Saturday, March 30, 2013

Orson Welles' Film Version of Merchant of Venice

Merchant of Venice. Dir. Orson Welles. Perf. Orson Welles. Orson Welles: One-Man Band. Dir. Vassili Silovic and Oja Kodar. Perf. Orson Welles. 1995. Included on Disc Two of F for Fake. Dir. Orson Welles. Perf. Orson Welles. 1973. DVD. Criterion, 2005.

One of the mysteries about Orson Welles' Merchant of Venice is why it isn't better known. But that's only one mystery among many.

I learned of the film's existence when skimming through the bonus disc on the Criterion release of F for Fake; it contains a documentary about the many incomplete projects Welles left behind during his long and (usually) illustrious career. Welles apparantly actually completed all the filming for his version of Merchant of Venice—but then some of the rolls of film were stolen, and the production could not be completed.

The documentary provides about seven minutes of the very rare footage as well as a recording of Welles delivering Shylock's most famous speech, made some time after shooting stopped on the film. I've extracted part of the film version of Merchant of Venice and the entirety of Welles' delivery of the "Hath not a Jew" speech. May those who took the footage immediately repent and turn it over to the nearest authority. The world needs the rest of this Merchant!


Links: F for Fake at IMDB. Orson Welles: One-Man Band at IMDB.

Click below to purchase the film from
(and to support Bardfilm as you do so).

Friday, March 29, 2013

Simon Callow in Being Shakespeare

Being Shakespeare. Dir. John Wyver. Perf. Simon Callow. By Jonathan Bate. 2011. DVD. Illuminations, 2012.

In something of a biographical survey and something of a revue, Simon Callow takes us through the Seven Ages detailed by Jaques in As You Like It, providing quotations from Shakespeare's plays that fit the ages he describes. This DVD is a film version of a stage performance; it runs about an hour and a half.

The script appears to be by Jonathan Bate, the great Shakespeare scholar—but that doesn't appear to prevent some out-of-date or questionable biographical material from appearing. The story is, in this case, given greater weight than the scholarly debates about the elements of the story.

The DVD has not yet been released in the United States; readers in Europe will be pleased that they have access to something we (generally) don't.

I'm fond of Simon Callow's other roles, and I like this performance mainly for that reason. The acting and the story are conservative (and sometimes—as when he performs Juliet—a bit silly), but it's still an enjoyable experience. Here, to give you a bit of the flavor (or flavour, since this has been released in the UK but not in the US), is the opening sequence:


Links: The Film at IMDB.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

A Great App—and a Tempest Giveaway

Morin, Duane. Shakeshare: Sharable Shakespeare. Apple App. 28 March 2013.

Shakespeare Geek, author of the Oldest Shakespeare Blog on the Internet, has developed an amazing and amusing app for the iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, et cetera.

The app provides an enormous array of quotes and images and allows users to e-mail, tweet, or save them.  The quotes come in two sorts: quotations from Shakespeare (see an example below) and jokes related to Shakespeare (see an example above and to the right).  It's astonishing.  The creativity that combines quotes from Shakespeare with playful Shakespeare-related jokes is very fun—but the images behind those quotes raise it to an unmatchable level.  You can even use your own images with the fun quotations, sending them to your fellow Shakespeare fans.

Moreover, Shakespeare Geek is running a competition right now until March 31.  The details are here, and you could win a copy of Julie Taymor's Tempest.

Download the app for its own sake, but enter the competition, too.  Enjoy!

Links: The App at iTunes.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Book Note: Romeow and Drooliet

Laden, Nina. Romeow and Drooliet. New York: Chronicle Books, 2005.

Even though I've read a huge number of them, I haven't reviewed too many children's picture books on this blog.

I may need to remedy that.

This retelling of Romeo and Juliet caught my eye at my local library a few weeks ago, and I naturally had to check it out and read it.

As far as capturing the feud between the Capulets and the Montagues, the book does a good job. The perennial animosity between cats and dogs forms the foundation of the story.

In other ways, the book is a bit too cutsey—but not nauseatingly so, which may mean that it strikes the appropriate balance. Click on the image below to enlarge it and to get a taste of the book.

Click below to purchase the book from
(and to support Bardfilm as you do so).

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Book Note: Light Thickens

Marsh, Ngaio. Light Thickens. New York: HarperCollins, 1994.

