Shakespearean March Madness: Round of Sixteen, Part 1

Welcome back to another week of Shakespearean March Madness!

First off, the results of Round 1, Part 3. Titus slaughters Cymbeline’s Queen, 64-11. He’s used to dealing with her type, after all, so this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Matches 10 and 11, however, fall into the “I can’t believe this” category, as Joan of Arc triumphs over Owen Glendower (44-19) and Prospero’s magic wins out over Regan’s ruthlessness (46-17). I can account for Joan’s success by attributing it to affection for her her historical counterpart, but Prospero? Really? Ah well. That’s the way the throw-down rumbles. Finally, in a match that was quite close for a while, Hotspur managed to pull ahead of Othello, 39-29. So advancing to Round 2 will be: Titus Andronicus, Joan of Arc, Prospero, and Harry “Hotspur” Percy.

Today, we welcome the first eight competitors for the Round of Sixteen.

Match 17: Richard III vs Puck

Who wins the battle?

  • Richard III
  • Puck

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Match 18: Lady Macbeth vs Antony

Who wins the battle?

  • Lady Macbeth
  • Antony

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Match 19: Iago vs Edmund

Who wins the battle?

  • Iago
  • Edmund

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Match 20: Queen Margaret vs Goneril

Who wins the battle?

  • Queen Margaret
  • Goneril

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The competition’s getting steep! I’m picking Richard III over Puck, easy. Lady M versus Antony’s a bit harder, not least because of my deep and abiding affection for both characters. But I think Lady M has the edge — we know Antony’s easily swayed by a pretty face with an iron will behind it. Iago versus Edmund is also tough — they’re both ruthless, conniving, unapologetic villains. I think I’m going to be in the minority on this one, but I’m backing Edmund, for sheer scope. Iago brings down a family. Edmund’s involved in the downfall of an entire kingdom. Finally, our first catfight of the competition, and I’m favoring Margaret here. She wreaks more havoc, has a more spectacular extramarital affair, and gets her hands far, far dirtier and bloodier than Goneril does.

These matches will be open till Tuesday, when we’ll find out who advances to the Quarterfinals. Remember that you still have until Thursday to vote on Round 1, Part 4 — Who from our last bracket will make to the Round of Sixteen? Find out Thursday!

Imprimis: Links and Tidbits, 11 March 2011

Just a short links round-up this week:

  • We’d like to give a shout-out to Alexi Sargent and the ShakesPEER Group, who will be presenting Macbeth next weekend in Ardmore, PA. If you’re in the area, go give them your support — Alexi is a veteran of our summer camps, and ShakesPEER is a not-for-profit student-run theatre group.
  • Tagging along from last week’s controversy over Dame Helen Mirren’s statement about not reading Shakespeare in classrooms, this op-ed takes her side in the debate.
  • Globe Education has a new home — congratulations to our brethren on the other side of the Pond! The facilities look amazing.
  • An interesting article on how studying the humanities can help the homeless and disadvantaged: one 60-year-old student, clean and sober for a year after a lifetime of addiction, says the class contributed to his improvement because “I can sit in my apartment right down the street from here, for the first time in my life I can sit there by myself and read, and not feel like I’m alone.” Another student says “”This is a way for me to stay clean. This is a way for me to change my life, and the trap that I was caught in.”

That’s it for this week — We hope you’re enjoying our March Madness, and we’ll see you next week for the Round of 16!

Shakespearean March Madness: Round 1, Part 4

Today we welcome the last set of competitors to the arena for the final battles of Round 1.

First off, the four competitors from Round 1, Part 2 who will be advancing to the next round: Iago wins handily over Doll Tearsheet (54-8); our feisty wench might get in a scratch or two, but against this crafty combatant, she’s down for the count. Match 6 surprised me; I thought this one would be closer than it ended up, but Edmund wins a 42-16 victory over King Claudius and advances. Queen Margaret flattens poor Hermia, 56-5, squashing the vixen with as little thought as she would swat a fly. Edmund will have good company going into Round 2, as Goneril defeats Siward in a match which indicates that our voters feel cunning and malice win out over sheer military might (39-15). So, to sum up, advancing to Round 2 we have: Iago, Edmund, Queen Margaret, and Goneril.

Match 13: Henry V vs Katharina Minola

Who wins the battle?

  • Henry V
  • Katharina Minola

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Match 14: Macduff vs Cleopatra

Who wins the battle?

  • Macduff
  • Cleopatra

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Match 15: Macbeth vs Tamora

Who wins the battle?

  • Macbeth
  • Tamora

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Match 16: Enobarbus vs Coriolanus

Who wins the battle?

