy treat that tastes even better when your daughter spoon-feeds it to you.
Hamlet, Sr.: I wouldn't know about that since my manly loins only generate sons. My Hamlet once wrote me an interesting poem for Father's Day: "Roses are red, blood is too. Why did you have me? Adieu, world, adieu."
Shylock: Who are you calling "Jew?"
Hamlet, Sr.: Pardon me?
Shylock: Pardon you? Easy for you to say! You crap on generations of my people and expect me to pardon you?
Hamlet, Sr.: Little man, I've never seen you before in my life.
Brendon: You know what I've never seen? A perfect tomato. I’ve been trying for years to grow one, but they keep getting eaten by animals or fungus. Any advice?
Polonius: Neither a borrower nor a lender be. Don't take any wooden nickels. Semper ubi sub ubi. Tut, tut, it looks like rain.
Brendon: So…I should just hope for rain?
Prospero: Well, some of us don't need to hope for things like that: we just make it happen. Frankly, I find your tomato problem entirely pedestrian. But if you insist on my engaging with it, I would suggest enslaving an inferior creature to guard your plants.
Shylock: Who're you calling an "inferior creature?"
Prospero: Hoo boy, here we go again.
Brendon: Shylock, tell me, what home improvement projects are you most looking forward to this summer?
Shylock: Well, given that I'm the only one here who actually has to earn his living, it's safe to say I won't have any time for building a sauna or growing the greenest yard. Oh, wait. That's right. I'm not allowed to have a yard. Enjoy the weed-whacking, Christians.
Henry VIII: Weed whackers. Now why didn't I think of that? So much simpler than having to go through all that trial hocus pocus to get to a "legal" beheading. Genius!
Hamlet, Sr.: I had a lovely garden once where I enjoyed taking afternoon naps, but then my brother killed me in it, so I don't much like thinking about that anymore. Excuse me, gentlemen, I have to report back to the flames of Purgatory before the sun rises.
Marc: Hey, you know what those flames remind me of? BBQ.
Henry VIII: Yes-ss-ss.
Marc: Whoa! You got a spout hole in your face, King? That's some serious drool.
Shylock: Great. He's gonna spit on me. I know it.
Marc: Shylock, do you know the Goldmans? They're at our synagogue. Mike Goldman just got an unbelievable Webber Summit S-460. It's built into the frickin' wall. We're gonna get some Kosher wings and juice them up with teriyaki.
Polonius: You catch more flies with honey than vinegar. A stitch in time saves nine. Keep your legs closed and your hymen closer. I'm talkin' pedicure on our toes, toes, trying on all our clothes, clothes. Boys try to touch my junk, junk. Gonna smack him if he gettin' too drunk, drunk.
Marc: Great idea, Polonius. Who wants to join the party?
Hamlet, Sr.: Ah, for a world solely comprised of you noble men! Please accept my regrets. (He flashes them double "peace" signs and disappears into an engulfing fog.)
Leontes: My wife loves chicken wings. Do you know her?
Marc: Um, I think so. Is she friends with the Finkelsteins?
Leontes: So you do know her! I knew it! That whore falls hook, line and sinker for a full head of hair! Aaahhh!
Prospero: I have a recipe for magic salmon skewers that I would be willing to share with the group. For the small price of your freedom.
Marc: That sounds great. All we need now is some wine.
King Lear: Done and done. I'll have my daughters bring it over. Better yet, I'll have them compete to see who can crush the most grapes using nothing but their bare feet.
(Pssst. Hey, Dads! What Kind of Shakespearean Dad Are YOU? Are you man enough to take our QUIZ and find out?)
FROM THE KINDERGARTEN ARCHIVES OF SHAKESPEARE'S MOST TROUBLED CHARACTERS
It's the end of the school year, and that means school fairs, stepping-up ceremonies, and teacher gifts. It also means end-of-year student reports. For parents of Kindergarteners, this may be the first time that a near stranger has presented you with a formal statement about your child's emotional, social, and/or intellectual limitations.
After some rigorous archival research, we've dug up evidence that anxiety-causing assessments of your child are not exclusive to the modern era. So here's our advice: be reassured that you are not alone in your angst, but just part of a long tradition of parents who have been tortured by these uniquely unnerving documents.
Shylock has adequately met the requirements of the Kindergarten year at Aryan Hall Prep. A solitary child, Shylock prefers to stay inside during recess, counting the profits from his milk money lending "business," and checking that the windows are locked. Shylock's behavior can seem rigid to his peers. At last month's bake sale, for example, he insisted on weighing each of his classmate's brownies to make sure he was not getting "ripped off."
Shylock does have a mind for numbers and enjoys boasting about his addition and subtraction skills. It would be helpful, however, to remind him that he cannot compete with his peers when it comes to athletics and general affability. Whining that their natural gifts are "unfair" will win him neither friends nor fans amongst the Aryan Prep faculty.
Perhaps Shylock would be happier at the Spoleto Institute of Technology, where his focus on mechanical operations would be better appreciated.