An alert reader reminded me that the characters and setting of Ngaio Marsh's Death at the Dolphin (for which, q.v.) reappeared in a novel set some twenty years later and written some fifteen years later. Indeed, Light Thickens was the last Roderick Alleyn novel Marsh wrote.

In the novel, Peregrine Jay is directing a production of Macbeth at his theatre, The Dolphin. Roderick Alleyn happens to show up for its opening night—and (which is an even greater coincidence) for the night during which a murder takes place.

The novel is good in giving us the characters we enjoy—and, for this reader at least, intriguing interpretations of Shakespeare—but it is not as powerful as Death at the Dolphin by a long shot. The murder's motivations are obscure at best and contrived at worst, and that was somewhat disappointing.

Nonetheless, it's a good read—and the Macbeth they put on is described by one critic as "the best since Olivier."  Yes, the critic is fictional, but it is still a thrilling review.

Click below to purchase the book from
(and to support Bardfilm as you do so).

Monday, March 25, 2013

30 Rock Does Macbeth

“The Shower Principle.” By Tina Fey and Tom Ceraulo. Perf. Tina Fey, Tracy Morgan, Jane Krakowski, Alec Baldwin, Kristen Schaal, and Katrina Bowden. Dir. Stephen Lee Davis. 30 Rock. Season 6, episode 15. NBC. 29 March 2012. DVD. Universal Studios, 2012.

I happened to watch this episode last year. It took a little time for the DVD of the season to come out, for the library to buy it, and for me to remember to request it, but now it's here.

You're probably getting tired of hearing me say this, but I don't actually know this show very well.  All the same, I appreciate the humor in this episode, which plays with the idea of The Curse of The Scottish Play. I've extracted the Shakespeare references from throughout the episode and put them together in one convenient clip. Enjoy!


Links: The Episode at IMDB.

Click below to purchase the film from
(and to support Bardfilm as you do so).

Friday, March 22, 2013

Shakespeare—Literally Shakespeare—In A Different World

"The Power of the Pen." By Jasmine Guy. Perf. Jasmine Guy, Kadeem Hardison, and Dawnn Lewis. Dir. Debbie Allen. A Different World. Season 3, episode 13. NBC. 18 February 1990.

I recently read about this episode of A Different World—a spin-off of The Cosby Show.

In this episode, Dwayne Wayne, an engineering student, has to write a poem for one of his classes.  He suffers writer's block, falls asleep, and has a dream—or is it a dream?—in which Shakespeare gives him some advice about writing.


Links: The Episode at IMDB.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Did Shakespeare Write "Some words may hide others"?

Arthur and the Invisibles. Dir. Luc Besson. Perf. Freddie Highmore, Mia Farrow, Madonna, Ron Crawford, Penny Balfour, Snoop Dogg, David Bowie, David Suchet, Jimmy Fallon, Robert De Niro, and Jason Bateman. 2006. DVD. Weinstein, 2011.

Besson, Luc. Arthur and the Minimoys. New York: HarperCollins, 2002.

Besson, Luc. Arthur et les Minimoys. N.p.: Intervista, 2002.

The inimitable Shakespeare Geek called the Internet's collective attention to this film back in early 2007. I've found time to listen to the audiobook Arthur and the Minimoys, on which the film is based, and to watch the film. The story is about a boy's attempt to find his grandfather and to save the farm. His grandfather had done a lot of work in Africa in his life; he disappeared mysteriously some years ago.  Fortunately, he left behind a number of journals about Africa and some clues to follow.

The Shakespeare in the film is limited.  There's a quotation that is ascribed to Shakespeare in the opening few minutes of the film and an odd reference to Romeo and Juliet later.

The quotation is problematic. As the image above shows, a banner hangs in the grandfather's study:
"Some words may hide others."
                                           —William S.
The first problem is that Shakespeare didn't say that (though there are many people on the Internet who provide that quote as if he did).

The second problem is whether the quotation originates with this film (and the book on which it is based) or if this film (and the book on which it is based) are quoting from something else.  The film came out in 2006; the book was originally published in French as Arthur et les Minimoys in 2002; it was first translated into English in 2005.  I'm currently tracking down those two editions to see how the quotation appears in them.  With the help of Shakespeare Geek (who is amazingly technically proficient), I've determined that all the uses of that quotation—in English, in the exact phrase provided by the film—on the Internet took place after the film came out.