  • Enobarbus
  • Coriolanus

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My picks (skip over if you want to vote un-influenced): Henry over Kate, easy. She may be full of fire, but he’s England’s greatest warrior-king. No contest. Cleopatra’s another feisty minx, but as wonderful as I think she is in many ways, let’s face it, she’s not much of a warrior, and Macduff’s got righteous fury on his side. Nothing beats righteous fury. Macbeth will take out Tamora, as we already know he has absolutely no qualms about going for women and children. She’ll be too busy imitating anthropomorphic beings to notice that he’s destroying her. Enobarbus vs Coriolanus is, in my opinion, this round’s toughest to determine. Both are capable generals, both trained in the Roman style. I’m going to give the edge to Enobarbus, just because, hey, I like that guy better. Think I’m wrong about any of my picks? Tell me (and everyone else) why!

These polls will be open till next Thursday. On the Ides of March, we’ll start in on Round Two.

Shakespearean March Madness: Round 1, Part 3

Welcome back to the arena! First, to declare the winners of Round 1, Part 1.

Richard III handily wins over Sebastian (67-7), utterly annihilating the hapless young duelist. In a shocking come-from-behind victory, Puck wins out over Aaron the Moor (40-27). This one really surprised me; I know I voted for Puck, but I was honestly expecting to have backed the wrong horse. Lady Macbeth easily disposes of Charles the Wrestler, though from the score (55-13), a few of you think that Charles managed to get a few licks in before. Finally, Mark Antony manages to take down Tybalt Capulet (41-29), as the King of Cats proves he isn’t quite a match for the ruthless Roman. So, Richard, Puck, Lady M, and Antony will be advancing to the next round.

But we’re not quite done with Round 1 yet! We still have 16 combatants to test, and 8 of them take the field today.

Match 9: Titus Andronicus vs Queen to Cymbeline

Who wins the battle?

  • Titus Andronicus
  • Queen to Cymbeline

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Match 10: Owen Glendower vs Joan of Arc

Who wins the battle?

  • Owen Glendower
  • Joan of Arc

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Match 11: Regan vs Prospero

Who wins the battle?

  • Regan
  • Prospero

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Match 12: Hotspur vs Othello

Who wins the battle?

  • Harry “Hotspur” Percy
  • Othello

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I need to mull over a couple of these, so I think I’ll withhold my thoughts for the time being.

These polls will stay open until next Tuesday, and you still have until Thursday to vote on Round 2. If you need a reminder of the combatants’ strengths and weaknesses, check out the Intro Post.

ETA: After a bit of consideration, these are my picks: Titus over the Queen, no contest. That man is not only lethal but crazy. The Queen talks too much but waits too long to take action. She’s toast. Glendower v Joan is tough, because they’re both enemies of the English who associate with unearthly spirits. I’m pulling personal preference here — having played Glendower once upon a time, I have a great affinity for the man and his ability to call spirits from the vasty deep. Plus, I like Wales more than France, so, Glendower it is. I call Regan over Prospero, because while Prospero may command the elements, he also pulls his punches. All that forgiveness for his enemies? That is not the bloodthirsty spirit we’re looking for. Regan takes action and she takes it decisively. Hotspur versus Othello may be one of the most even matches we’ve had yet; they’re both military commanders, both have excellent reputations, and both have a bit of a temper on them. I’m going to go with Hotspur, because the many descriptions we get of his aptitude are just so much better than the ones we get of Othello. So, those are my opinions — tell me yours!

Imprimis: Links and Tidbits – 4 March 2011

Just a short little round-up this week, but some of them are pretty interesting, so take a look:

  • The Huffington Post is hosting an editorial by Rick Ayers on current educational battles, through the lens of Declan Kiberd’s new book, Ulysses and us: The art of everyday life in Joyce’s masterpiece.: “Schooling has been robbed of this welcoming spirit of literature, of the numerous popular and revolutionary voices which populate powerful writing. It has reduced literature to the prescriptive scolds of a Harold Bloom or the forbidding elite museum of a William Bennett. Our students aren’t invited to read and engage with literature. They are ordered to decode, to adopt the distant language of eviscerated analytical prose. Kiberd refreshingly reminds us that, just as at a sporting event, everyone should feel entitled to have a valid opinion on the game, even if they are viewing it in different ways. … He points out that in the early twentieth century it was common for reading groups to exist among working people in Ireland and England which did not hesitate at all to take up Shakespeare or any other text. But one of the great travesties of the universities has been to undermine democratic literacy: ‘Democracy was no longer seen as the sharing of a common fund of textual knowledge but as providing access to this or that super-educated grouping. No longer was the prevailing idea that anyone bright enough could read and understand Hamlet or Ulysses but that anyone sufficiently clever could aspire to become one of the paid specialists who did such things.’ … We need to be about the business of transformative and deep learning.” Sarah says: It’s as if some one got inside my head and coalesced all of the thoughts that have been swimming around in there for the last few months. This details why we teach liberal arts, not just science or business. Why we teach the great authors to all, and for all. It is, basically, what is at the heart of every one of our education department discussions. Cass says: I love the bit about “working people” taking up Shakespeare, because it goes to what I always say about it — if no one tells you it’s hard, you probably won’t think it is. If you go into it assuming, “Yeah, I’m smart enough to get this,” then you will have a much easier time than if you’ve been told all your life that it’s difficult to understand and beyond most people’s reach. Yet more backing for why Shakespeare needs to be rescued from the clutches of the Ivory Tower.
  • The NEA has released several reports on arts participation in the US. Electronic media has (perhaps unsurprisingly) increased interaction, and people who create art are significantly more likely to attend artistic events.
  • Helen Mirren wants to ban Shakespeare. Or, rather, she wants to ban reading it in classrooms in exchange for taking students to see productions. Cass says: While I think she’s on the right track, it shouldn’t be an “either-or” situation; it should be a “both-and” — really, a “both-and-also” with the additional component of staging the text in the classroom. Nothing helps students learn Shakespeare more than actually doing it.
  • The Toronto Star has an editorial on “Why Dead White Men Are Cool Again,” advocating the revival of aspects of classical education, and Seattle University is revising its core curriculum, and some are protesting the changes to the humanities. Opponents of the new system, which would allow students to choose either history or literature as a requirement, rather than mandating both, emphasize the importance of cultural capital: “Cultural capital refers to a person’s accumulated knowledge in society. When a student learns about the causes of the American Civil War or reads William Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ they gain cultural capital, which will benefit them throughout their personal and professional lives.”

Have a good weekend, all — and don’t forget to vote for your favorite Shakespearean competitors in our March Madness showdown!

Shakespearean March Madness – Round 1, Part 2

Our second set of matches:

Match 5: Iago vs Doll Tearsheet

Who will win the battle?

  • Iago
  • Doll Tearsheet

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Match 6: Edmund vs King Claudius

Who will win the battle?

  • Edmund
  • King Claudius

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Match 7: Queen Margaret vs Hermia

Who will win the battle?

  • Queen Margaret
  • Hermia

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Match 8: Siward vs Goneril

Who will win the battle?

  • Siward
  • Goneril

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These polls will stay open till next Thursday. The last two sets of Round One will go up next week.

My thoughts (scroll on if you want to keep your thoughts uninfluenced till after you vote!): I’m going to root for the underdog in Match 5, and say that while Iago’s busy monologuing, Doll slips a dagger out from her bodice and guts him with the ruthless efficiency of a true tavern wench. Match 6 is tough, because both of these guys are calculating, conniving planners. I feel like they’d be circling each other in the shadows for ages before either actually struck out. Ultimately I’m going to go with Edmund, not solely out of lust, but also because he actually has battle experience, whereas Claudius seems to fight from a distance. Match 7 breaks my heart. Poor Hermia. She drew the short straw. She’s one of my favorite girls in all of Shakespeare, but I’m pretty sure she’s going to get annihilated by Margaret in no time flat. Finally, between Siward and Goneril, I’m going to go with the English general. Goneril may be a nasty piece of work, but I don’t think she actually does all that much directly. Siward, on the other hand, is reportedly the greatest soldier in all of Christendom, so he must be pretty impressive to have earned that rep.

Thanks to everyone who’s voted in the first four matches so far — and don’t forget, if you need a refresher on the combatants, check out the Intro Post.

Shakespearean March Madness: Round 1, Part 1

Today we welcome the first eight competitors to the arena. Who will advance to the next round? You decide!

Match 1: Richard III vs Sebastian

Who wins the battle?

  • Richard III
  • Sebastian

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Match 2: Aaron the Moor vs Puck

Who wins the battle?

  • Aaron the Moor
  • Puck

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Match 3: Lady Macbeth vs Charles the Wrestler

Who wins the battle?

  • Lady Macbeth
  • Charles the Wrestler

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Match 4: Mark Antony vs Tybalt Capulet

Who wins the battle?

  • Mark Antony
  • Tybalt Capulet

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My thoughts: Sebastian may be a fine duelist, but his innocent nature doesn’t stand a chance against Richard III. I suspect Sebastian “gets lost” on the way to the field of battle and turns up in a ditch three weeks later, half-eaten by wild dogs. Aaron versus Puck is a bit tougher — Aaron is ruthless, vicious, and malicious, but Puck has magic on his side. I’m going to go with Puck, because insulting the Fae is never a good way to start the morning. Charles could probably take Lady Macbeth in a fair fight based solely on physical power… but do we think Lady M is going to fight fair? I doubt it. One of those drugged possets will have found its way into his morning protein shake, and he’ll be down for the count. As for Antony and Tybalt, I have to confess personal prejudice here — I adore Mark Antony, so I’m giving the edge to him out of sheer affection. Besides, tough Roman soldier that he is, I doubt he’d put up with any of Tybalt’s prancing about and delicate footwork, and a thin rapier isn’t going to do much against a Roman shield.

