Sunday, April 22, 2018

Bard Watching: A Shakespeare Quiz

Huzzah! It's spring — and a perfect time to take up Bard watching.

April 26th (1564) is the birthday and April 23rd (1616) the recorded death day for William Shakespeare — aka the Bard of Avon. He is one of the greatest playwrights and poets in British history, and hey nonny, nonny — that’s saying something.

Billy Shakespeare has contributed so many words and phrases to the English language that it’s impossible to calculate his influence. If you’re an educator or an English major, you may think it’s a foregone conclusion [Othello] that truth will out [Merchant of Venice] and you will get all the questions right. While this Shakespeare quiz may not be the be all, end all [Macbeth], nonetheless the game is afoot! [Henry IV, Pt.1].


Do you know (or can you guess) which play these expressions came from? Answers are at the bottom, but no peeking!

1.) "Too much of a good thing"

a.) As You Like It   b.) King Lear    c.) Comedy of Errors   d.)  Twelfth Night

2.) "Kill with kindness"

a.) Julius Caesar   b.) Pericles    c.) Taming of the Shrew   d.)  Richard II

3.) "Love is blind"

a.) A Winter's Tale   b.) Merchant of Venice    c.) Measure for Measure   d.)  Love's Labour's Lost

4.) "There's method in my madness" 

a.) Macbeth   b.) Pericles    c.) Othello   d.)  Hamlet

5.) "Send him packing"

a.) The Tempest   b.) Henry IV, Pt 1    c.) King John   d.)  Julius Caesar

6.) "What the dickens"

a.) Merry Wives of Windsor   b.) The Tempest   c.) Pericles   
d.)  Titus Andronicus

7.) "Knock, knock. Who's there?"

a.) Henry V   b.) Macbeth    c.) King John   d.)  Julius Caesar

8.) "Wear your heart on your sleeve"

a.) Hamlet   b.) Henry IV, Pt 1    c.) King Lear   d.)  Othello

9.) "Eaten out of house and home"

a.) Antony and Cleopatra   b.) Henry IV, Pt 2    c.) King Lear   d.)  Julius Caesar

10.) "All the world's a stage"

a.) Merry Wives of Windsor   b.) Measure for Measure    c.) The Tempest   d.)  As You Like It


Which Shakespeare characters might have sent these tweets?

11.) Yo, anybody in Scotland know a good drycleaner? Can't get this dang spot out!

12.) 2B. . .or not 2B. Can't find my girlfriend's apartment. Tragic!

13.) Guys, I said BREECH. Not "once more unto the beach"! Prepare for battle.

14.) WEATHER ALERT: Rain falling on the just and the unjust. Have mercy!


Which characters from which plays might have posted these memes on Facebook?








Family Pix  22--25

What fabulously famous playwright might have posted these pix on Pinterest?


Stratford-upon-Avon -- my birthplace

My wife Anne's cottage

The Globe Theatre, where I used to play around
Huzzah! A statue of me. Cool, right?


1.) "Too much of a good thing" A - As You Like It ;  2.) "Kill with kindness"  C - The Taming of the Shrew; 3.) "Love is blind" B - The Merchant of Venice; 4.) "There's method in my madness" D - Hamlet; 5.) "Send him packing" B - Henry IV; 6.) "What the dickens" A - The Merry Wives of Windsor;  7.) "Knock, knock. Who's there?" B - Macbeth; 8.) "Wear your heart on your sleeve"  D - Othello;  9.) "Eaten out of house and home" B - Henry IV, Part 2; 10.) "All the world's a stage" D - As You Like It

11.) "...Can't get this dang spot out" - Lady Macbeth, feeling guilty, in Macbeth; 12.) "2B...or not 2B..." Hamlet, contemplating suicide in Hamlet; 13.) "Not once more unto the beach" -- Title character in Henry V, encouraging the troops to fight one more time--"Once more unto the breech!"; 14.) Weather Alert: Portia, pleading for mercy, in The Merchant of Venice , "The quality of mercy is not strained..."

15.) "A very palpable hit!" - Osric in Hamlet (during swordfight)--if you got Hamlet, that's good enough!; 16.) "Guys in the Senate are killin' me." Title character in Julius Caesar, as he was literally being killed by Senators; "Don't it make my blue eyes green" - Iago speaks to Othello of the "green-eyed monster," jealousy;  "'" - King Lear might have posted this URL, since he thought his daughter Cordelia didn't love him (King Lear);  "Coven-on-the-Moors" - The Three Witches in Macbeth meet on the Moor and give Macbeth a tantalizing prophecy; 20.) "So is it okay to kill your uncle..." - In Hamlet, Hamlet ponders killing his uncle, for the very reason mentioned in this meme; 21.) "For sale: one pound of flesh" - Shylock wants to extract a pound of flesh from Antonio in The Merchant of Venice.