My tentative conclusion is that the quotation is a deliberate misattribution. I believe that, in the story of the film, the Grandfather (who elsewhere leaves the clue "To get to the land of the Minimoys, put your trust in Shakespeare"), intentionally printed a quotation that was not by Shakespeare on the banner so that the unwary would not think too deeply about the quote while those who are either in the know or curious enough will investigate further.

The words on the banner literally hide other words. The boy holds a candle in front of the banner and is able to read the words through its fabric, learning how to start searching for his father.

Further bulletins as events warrant; in the meantime, enjoy this brief clip that contains two scenes from the film:


Research in Progress:

Update:  3 April 2013.  As I investigate the questions raised by this post, I'll put up the relevant data. Below you will find the relevant pages from the English-language edition of the book:

Page 56

Page 60

Page 68

Page 69

Update:  9 April 2013.  I've obtained the French language edition of the novel. The phrase in question is "Les mots en cachent souvent d'autre." It does not seem to appear on web pages before 2008 (and it is not attributed to Shakespeare at that point), making the theory that the book itself invents the phrase more viable.  Here are the relevant extracts from the French edition:

Page 61

Page 64

Page 72

Links: The Film at IMDB.

Click below to purchase the film or the book from
(and to support Bardfilm as you do so).

Screaming Goat Shakespeare

Goat, Screaming, et al. "Screaming Goat Shakespeare."  A.K.A. "Yelling Goat Shakespeare" and "Screaming Sheep Shakespeare."  Aubrey and Touchstone Among the Goats. Internet Meme. Web. 20 March 2013.

Although sillier than Bardfilm’s usual fare, the idea of the Screaming Goat (although I think this is actually a sheep) performing Shakespeare proved irresistible.

Several selections follow. Find your favorite among them!

Where Be Your Gibes Now?

To Be or Not To B[l]e[at].

Is this a Dagger?

Wherefore Art Thou Screaming?

Full of Sound and Fury.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Shakespeare's Punk Rock

Shakespeare's Punk Rock. Dir. Von Ryan. Perf. Natasha Leggero, Misty Alli, Tiana Belle, and Janet Chiarabaglio.

While we're on the subject of things that I thought would have a lot more Shakespeare in them, I'll tell you about a DVD called Shakespeare's Punk Rock.

The DVD presents a night at a comedy club. There's a little stand-up, a few songs, some thoughts about acting, a bit of craziness, and very little Shakespeare.

To be fair, it might have been fun to attend this show live—but watching it on a DVD was fairly tedious.

Here's a clip for you—it's a bit of the opening (which talks about how comedy is a bit like Shakespeare) and a bit of the stand-up.


Links: The Film at IMDB.

Click below to purchase the film from
(and to support Bardfilm as you do so).

Monday, March 18, 2013

Is the 1993 film Super Mario Bros. a Derivative Version of Hamlet?

Super Mario Bros. Dir. Annabel Jankel and Rocky Morton. Perf. Bob Hoskins, John Leguizamo, Dennis Hopper, Samantha Mathis, Lance Henriksen, and Fiona Shaw. 1993. DVD. Hollywood Pictures Home Entertainment, 2003.

With this film, we move from the sublime to the ridiculous. I'm even embarrassed to say that I watched this movie—even with the caveat that I watched it while I was quite ill and at three times the speed with the subtitles on. It was still one of the worst films I've seen in a long time.

Why, then, did I watch it? Some people insist that it is a loose derivative of Hamlet; therefore, I screwed my courage to the sticking-place and watched it.

And I don't see much—if any!—Hamlet here. That makes it even more embarrassing, but I felt the need to write about it to prevent others from having to watch this film unnecessarily.

The plot involves a king who has been overthrown—well, devolved, really, into a strange fungus that covers much of the kingdom—and the attempt to get rid of the new king. That's essentially the extent of the parallels to Hamlet: A king has been dethroned. There aren't any quotations from the play, allusions to the play, analogues to the characters in the play (I don't believe that the Mario Bros. are Rosencrantz and Guildenstern or that the Princess is Ophelia—or Hamlet, for that matter), or other plot points related to the play.

The one redeeming element in the film is Bob Hoskins, whose performance of Iago in the BBC Othello remains one of the very best interpretations I've ever seen (he plays the role opposite Antony Hopkins, who is uncharacteristically awful as Othello—but that's another story). I have no idea what he's doing in this film, but I was happy to be reminded of his fabulous Iago.