Think I’m wrong about any of my picks? Tell me about it! Argue with me (and each other) in the comments or on Facebook.

These polls will stay open until next Tuesday, and then we’ll find out who advances to the next round. If you need a refresher on any of the combatants, visit the March Madness Intro Page for their bios.

March Madness – Let’s Get Ready to Rumble!

So, inspired by The Shakespeare Standard asking on Twitter last week which Shakespeare character we thought would win in a bar fight, I decided it could be entertaining to celebrate March Madness by pitting some of Shakespeare’s greatest combatants against each other, Mortal Kombat-style.

For the month of March, I’ll be posting links to polls here, on Twitter, and on Facebook, so that our readers, fans, and friends can vote on who they think could take whom in a no-holds-barred match. Whoever gets the most votes will move on to the next round.

Meet the competitors, listed here in alphabetical order (the first round of matches will be randomly generated, so the numbers here don’t represent any kind of seeding).

1. Aaron (Titus Andronicus)
Also Known As: the Moor
Preferred Weapon: scimitar, psychological warfare
Bio: A force of pure destruction and malevolence, Aaron keeps company with Tamora, Queen of the Goths, though no one knows just how he ended up in Scythia. His list of evil deeds is long, as he proudly boasts: “I curse the day… wherein I did not some notorious ill, as kill a man, or else devise his death, ravish a maid, or plot the way to do it, accuse some innocent and forswear myself, set deadly enmity between two friends, make poor men’s cattle break their necks.” There seems to be literally nothing he won’t stoop to perform.

2. Charles (As You Like It)
Also Known As: the Wrestler
Preferred Weapon: brute strength
Bio: Through his fame as a wrestler, Charles gained the patronage of Duke Frederick. Of his own skill, Charles says, “I wrestle for my credit; and he that escapes me without some broken limb shall acquit him well.” Charles is not without honor, as he attempts to dissuade young men to whom he might do considerable harm from fighting with him — but for those who insist on challenging them, he will leave them with “little hope of life” in them.

3. Claudius (Hamlet)
Also Known As: King of Denmark
Preferred Weapon: poison
Bio: Claudius prefers to do his killing subtly, through poisons, whether administered through the ear, through a pearl in a glass of wine, or on a blade. He’s also willing to hire out for his murders, going so far as to enlist the King of England in his schemes. Cunning and crafty, Claudius knows how to kill a man so secretively that “even his mother shall uncharge the practice and call it accident.”

4. Cleopatra (Antony and Cleopatra)
Also Known As: Egypt
Preferred Weapon: her own hands, the powers of Egypt, political acumen
Bio: The Queen of Egypt, Cleopatra is one of history’s most powerful, forceful, and fOCSinating women, who took as her consorts two of Rome’s greatest generals, Julius Caesar and Mark Antony. Though she largely wields power through other agents, and though in general she prefers langorous indulgence to the field of battle, when she gives vent to violent inclinations, hapless messengers best beware: “I’ll unhair thy head; Thou shalt be whipp’d with wire and stew’d in brine, smarting in lingering pickle.”

5. Coriolanus (Coriolanus)
Also Known As: Caius Martius, “thou Mars!”
Preferred Weapon: legions
Bio: Coriolanus begins his career as a celebrated hero-general of the Roman armies, but when politics of the great city turn against him, his quest turns to one of vengeance that puts all of Rome in fear. He allies with his former enemy, Aufidius of the Volscians, and a Roman senator thereafter says of him: “When he walks, he moves like an engine, and the ground shrinks before his treading: he is able to pierce a corslet with his ye; talks like a knell, and his hum is a battery… What he bids be done is finished with his bidding. He wants nothing of a god but eternity and a heaven to throne in.”

6. Doll Tearsheet (Henry IV, Part 2)
Also Known As:
Mistress Dorothy
Preferred Weapon: knife
Bio: A wench of the Boar’s Head, Doll has been through more than her fair share of barfights and has had to chase off unwelcome customers. Scrappy and uncowed by the soldiers and mercenaries who frequent Mistress Quickly’s establishment (or by the local sheriff), Doll can curse with the best of them: “Away, you cut-purse rOCSal! you filthy bung, away! By wine, I’ll thrust my knife in your mouldy chaps, an you play saucy cuttle with me. Away, you bottle-ale rOCSal! you basket-hilt stale juggler, you!”