Charles Bradford C. Parish IV, Headmaster
After a difficult winter term, Richard enters the summer with far less discontent. Once he learned that biting was not an effective way to attract playmates, he was able to form alliances with some of the other children. He especially enjoyed our unit on Classical Oration and excelled in Debate, presenting a memorable argument for why teachers with poor evaluations should be executed.
Richard obviously enjoyed participating in Show & Tell, although we do hope you will monitor his selections more closely in the future: his model of a Lancastrian's bloody heart on a dagger was not an appropriate choice, as it frightened our diversity population. Here at York Academy we live by our school motto: Leadership Without Tears.
I regret that I will not be able to continue as Richard's teacher next year when he begins first grade. I am taking a leave of absence in an undisclosed location. Should Richard try to mail me any letters, perhaps it would be best to tell him that I am dead.
Yours in Good Health,
Hamlet is a sensitive child who is easily reduced to tears. He deeply feels other children's pain as his own, and is quick to come to a sad friend's aid by pointing out the relative triviality of his or her suffering.
Earlier in the year, Hamlet assumed that others always knew what was bothering him, and he quickly became agitated when asked to use his words. We are pleased to see that he has made progress in expressing his frustrations, but we would like to support him in finding a more appropriate venue for doing so: he prefers to curl up in a ball and scream at his peers during Group Time, an act that disrupts the delicate circle of trust we seek to build here at The Friends School. A recent incident in which he told Ophelia Wannamaker to jump in a lake was especially unfortunate.
We are confident that, with more practice and positive reinforcement, Hamlet will continue to build his trust in others. We are pleased that he has developed friendships with Joey Rosencrantz and Gunther Guildenstern. Together, they engage in cooperative imaginative play, digging for "bones" in the sandbox and playing "Loony Bin" in the Dramatic Area.
We understand that Hamlet will be spending much of the summer with his mother on a couples retreat at Sandals Middelfart on the Danish coast. While we actively encourage parent-child bonding, we hope that Hamlet will have some time during the school holiday to continue working on social pragmatics with his peers.
Willow Love Knutløøse, Educator and Life Coach
Dear Your Highness,
It is our great honor to present this end-of-year report on your daughter Goneril's progress. As the esteemed founder of our school, you know that we strive to help Exceptional children find productive ways to channel their Exceptional behaviors through teamwork and wilderness challenges. Although we feel that having Goneril repeat her Kindergarten year was beneficial to her personal Exceptionality, we acknowledge that joining her sister Regan as a classmate did present some unforeseen challenges.
While Goneril and Regan did an Exceptional job teaming up with one another, at times their advanced teamwork was too much for the less Exceptional children to navigate. Their impulse to help some of the weaker children climb the Wall of Trust last month was commendable; the removal of these children’s safety harnesses, however, while Exceptionally creative, did imperil and maim some of their more trusting classmates as well as the teachers who tried in vain to break their falls. The upshot of this incident, as you know from our emergency meeting at King Lear County Hospital, is that Jim Gloucester, the Lower School Math instructor, lost an eye.
Goneril's recent Exceptional behavior suggests to us that she may very well have surpassed our own standards. While The King Lear Wilderness School would not be the same without Goneril's Exceptional presence, we humbly recommend homeschooling for this Exceptional girl. Free from the distractions of other children, she will no doubt continue to amaze us all.
Sir Dick Lackey, Servant to the King and his Offspring, Headmaster of the School
Juliet struggled at the beginning of the year to find the correct path towards Chastity and Obedience, but we believe she is now moving in the right direction.
While Juliet is a polite girl who generally does as the nuns ask, she is also naturally curious. In the proper context, this quality is a blessing. She was especially attentive, for example, during Friar Laurence's visit when he let the children sample some of his more unusual herbal concoctions. Unfortunately, her curiosity went a bit too far when she started playing "Five Minutes on the Balcony" with Rosalind Rizzo. This matter was effectively addressed at our November parent-teacher conference. We are pleased to report that Juliet has shown no further signs of this behavior since Rosalind's expulsion, and is now engaging in much more appropriate play. She was utterly convincing as Lazarus rising from the dead in a delightful little production that she and her classmates put on at the school festival for the Assumption of the Virgin.
Juliet's potential to bend to authority will serve her well as she moves forward. Under the watchful eye of the sisters of Sacred Heart Academy and her parents, we are confident that she will blossom into a virtuous young lady of Verona.
May God Bless You and Your Family,
Sister Mary-Margaret Prudence Sanctimonia Scholastica
As noted in our fall report, Falstaff has had a difficult transition to St. Bollocks. At the beginning of the year, Falstaff was unenthusiastic about leaving his seat, even to go the bathroom. However, with the help of one-on-one aid and candy rewards, Falstaff is now showing interest in many aspects of school life, especially music class and all-you-can-eat pizza day at the cafeteria.
Mr. Archibald "Andy" McMurray
HOW TO GET IN SHAPE FOR THE SUMMER
Whenever we want answers to our most pressing parenting questions, we turn to Shakespeare's moms for advice. We figure, hey, if they survived murderous children, thankless husbands, and extreme plague conditions, then these are our go-to ladies.