So that you don't have to watch the entire film, I'm providing a brief clip that contains the very tenuous connection to Hamlet in the film:


Links: The Film at IMDB.

Click below to purchase the film from
(and to support Bardfilm as you do so).

Friday, March 15, 2013

Cavafy's "The Ides of March"

Cavafy, C. P. "The Ides of March." The Collected Poems of C. P. Cavafy: A New Translation. Trans. Aliki Barnstone. New York: W. W. Norton, 2006. 42.

Yesterday, I glanced through a volume of Cavafy poetry that had come my way, and I chanced upon a poem from 1911 entitled "The Ides of March." Although Cavafy clearly knew Shakespeare—his "King Claudius" (for which, q.v.) is stupendous, for example—I don't know whether he had Shakespeare's version of the assassination of Julius Caesar in mind when he wrote the poem. I, of course, like to think that he had Shakespeare's Artemidorus in mind (even though Shakespeare's spelling is -us while Cavafy's is -os).

In Julius Caesar, Artemidorus attempts to present Caesar with a letter of warning when he arrives at the Senate on the Ides of March. While waiting, he has this small speech:
Here will I stand till Caesar pass along,
And as a suitor will I give him this.
My heart laments that virtue cannot live
Out of the teeth of emulation.
If thou read this, O Caesar, thou mayst live;
If not, the Fates with traitors do contrive. (II.iii.11-16)
When Artemidorus presents his letter, saying, "O Caesar, read mine first; for mine's a suit / That touches Caesar nearer. Read it, great Caesar" (III.i.6-7), Caesar refuses: "What touches us ourself shall be last serv'd" (III.iii.8). Cavafy's poem focuses on that moment:
The Ides of March

O soul, fear greatness.
If you can't overcome your ambitions,
follow them with hesitation and caution.
And the more you advance, the more
probing and attentive you must be.

And when you reach your zenith, now a Caesar;
and you take the role of a famous man,
be particularly alert when you go out in the street,
a powerful man in the public eye with an entourage;
if it happens that some Artemidoros from the mob
draws near, bearing a letter,
and says urgently, "Read this at once,
it deals with an important matter concerning you,"
don't fail to pause, don't fail to postpone
any speech or task; don't fail to ward off
those who greet and pay homage to you
(you can see them later); let even the Senate
wait, so you will know right away
the grave writings of Artemidoros.

Click below to purchase the book from
(and to support Bardfilm as you do so).

FoxTrot and the Eyes of March

Amend, Bill. "Beware the Eyes of March." Your Mamma Thinks Square Roots are Vegetables. Andrews McMeel: Kansas City, 2003. 114.

The Ides of March always seems to call for a comic of some sort.

But where could we search for such a thing?

Would Bill Amend, the creator of FoxTrot, be willing to oblige us with one?

Why, yes!

As a matter of fact he would.

And now that I've filled this space with a few brief sentences, we can turn to it.

The comic is actually from 2002—the fifteenth of March, 2002, to be precise!

Thanks, Mr. Amend, for this delighful take on the Ides of March.

Here it is (click on the image to enlarge it):

Click below to purchase the book from
(and to support Bardfilm as you do so).

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Hunky Dory: A Tempest-Related Film

Hunky Dory. Dir. Marc Evans. Perf. Minnie Driver et al. 2011. DVD. Entertainment One, 2012.

Although this film is not yet available to North American markets, I was able to watch a Region 2 DVD of it through secret methods of my own.

The film is set in a comprehensive school in Wales, and it involves a teacher's attempt to put on a musical version of The Tempest with the greatest level of student involvement she can—both in participation and in selecting the music to be used in the production.

The film itself rambles quite a bit, and there's not much conversation about the reasons for the choices of songs from the early 1970s—the time in which the film is set. In that respect, it doesn't succeed. There's also not too much Tempest in the film at large (though there are some interesting points of the actors' lives that mirror the characters' lives). But there are two scenes at least that are extremely enjoyable.

The first gives us a bit of the rehearsal for the play. We get a few lines from The Tempest, and then a musical number starts. It's Act I, scene ii, when Ferdinand is led by Ariel's song to Propsero and Miranda. In this production, Ariel's song is ELO's "Strange Magic," and Miranda is the one who begins singing it:


The second is my favorite, even though the connections to The Tempest are not very clear or very direct. David Bowie's "Life on Mars" features at the opening of the actual performance. The performers have put together some marvelous stagecraft, and the song, which originally appeared on Bowie's album Hunky Dory (which also gives the film its name), is delightful.