7. Domitius Enobarbus (Antony and Cleopatra)
Preferred Weapon: legions
Bio: Friend to and follower of Mark Antony, Enobarbus is a brilliant tactician and a famed general for, as he says, “It cannot be denied what I have done by land.” Knowing his, and Antony’s, strengths, he urges Antony not to meet Octavius’s forces on the water, where they will be at a disadvantage: “No disgrace shall fall you for refusing him at sea, being prepared for land.” He is also one of few men with the courage to stand up to Cleopatra, flatly telling her not to distract Antony when others would cower from her wrath.

8. Edmund (King Lear)
Also Known As: the Bastard
Preferred Weapon: sword and dagger, malicious letters, charisma
Bio: Embittered by his illegitimate inheritance, Edmund first contrives to dispossess his brother Edgar, then becomes embroiled in the plots surrounding King Lear’s throne, playing the sisters Goneril and Regan off of each other. He is, by his own admittance, “rough and lecherous,” and Edgar condemns him as “false to thy gods, thy brother, and thy father; conspirant ‘gainst this high illustrious prince; and from th’extremest upward of thy head to the descent and dust beneath thy foot, a most toad-spotted traitor.” Unscrupulous and unflinching, Edmund has no hesitation in provoking mayhem and disaster.

9. Goneril (King Lear)
Also Known As: Lear’s eldest daughter, the Duchess of Albany
Preferred Weapon: poison, minions
Bio: After taking over the rulership of half the kingdom following her father’s abdication and her sister Cordelia’s disgrace, Goneril turns her father out into a storm, ends up at war with France, falls in love with Edmund, orders the assassination of Gloucester, plots the murder of her own husband, and poisons her own sister. Aggressive and ruthless, called a tiger, a fiend, and a “gilded serpent” by her husband, Goneril’s fierce determination makes her a fearsome opponent.

10. Harry Percy (Henry IV, Part 1)
Also Known As: Hotspur
Preferred Weapon: broadsword
Bio: Son to the Earl of Northumberland, Hotspur’s battle prowess is such that it makes King Henry IV wish that “it could be proved that some night-tripping fairy had exchanged in cradle-clothes our children where they lay.” He defeats many noble Scots in battle and takes them prisoner, then later thumbs his nose at the Welsh prince Glendower. Prince Hal, his opposite number, describes him as “He that kills me some six or seven dozen of Scots at a breakfast, washes his hands, and says to his wife, ‘Fie upon this quiet life! I want work.'” Hotspur is bellicose by nature, never at ease, ever-restless, and with the skill on the battlefield to support his warlike desires.

11. Henry V (Henry IV, Parts 1 and 2; Henry V)
Also Known As: Hal
Preferred Weapon: broadsword, inspirational speeches
Bio: The royal rebel, Henry begins as a dissolute prince whose “reformation, glitt’ring o’er” his faults turns him into one of England’s most celebrated monarchs. He becomes a valiant warrior in his own right, and also knows how to stir the hearts of other men, telling them to “imitate the action of the tiger; stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood.” He leads his army to victory at the famous Battle of Agincourt, using tactical skill and sheer willpower to overcome formidable odds.

12. Hermia (A Midsummer Night’s Dream)
Also Known As: vixen, acorn, “minimus of hindering knot-grass”
Preferred Weapon: fingernails
Bio: A gentlewoman of Athens, Hermia isn’t afraid to get physical, especially if she thinks someone is stealing her man. Don’t let her diminutive stature fool you, for, as she says, “I am not yet so low but that my nails can reach into thine eyes.” Such is her power that it takes two full-grown men to restrain her from clawing Helena’s eyes out during their silvan catfight, for “though she be but little, she is fierce.”

13. Iago (Othello)
Also Known As: ancient Iago, honest Iago
Preferred Weapon: rumors, dagger
Bio: A force of malevolence, Iago indulges his jealousy to the point where nothing will do but the complete annihilation of those he sees at fault, with no care for any innocents swept up in his plots. Iago crafts his words to make Othello believe his wife has betrayed him and to spur Cassio into engaging in a drunken brawl. When his wife exposes his crimes, he murders her without a flinch. He then refuses to explain himself: “Demand me nothing: what you know, you know:
From this time forth I never will speak word.” Iago will bring down your world while smiling in your face.

14. Joan of Arc (Henry VI, Part 1)
Also Known As: Joan la Pucelle
Preferred Weapon: French army, demons
Bio: Born a simple peasant girl, Joan’s visions and apparent godliness earn her a position leading the French army. King Charles dubs her “an Amazon” who “fightest with the sword of Deborah,” while the English curse her as, “fell banning hag” and a witch who “by fear, not force… drives back our troops and conquers as she lists.” When the tide begins to turn in favor of the English, Joan shows herself willing to stoop to demon-summoning to achieve her ends. Whether a sinner or a saint, Joan routs the English army several times, proving her a dangerous opponent.

