Apr. 23rd, 2016

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Today may be the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death – but it’s also (widely regarded as) his 452nd birthday.

So to celebrate, I’m taking part in the Simply Shakespeare Blog Hop

It’s impossible to overestimate the influence this one man’s work has had on English language, literature and culture.  Not only has he given us a whole phrasebook of common sayings, his plays are still relevant – and open to reinterpretation for the needs of a modern audience – today.

This is all the more remarkable considering how the English language – and how it it spoken - has changed since Shakespeare’s time, leaving some of his cleverest (and dirtiest) puns to fall sadly flat to the modern ear – see:  http://www.vox.com/2015/4/23/8479871/shakespeare-dirty-jokes

Some things never change, though:

Titus Andronicus: Act 4, Scene 2

Thou hast undone our mother.
Villain, I have done thy mother.

Yep. It’s a “your mom” joke. From the fifteenth century. 

And that, I think, is one of the secrets of Shakespeare’s lasting appeal: he didn’t just create sweeping dramas, with lyrical language showcasing a wider vocabulary than any other writer ever; he also knew just how much we all, secretly, love a low-down dirty joke.

Played!72webI’ll leave you with an excerpt from Played!, my rather heavily Shakespeare-influenced novel of amateur dramatics. In this scene Tristan (a professional actor) is helping the object of his affections, Con, to rehearse a scene from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, in which Con is to be Bottom:

“I thought we’d go back to the scenes with Titania. How’s your singing?”

Con looked supremely uncomfortable. “Dunno. Never really done any.”

“Excellent. Just remember, this is supposed to sound bad.” Tristan took a moment to berate himself for his epic failure of nerve, then another to breathe in the character of Nick Bottom. A puffed-up idiot who utterly failed to live up to his own expectations.

No, that wouldn’t be too far a stretch of his abilities right now. Tristan began singing in a nasal monotone, clapping his hands to the beat.

“The ousel cock so black of hue,

With orange-tawny bill,

The throstle with his note so true,

The wren with little quill,”

He broke off for a moment, a thought striking. “You could go for the laughs with cock and little quill, but remember you’ll be in full ass’s regalia then, so any subtle expressions are likely to be lost.” Tristan frowned. He never had had that conversation with Heather over Bottom’s costume. “Do we know yet what you’re going to have in the way of headgear? We should find out sooner rather than later.”

“Yeah. It’s just gonna be this sort of hood thing—Hev reckoned it’d be funnier. And, well, cheaper, than a full ass’s head.”

Tristan nodded. “No, that’s good—we could work with either, but it does make a difference. How about a tail?”

Con blinked. “Dunno. Is that in the play? I thought it was just his head that got changed.”

“Oh, you mustn’t underestimate the efficacy of a tail. One can do all sorts of things with a tail.” Remembering his goal, Tristan smiled flirtatiously and added a little of a leer for good measure.

Con, predictably, flushed.

“Ah, well. Onwards and tupwards, as the saying goes.” Con was frowning, but Tristan ignored it. “You, dear boy, are about to be seduced by a fairy. Are you ready?”


“I’ll be the fairy. Come, sit thee down upon this flowery bed. Tristan patted the sofa impatiently until Con sat, perching upon the edge like a very large, very nervous bird preparing to take flight. Beaming, Tristan continued with both words and actions. “While I thy amiable cheeks do coy, and stick musk-roses in thy sleek smooth head, and kiss thy fair large ears, my gentle joy.

Con swallowed audibly. “Uh, that was my real ear you just kissed.”

Amazon | ARe | Samhain

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Not only is it Will’s 400th deathday today, it’s also (probably) his 452nd birthday, so here’s a little excerpt from Played!, my novel of amateur dramatics centred on A Midsummer Night’s Dream, with Tristan being a tad cranky on being woken up in the morning by a knock on the door:


Tristan hurled back the blankets (Nanna Geary hadn’t agreed with new-fangled duvets), marched to the window and flung it open to shout down at the street below. “Whoreson, beetle-headed, flap-ear’d knave!”

Con’s face stared up at him, his brow creased in a frown. “What did you just call me?”

Tristan gulped. His wooing, it appeared, was not getting off to an auspicious start.


rainbow snippits scissors

You can read a longer excerpt from Played! in my post on the Simply Shakespeare Blog Hop.

And don’t forget to check out all the other snippets on the Rainbow Snippets Facebook Group.

Played!72webAll the world’s a stage…but real-life lessons are hidden in the heart

Though Tristan must join his family’s New York firm at summer’s end—no more farting around on stage, as his father so bluntly puts it—he can’t resist when Shamwell’s local amateur dramatics society begs him to take a role in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

The bonus: giving private acting lessons to a local handyman who’s been curiously resistant to Tristan’s advances. Not only is Con delicious, there’s fifty pounds riding on Tristan getting him in his bed.

A late-diagnosed dyslexic, Con’s never dared to act, convinced he’d never be able to learn his lines. But with Tristan’s help, he takes the chance. Trouble is, the last time Con fell for a guy, he ended up getting his heart broken. And with Tristan due to leave the country soon, Con is determined not to start anything that’s bound to finish badly.

Just as Tristan thinks he’s finally won Con’s heart—and given his own in return—disaster strikes. And the curtain may have fallen forever on their chance for happiness.

Warning: contains a surfeit of Bottoms and asses, together with enough mangled quotations to have the Bard of Avon gyrating in his grave.


 Amazon | ARe | Samhain


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