So, now that the weather's warming up, we're thinking about real problems -- like how to hide our muffin-tops at the pool and protect our aging skin from the ravages of the sun. Time to gather our favorite moms for a roundtable on "How To Get in Shape For the Summer."
Meet the Shakespeare Moms:
Hermione (The Winter's Tale) has, until recently, pretended to be dead for sixteen years and disguised herself as a statue. She's gotten back together with her abusive husband even though it's his fault that her children are dead or missing.
Lady Capulet (Romeo and Juliet) is a big snob and has no idea her "perfect" daughter is a sex magnet.
Cleopatra (Antony and Cleopatra) enjoys being the Queen of Egypt, having sex, intimidating her boyfriend Antony by wearing his clothes, and bragging about all her Baby Daddies.
Lady Macbeth (Macbeth) will do anything to be number one, whether it's making her husband kill the King of Scotland or bashing in a baby's head.
Gertrude (Hamlet) is married to the man who killed her husband. In her spare time, she emotionally smothers her son.
The Duchess of York (Richard III) can't stop talking about the fact that she's given birth to a deformed murderer -- a.k.a. Richard III, King of England.
Now. Let's listen to what they have to say:
Hermione: Ladies, I'm so excited about getting into "fighting form!" By the way, have you tried my Splenda Snaps? My husband loves them. (She passes a plate of cookies.)
Lady Macbeth: Listen to you, yammering on about your husband's feelings and ignoring your own needs. That's a one-way ticket to Dumpyville. My motto is: Mind of steel, buns of steel. (She dashes the plate of Splenda Snaps to the floor. Hermione happily picks up the shards and starts bleeding profusely.)
Hermione (laughing): It's funny you did that, because I was just going to say experiencing pain is a great way to get fit! I do chores alongside my servants and sometimes even collapse from exhaustion!
Cleopatra: I don't worry about getting in shape, because I never leave the palace without my smoke and mirrors. Oh, and that little eunuch with the fan. Nothing says "old" like sweat-caked face powder.
Gertrude: I drink and have sex with my husband. That's my thing. It's so crazy. He's crazy. And maybe a killer. Me-yow.
Cleopatra: Right on, sister. Way to keep it fresh. Have you ever done it wearing his clothes? How about you, Cappy?
Lady Capulet: Well now, I don't know about all that. At our country club, we don't admit whores. It's so important that children have appropriate role models to keep their minds and their bodies pure. Juliet and I are doing mommy-daughter Atkins together.
Lady Macbeth: Really? I just saw her picking up a box of Munchkins at the Dunkin' Donuts drive-thru.
Lady Capulet: That's impossible. She's getting a colonic.
Lady Macbeth: Oh, I bet she is. Right after her Romeo protein shake.
(Lady Macbeth, Cleopatra, and Gertrude burst out laughing.)
Lady Capulet: Yes, that's terribly funny. Don't you all have your own deaths to prepare for?
Hermione: Speaking of Munchkins, I just have to say that having babies is absolutely the best way to lose weight! I was always so busy running around after my son and breastfeeding my daughter that I never had that problem. I actually had trouble gaining weight.
Lady Macbeth: Was that before or after you were holed up for sixteen years waiting for your husband to like you again? Because I'm pretty sure I see some love handles on you now.
Hermione: Excuse me. How many children do you have?
Lady Macbeth: Oh, we're going to play the counting kids game, are we? Last I checked, that wasn't going so well for you.
Gertrude: Let's not lose sight of why we're here, ladies. I agree with Hermione: breastfeeding just makes the pounds melt away! My Hamlet still comes home for a quick top-off when he can get away from his studies. Of course, he's fat, but I'm as lithe as a willow branch. I just don't understand why a woman would hire a wet-nurse to do it for her. Where are you going, Cappy?
Lady Capulet: I need some air.
Duchess of York: That whole "nursing-keeps-you-looking-young" argument is a crock. My son, Richard, was a hell-child from the moment he ripped his way out of my body until the day he died. And, let me tell you, I aged thirty years helping that toothy monster survive his first month.
Cleopatra: Duchess, step into my pyramid and let my servants treat you to a hot oil massage and some Twinkies. You've earned it, hon. You too, Cappy. You look like you could use some carbs.
Every Mom has their Shakespearean counterpart! To find out yours, take our QUIZ.
Michelle Ephraim lives with her husband and three kids in Boston. By day, she is Associate Professor of English at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Her essays have appeared in publications, such as: The Washington Post, McSweeney's Internet Tendency, Lilith, Tikkun, The Morning News, and The Chronicle of Higher Education. She is currently working on a book about Shakespeare and other stuff.
Caroline's work has been seen (and sometimes heard) on babble.com, FRESHYARN, McSweeney's Internet Tendency, in the book and show "Afterbirth: Stories You Won't Read in a Parenting Magazine" (St. Martin's Press), and on NPR's "All Things Considered." She is an English Professor at Boston College, where she teaches Shakespeare and Women's Studies.
Be sure to check out Caroline and Michelle's blog about how The Bard meets life at: Everyday Shakespeare.