15. Katharina Minola (The Taming of the Shrew)
Also Known As: Kate, “plain Kate, bonny Kate, and sometimes Kate the curst”
Preferred Weapon: household objects
Bio: Stuck at home with a bratty younger sister, Kate’s had a lot of time to build up a lot of rage. She’s not afraid to strike those who displease her, whether her sister or her suitor, and she once broke a lute over a man’s head. The hapless would-be music teacher suggests, “I think she’ll sooner prove a soldier. Iron may hold with her, but never lutes.”

16. Lady Macbeth (Macbeth)
Also Known As: Queen of Scotland
Preferred Weapon: cunning words, drug-laced possets
Bio: Married to a Scottish thane, Lady Macbeth has high ambitions. She engineers the assassination of King Duncan after inviting evil spirits to “fill me from the crown to the toe top-full of direst cruelty.” When Macbeth fails to leave the murder weapons, Lady Macbeth takes them back herself so that she can “smear the sleepy grooms with blood” to implicate them. Lady Macbeth suppresses compassion, gentleness, femininity, and weakness, all in the name of working her and her husband’s way to the crown.

17. Marcus Antonius (Julius Caesar, Antony and Cleopatra)
Also Known As: Antony
Preferred Weapon: Roman army, Egyptian navy, rhetoric
Bio: Protege to murdered Caesar, Mark Antony describes himself as “a plain blunt man,” though Cassius calls him “a shrewd contriver.” Following Caesar’s death, Antony first stirs the common people against Brutus and Cassius and then defeats their powers at Philippi. Though he later worries that his love for Cleopatra may have unmanned him, with one of his officers stating that “those his goodly eyes, that o’er the files and musters of the war have glow’d like plated Mars, now bend, now turn,” Antony nonetheless takes on Octavius’s forces with the courage of a true Roman.

18. Macbeth (Macbeth)
Also Known As: the Thane of Glamis, the Thane of Cawdor, King of Scotland
Preferred Weapon: daggers, broadsword
Bio: Initially one of King Duncan’s trusted thanes and a hero of battle, Macbeth, consumed by a prophecy that he will be king, murders Duncan in his sleep. Macbeth then goes on to engage in wholesale slaughter of anyone and everyone that might be a threat to his reign, including his friend Banquo and the wife and children of the mistrusted Macduff. He thus earns a reputation as “bloody, luxurious, avaricious, false, deceitful, sudden, malicious, smacking of every sin that has a name.” Ambitious and bloodthirsty, Macbeth continues fighting even when the odds and fates turn against him.

19. Macduff (Macbeth)
Also Known As: the Thane of Fife
Preferred Weapon: broadsword
Bio: Macduff puts on “industrious soldiership” after Macbeth slaughters his wife and children, leading armies alongside Prince Malcolm and Siward of England. He doesn’t waste words bantering, declaring “My voice is in my sword” when he challenges Macbeth. Haunted and determined, Macduff is a man who has nothing left to lose, and that makes him fearsomely dangerous.

20. Othello (Othello)
Also Known As: the Moor of Venice
Preferred Weapon: sword, pillow
Bio: An accomplished and capable general, Othello wins the trust of the Duke of Venice so wholly that the Duke sends him “against the general enemy Ottomans” to defend the island of Cyprus. Othello feels secure in the good opinion of the Duke and his advisers, stating, “
I fetch my life and being from men of royal siege”. Othello’s weakness is in a jealous temper, which causes him to lash out violently.

21. Owen Glendower (Henry IV, Part 1)
Also Known As: Prince of Wales
Preferred Weapon: Welshmen (and women), spirits from the vasty deep
Bio: At his birth, “the front of heaven was full of fiery shapes, of burning cressets; and … the frame and huge foundation of the earth shaked like a coward.” He mounts a rebellion against the English domination of Wales, the last which Wales would ever wage. Wild, exotic, and declaring himself “not in the role of common men,” Glendower claims magical powers in addition to his prowess on the battlefield.

22. Prospero (The Tempest)
Also Known As: the former Duke of Milan
Preferred Weapon: magic (borrowed from books)
Bio: Exiled by his own brother, Prospero has had thirteen years on an island to hone his magical talents, and now he commands great and terrible elemental powers. With the help of the spirit Ariel, he can summon great storms, bewitch minds, and inflict pain; he also employs “elves of hills, brooks, standing lakes, and groves” and goblins to do lesser tasks for him. His tempest creates “wild waters” and a sky that
“would pour down stinking pitch, but that the sea, mounting to the welkin’s cheek, dashes the fire out.”

23. Puck (A Midsummer Night’s Dream)
Also Known As: Robin Goodfellow
Preferred Weapon: magic (his own)
Bio: The “merry wanderer of the night,” Puck uses his own fairy magic to wreak minor havoc in the world. He can alter his own size and voice, can “put a girdle round about the earth in forty minutes,” and transforms Nick Bottom into a monstrosity, a man with the head of an ass. Though Puck lives at Oberon’s command and mostly uses his power for pranks, he could prove a true terror if he ever used his magic for true malice.