22--25 -- Pix from Shakespeare's life: Duh, William Somebody-or-other

Image Credits:
    Shakespeare painting: possibly by John Taylor, Public Domain
    Twitter symbol -- Icon made by Freepik from
    Facebook symbol -- Icon made by Freepik from
    Memes made by Patty Kyrlach
    Pinterest symbol -- Icon made by Freepik from
    Stratford-upon-Avon -- Original uploader was Kev747 at en.wikipedia
    Anne Hathaway's Cottage -- Author, Richard Peat
    The Globe -- Author: Maschinenjunge
    Shakespeare Statue -- Author: Lonpicman

Monday, April 16, 2018

Surprised by Joy

The world of writer and Christian apologist C. S. Lewis (Jack) was decidedly masculine.

The Kilns

Jack lived in a house called the Kilns, in a quiet, predictable life with his brother Warren Hamilton Lewis (Warnie).

Magdalen College, Cambridge

He was a professor at an all-male school.  

He had a group of good friends – all men. They met at a local pub for drinks and intellectual discussions. He went on walking trips with Barfield, Tolkien, or Warnie   all men.

Jack's world was pretty much limited to men — tweed jackets, foaming pints, and pipe smoke.

And then came Joy.

Helen Joy Davidman

A child prodigy raised in the Bronx, Helen Joy Davidman read the writings of George MacDonald. She later wrote that these stories “developed in me a lifelong taste for fantasy, which led me years later to C. S. Lewis, who in turn led me to religion.” She went on to earn a Master’s degree in English literature from Columbia. She was an award-winning poet and the author of two novels.

In youth, she was an atheist and a Communist. Her marriage to William Lindsey Graham was unhappy. Her husband drank too much and was given to outbursts of temper. 

Partly because of the writings of C. S. Lewis, Joy converted to Christianity. She struck up a trans-Atlantic correspondence with Jack and actually fell in love with him long distance, although her affections were not reciprocated. She even made a trip to England with her two sons.

The Study at the Kilns
One day, Lewis had a letter from Joy, asking if they could meet at a restaurant. When the day came, Joy found Jack and Warnie at a table, and a lively conversation instantly ignited. 

Warnie later confided to his diary that Jack and Joy had built “a rapid friendship.” He described Joy as “a Christian convert of Jewish race, medium height, good figure, horn rimmed specs, quite extraordinarily uninhibited.” And he later wrote, “For Jack the attraction was at first undoubtedly intellectual. Joy was the only woman whom he had met…who had a brain which matched his own in suppleness, in width of interest, and in analytical grasp, and above all in humour and a sense of fun.” 

Joy and the two boys spent a couple of weeks as guests of Jack and Warnie at the Kilns. While in England, Joy received a letter from her husband saying that he was having an affair with her cousin and he wanted a divorce. She went home to try to save her marriage.

After the divorce, Joy returned to England, found an apartment, and set the boys up in school. But child support from Gresham soon stopped, and she found herself in financial straights. Lewis found her a house close to the Kilns and also paid for the boys’ schooling.

Jack and Joy helped each other with their writing, with Joy serving as the inspiration for Orual in Jack’s Till We Have Faces.

Suddenly Joy had another problem, when her Visitor’s Visa was not renewed by the Home Office. Lewis, wanting to help a friend, offered to marry Joy in a civil ceremony to keep her from being sent back to America. This was a marriage in name only  they continued to live separately.

One day Joy tripped on a phone wire and broke her leg. In the hospital, the doctors found that Joy had a far more serious problem  breast cancer that had spread to her bones. Their prognosis? Incurable.

Upon receiving this news, Jack was devastated, for he now realized that he loved Joy as she loved him.  

Joy underwent several operations and procedures to treat the cancer. In March, Warnie wrote in his diary: “One of the most painful days of my life. Sentence of death has been passed on Joy, and the end is only a matter of time.”  

Jack and Helen were married in a religious ceremony at the hospital on the 21st of March in 1957. After that, several of Jack’s old friends avoided them, because Joy had been divorced.