24. Queen (Cymbeline)
Preferred Weapon: poison
Bio: Wife to King Cymbeline and stepmother to his daughter Imogen, the Queen wants the crown for herself and for her son. To get it, she plots to poison both Imogen, who she sees “as a scorpion to her sight,” and her husband, to whom she intends to minister “a mortal mineral, which, being took, should by the minute feed on life and lingering by inches waste” him. Venomous and vicious, this evil Queen will stop at nothing to achieve her goals.

25. Queen Margaret (Henry VI, Parts 1-3; Richard III)
Also Known As: Margaret of Anjou, “she-wolf of France,” “tiger’s heart wrapped in a woman’s hide”
Preferred Weapon: English armies, womanly wiles, curses
Bio: Married to King Henry VI, Queen Margaret quickly grows despairing of her husband’s weakness. When the Wars of the Roses start, Margaret takes over the governance of the war herself, leading the Lancastrian armies to victory. She taunts the fallen Duke of York with a handkerchief dipped in his own son’s blood and gives him a paper crown before helping Clifford stab him to death. When the Yorkists gain the throne, Margaret lingers on, cursing them, “Long mayst thou live to wail thy children’s loss; And see another, as I see thee now, deck’d in thy rights, as thou art stall’d in mine!” Margaret is a force of nature, fierce in defending her interests, brimming with bitterness, willing to throw off her woman’s role and assume power for herself.

26. Regan (King Lear)
Also Known As: Duchess of Cornwall
Preferred Weapon: dagger, armies
Bio: Like her sister Goneril, Regan takes over half the kingdom when her father abdicates, and she also takes up with the bastard Edmund — though unlike Goneril, she waits until her husband is dead to do this. When it comes to bloody business, Regan has no compunctions about getting her own hands dirty, assisting directly in the murder of a servant. She is also responsible for blinding Gloucester and turning him out into the storm. When Regan does an evil deed, she sees no reason to do it halfway, declaring, “All vengeance comes too short which can pursue th’ offender.”

27. Richard III (Henry VI, Parts 2 and 3; Richard III)
Also Known As: “misshapen Dick,” “Thou elvish-mark’d, abortive, rooting hog!”
Preferred Weapon: sword, daggers, barrels of wine
Bio: Born misshapen and deformed, Richard declares that “since I cannot prove a lover… I am determined to prove a villain.” He shows himself vicious and brutal in war, cunning and malicious in peace, stirring up rumors so that his enemies turn on each other, and not hesitating to betray those who have supported him in the past.
He hires murderers to kill his brother Clarence, usurps the throne of his nephew, young King Edward V, then has Edward and his brother killed, and poisons his wife so he can marry another. In his own words: “Why, I can smile, and murder whiles I smile, and cry ‘Content’ to that which grieves my heart, and wet my cheeks with artificial tears, and frame my face to all occasions…. I can add colours to the chameleon, change shapes with Proteus for advantages, and set the murderous Machiavel to school. Can I do this, and cannot get a crown? Tut, were it farther off, I’ll pluck it down.”

28. Sebastian (Twelfth Night)
Also Known As: Roderigo
Preferred Weapon: rapier
Bio: Son to Sebastian of Messaline and twin brother to Viola, Sebastian survives a shipwreck and washes up in Illyria. When he makes for the Count Orsino’s court, Toby Belch mistakes him for his sister, disguised as Cesario, and challenges him to a duel, which Sebastian soundly wins. Though he apologizes to Olivia for wounding him — “I am sorry, madam, I have hurt your kinsman: But, had it been the brother of my blood, I must have done no less with wit and safety” — he proves himself a skilled duelist, or, as Andrew Aguecheek puts it, “the very devil incardinate.”

29. Siward
Also Known As: “An older and a better soldier none that Christendom gives out”
Preferred Weapon: broadsword
Bio: Reported to be the finest military leader England has to offer, Siward marches on Macbeth in command of ten thousand men. He values the arts of war above all else, and when he hears of his own son’s death in battle, is concerned only that his son died like a man, having fought well: “Had I as many sons as I have hairs, I would not wish them to a fairer death.” A career soldier and one who doesn’t flinch from death or injury, Siward will be an intimidating foe in any battle.

30. Tamora
Also Known As: Queen of the Goths, Empress of Rome
Preferred Weapon: her sons
Bio: To avenge herself on Titus Andronicus and make him know “what ’tis to let a queen kneel in the streets and beg for grace in vain,” Tamora helps to orchestrate the rape and mutilation of his daughter and the deaths of his sons. She callously ignores Lavinia’s begging, instructing her sons, “Away with her, and use her as you will, the worse to her, the better loved of me.” When she gives birth to a mixed-race child with Aaron, she orders the babe killed rather than have it expose her infidelity. Pitiless and merciless, Tamora gives no quarter because she never received any.

31. Titus Andronicus
Preferred Weapon: the Roman gladius, kitchen utensils, baked goods
Bio: Titus initially wins victory over the Goths, losing 21 sons in the bargain. He stabs another son for the crime of defiance. He cuts off his own hand because he thinks it will save two other sons from execution. He slays Tamora’s two sons and bakes them into a pie, saying, “I will grind your bones to dust and with your blood and it I’ll make a paste, and of the paste a coffin I will rear and make two pasties of your shameful heads, and bid that strumpet, your unhallow’d dam, like to the earth swallow her own increase”. He then holds a dinner party where he feeds Tamora her own sons, kills his own daughter, and stabs Tamora to death. His ruthlessness pretty much knows no bounds, making Titus a tough competitor to beat.

32. Tybalt Capulet
Also Known As: King of Cats
Preferred Weapon: rapier and dagger (trained in the Spanish style)
Bio: Choleric and hot-tempered, Tybalt defies the Prince and his uncle Capulet to pursue his feud with the Montagues. Mercutio describes him thus: “He fights as you sing prick-song, keeps time, distance, and proportion; rests me his minim rest, one, two, and the third in your bosom.” Tybalt defeats Mercutio in a duel, provoked by Mercutio’s taunting and Romeo’s apparent cowardice. Tybalt hates peace as he hates hell, and he fights with nigh-unparalleled skill.

Does magic count more than might? Should competitors’ armies count in their favor? Should a character’s eventual downfall be taken into account? You decide! And argue about it — comment here or and our voting posts throughout the month to try to sway the opinions of the masses.

Tomorrow, I’ll post polls for the first four matches — so be ready to decide who you think should get the KO!

Shakesbook: Henry VI, part 3

Here is another entry into the Shakesbook canon. This time, the play in question: Henry VI, part 3. (Presented, appropriately enough, in three parts, due to size restrictions on pictures – so be sure to click on each one!).

Imprimis: Links and Tidbits, 25 February 2011

The links this week have a somewhat historical bent — using Shakespeare to find connections between the past and the present.

  • The New York Times assembled a look at how politicians on both sides of the aisle around the time of the American Civil War used Shakespeare in their arguments: “In a different age, politicians quoting Shakespeare might not have gotten far with voters; in Bard-mad 19th-century America, it was a sure way to win over a skeptical audience.”
  • The Tempest and Thomas Jefferson: The University of Houston hosted a two-day seminar on bringing together ideas of political theory and Renaissance literature, including a lecture on Shakespeare’s influence on Thomas Jefferson. Cass says: Shakespeare, politics, and my beloved TJ? I’m not sure how you get much better than that.
  • We’re seeing more and more this year about the King James Bible, as 2011 marks its 400th anniversary. This article posits an interesting link between Shakespeare and the KJB, particularly in regards to teaching: “A gay, Jewish professor of mine once observed that he proferred teaching English literature in bible-belt colleges in his native US rather than in east-coast liberal arts institutions (or, indeed, English universities in south-west England) because the students ‘got so many of the references easier’.” Cass says: I was actually discussing this with a few friends just the other day, and it’s part of why I feel comparative religions should be mandatory in high schools. Students should be able to understand the references at the heart of so many different cultures — Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, pagan — they’re all part of literature’s heritage. Regardless of what or whether you believe in any, all, or none of them, you should at least know the stories.
  • Tom Hodgkinson, owner and operate of the New Idler’s Academy, has opened a 18th-century style coffee house in London, where he hopes to host lectures, discussions, and lessons on such varied and oft-esoteric topics as philosophy, grammar, Latin, rhetoric, maths, carpentry, and gardening. He states, “The taste for public learning is definitely coming back… Over the last half-century, an odd division has grown up between two forms of education: one supposedly old-fashioned, didactic and bloodless; the other progressive, relative, and depressingly fact-free. There’s no reason why intellectual instruction shouldn’t be entertaining as well as rigorous.” Cass says: Sounds like the kind of place I’d love to spend my time. And if you need to fly someone in to talk about rhetoric, I’d cheerfully volunteer!
  • Another take on educational reform, via Jamie Oliver, the “Naked Chef.” He brings folks from the tops of their professions in to work with kids who have failed out of school. Sarah says: I particularly like what the kids have to say about the experience at the end of the article.
  • The Edmonton Journal declares “Pursuit of knowledge just as worthy as pursuit of career.” Cass says: I could just weep with happiness when I see that sentiment shared by others, because it’s 100% exactly what I believe. Education for its own sake has value.

Have a good end-of-February, everyone — can you believe it’s almost March? OCS Education unanimously agrees that this is clearly nonsense, as surely it was the New Year just yesterday.