Lewis's bedroom at the Kilns

A week later, Joy went home to the Kilns — and there she enjoyed a long remission of the cancer. They took a few trips.
But the cancer returned, and she died in July of 1960.

Lewis had written a poem as a tribute for his friend, Charles Williams, and he adapted it for Joy:

Here the whole world (stars, water, air,
And field, and forest, as they were
Reflected in a single mind)
Like cast off clothes was left behind
In ashes, yet with hopes that she,
Re-born from holy poverty,
In lenten lands, hereafter may 
Resume them on her Easter Day.  

Jack had written a memoir of his early life, entitled Surprised by Joy. By joy, he meant a longing for something so other, so holy, so awesome, that there are no words to describe it. God must have chuckled when He sent Joy — as a person — into Jack's life

Their time together was short but certainly transformative for both of them.

On April 18th, we celebrate the birthday of Helen Joy Davidman Lewis, while Jack and Joy celebrate in Heaven.

Image Credits:
    The Kilns -- Author: jschroe from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, USA;
    Magdalen College -- source unknown;
    Eagle and Child sign -- Author: ceridwen
   Joy Davidman -- Wikipedia, Author: The Book Haven, Cynthia Haven's blog 
         -- used for illustration and identification;
    Lewis's study at the Kilns -- Author: jschroe from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, USA;
    The Kilns, Jack's bedroom -- Author: jschroe from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, USA;
    River and woodland -- Author: inkknife_2000

Monday, April 9, 2018

Doggie Dreams

Not long ago I had a dream. About a dog. 

I found it strange, because we haven't had a dog since we moved back to the city. It turns out I'm allergic to dogs, and so I limit my dealings with those of the canine persuasion  however winsome they may be.

But in this dream I had a dog. And apparently a group of people had gathered to watch my dog do his tricks.

The dog  don't remember the breed  just a dog  walked on his hind legs over to a blackboard and picked up a piece of chalk. Whereupon he wrote out several complex mathematical equations.

Of course, this was a dream, so I suppose an equation-writing dog didn't seem all that out of the ordinary.

Until a man in a tweed jacket turned to me and said (in a snooty-patooty voice), "You do realize, of course, that the dog doesn't actually understand the math...."

Whereupon I woke up  presumably from an adrenaline  rush triggered by this man's utter arrogance and stupidity.

Tweedy had so missed the point. Who cares if the dog understood the equations? I mean, I couldn't go to a blackboard and write out fancy-pants equations. (For me, long division is higher math....) And it was pretty darn impressive that this dog could do it  whether he understood them or not.

The moral of the story must be that dogs are sometimes smarter than people. 

I was reminded of this dream and this moral recently when I read an utterly enchanting book called The Poet's Dog, by master-storyteller Patricia MacLachlan. 

If the name Patricia MacLachlan sounds familiar, it's probably because she is the Newbery Award-winning author of Sarah, Plain and Tall

In this story, two children  Nickel and Flora  are lost in a terrible snowstorm but are rescued by an Irish wolfhound  named Teddy, who leads them to the cabin he had shared with his poet friend Sylvan. 

Through the days of their confinement together, the dog and the children share many confidences  for Teddy can talk  but only to children and poets. And if you had conversations with your dog as a child, you will know that this must be true.

Not since Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate diCamillo have I enjoyed a "dog book" so much. I am sure this is one of those books I will reread many times, with fresh pleasure in every reading.  

The children built a fire to keep warm in the cabin, to keep the howling, growling storm at bay. And in this story, MacLachlan has built a fire to warm our hearts in the long winter season of our souls.

So, Mr. Tweed Jacket, can you understand that?

Photo Credits:
     Dog Silhouette -- Public Domain
     Spaniel -- Public Domain
     Equation -- Collections École Polytechnique / Jeremy Barande
     Irish wolfhound -- Author: Tirwhan
     Fireplace -- Author: Fastily (TALK)

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Who's the Fool?

We’ve all had the experience of losing someone close to us— an inner earthquake  that upends the world so there’s no going back to the way things were before.

On the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter, the sky had come crashing down for the family and friends of Jesus. Surely nothing could ever be right again. They groped, forsaken and numb, through that Sabbath, with memories that were vivid and nightmarish.

Just when things were looking up for the world, when it seemed that God had finally come to dwell among men, when a wise and loving Master was healing the sick and speaking words of comfort and hope — just then, everything had gone horribly wrong.

Angry men with torches, shouting and swearing — Jesus arrested — the disciples scattering — Judas hanging himself — Peter denying his Lord, Pilate washing his hands of the whole mess.

Demons danced. Satan must have been rubbing his hands together in glee. "What a fool! He let himself be captured. This is too easy!" After a battle spanning thousands of years, Satan had won!

For the disciples, it seemed things couldn’t get any worse. But then came Sunday, when the really crazy stuff started happening.

Really. Crazy.

The stone rolled back from the tomb? How did that happen?

A missing body — stolen? But who? How?

One of the women, obviously delusional, babbling about seeing Jesus?

A couple of guys walking a country road and breaking bread with a disappearing rabbi? 

And then, everybody loses it. An apparition comes right through the wall — apparitions can do that — and greets the disciples.

But this is no apparition, no ghost. It’s Jesus. Alive! Impossible — but true.

Satan reaches for his key ring, the keys to death, hell, and the grave. "GONE!"  He searches frantically. "NO!!! This wasn't supposed to happen! He tricked me. No, no, no!"

* * * * *

One Easter weekend long ago, when my children were small, my oldest son presented me with a crayon drawing. It was a Crucifixion scene  appropriate because it was Good Friday.  At the bottom, he had written something like “Mom, your chair has disappeared. . . .April Fool!" Which was appropriate because it was also April Fool’s Day. 

Somehow, the juxtaposition of the Crucifixion and “April Fool’s” struck my crazy brain as totally awesome. I love it that this year Easter falls on April Fool’s.

April Fool’s, Satan! Your calculations were just a little off. You honestly thought you won? Think again. The Life of the Son of God was stronger than Death. 

And it still is today.

Image credits:
  Jesus carrying the cross: Public Domain
  Crucifixion, Gustave Dore: Public Domain
  Easter Morning, Friedrich Overbeck, Public Domain
  Resurrection of Christ, Giovanni Bellini, Public Domain
  The Risen Christ, Public Domain

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Kate DiCamillo — Happy Birthday!

The Tale of Despereaux,
Candlewick Press 
Despereaux is a very small mouse with very big ears. He is a major disappointment to his family, because he doesn’t enjoy the normal mouse activities of scurrying and scavenging and cowering in fear.

Instead, he thinks that music sounds like honey and that light coming through stained-glass windows looks like heaven. His sister Merlot tries to teach him how to eat books — the tasty glue of the binding and the crispy edges of the pages. But Despereaux is more interested in reading the words on the pages. A story about a heroic knight. Despereaux wants to be a hero, but how can a small, sickly mouse aspire to greatness? Ridiculous!

Yet Despereaux aspires to many wonderful, beautiful, ridiculous things. Like love. And hope. And forgiveness. For even a small creature may have a great heart.

In this charming book — The Tale of Despereaux, by Kate DiCamillo  many stories are intertwined. Despereaux’s story intersects the story of Gregory, a jailer who is himself imprisoned in the castle dungeons. And of Miggory Sow, a servant girl traded by her father for a tablecloth. And of Chiaruscuro, a rat who loves light but has been banished to the darkness. And of Princess Pea, a girl who is doted on by her father but who grieves for her dead mother. When the Princess is kidnapped, all of these stories converge.

Kate DiCamillo belongs to an exclusive “club” of writers who have won the Newberry medal twice. Once for Despereaux (2003) and again for Flora & Ulysses (2013). Only five other people have won two Newbery's. Kate's book Because of Winn-Dixie was Newbery Honor Book and also won the Josette Frank Award. For The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, she won the 2006 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for children’s fiction. 

And she’s won a host of other awards which would take too many electrons to list. On her website, Kate says she feels lucky because she gets to tell stories for a living. "Stories are light," says Gregory the jailor to Despereaux. "Light is precious in a world so dark. Begin at the beginning. Tell Gregory a story. Make some light." 

Some books shine with an inner light, because of the beauty of the language or the compelling characters or the carefully-crafted story. The Tale of Despereaux has all three.

Happy birthday to Kate DiCamillo on March 25th. Thanks for bringing so much lovely light into the world. Keep telling your stories. Keep making the light.

Want to learn more about Kate diCamillo and her books? Click here.  

Image Credits:
    Mouse - Drawing by Rama
    Kate diCamillo photo - Candlewick Press
    Kate diCamillo reading at Kalamazoo Public Library - Public Domain

    Sun - Public Domain