Links: The Film at IMDB.

Click below to purchase the film from
(and to support Bardfilm as you do so).

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

A Shakespearean Introduction to the Informal Fallacies

kj. "A Shakespearean Introduction to the Informal Fallacies." Bardfilm: The Shakespeare and Film Microblog. Web. 6 March 2013.

Shakespeare scholars—yours truly among them—are frequently called upon to teach courses that don't explicitly call for Shakespeare. When that call comes, such scholars have a choice. The choice isn't whether to incorporate Shakespeare into the classes in question; the choice is how to do so.

In my composition classes, we cover the informal fallacies, and I thought that that lecture would be the ideal place to use examples drawn from arguments about Shakespeare (particularly from the authorship question) and from Shakespeare's characters or plots.

Here, then, is my handout on nineteen of the most common informal fallacies. Each one has an example drawn from the authorship question and one from a Shakespeare character or plot. If you, too, are a Shakespeare scholar called upon to teach composition, feel free to use it. You'll be right at home.

A Shakespearean Introduction to the Informal Fallacies

Ad Hominem. Literally translated “to the man,” this fallacy constitutes a personal attack on the opponent rather than on the opponent’s views. An example might be referring to “cold-hearted Shakespeare scholars only interested in preserving their employment” in an argument about the authorship of Shakespeare’s plays and poems. In Richard III, Queen Elizabeth calls Richard “That bottled spider, that foul bunch-back’d toad!” (IV.iv.81). This constitutes an attack on Richard’s person rather than his position. Committing this fallacy has the potential of alienating members of your audience.

Ad Misericordiam. The appeal to pity. There is nothing inherently wrong with an emotional appeal as a part of an argument, but an argument shouldn’t be solely based on an exploitation of the reader’s pity. Don’t forget the old joke about the man who murdered his parents and appealed to the court for leniency because he was an orphan. Similarly, an appeal for clemency based solely on a rough childhood or racial prejudice may touch the hearts of a jury, but it won’t necessarily exonerate the client. “The most tragic part of the authorship issue is that the Earl of Oxford does not have the recognition he deserves.” In As You Like It, Silvius uses the appeal to pity in an attempt to win the love of Phoebe:
Pity me, Phoebe . . .
Wherever sorrow is, relief would be:
If you do sorrow at my grief in love,
By giving love your sorrow and my grief
Were both extermined. (III.v.84, 86-89)
Ad Populum. “To the people.” Appeals to supposed prejudices and emotions of the masses, to popular sentiments. “In this modern age, we enlightened members of society recognize the ability of contemporary scholarship to detect fraud, especially in claims about authorship.” It might function as a smoke screen to hide a certain lack of ideas—but it only fools the unwary. Very similar to the Bandwagon Appeal, which makes the claim that everyone is doing it, so we’d better get on the bandwagon: “Everyone knows that someone else wrote the works attributed to William Shakespeare.” When Mark Antony’s makes his speech at Caesar’s funeral in Julius Caesar, he uses both these fallacies to sway the crowd: “You all did love him once, not without cause: / What cause withholds you then, to mourn for him?” (III.ii.102-03). The first part of his sentence appeals to the love everyone in the crowd had for Caesar once (in fact, many in the crowd had just been convinced that his death was beneficial to Rome); the second part of his sentence implies that everyone will be mourning Caesar and that they should join in with the crowd.

Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc. “After this, therefore because of this.” This fallacy establishes a questionable cause-effect relationship between events: because event X follows event Y, therefore event Y caused event X. “Every time I wash my car it rains.” “Prostitution and drugs came to the area because riverboat gambling came.” “Hamlet was written after the death of the Earl of Oxford’s father; the Earl’s father’s death inspired the terrible outpouring of grief over a lost father that the play so eloquently articulates.” Macbeth is trapped by a classic Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc fallacy by the witches in Macbeth: they tell him that he is Thane of Cawdor (though he doesn’t, at that point, know that he is); when the word comes that he is Thane of Cawdor, he assumes that it is because the Wëird Sisters said he was.

Circular Reasoning. A diversionary tactic which seeks to prove a point with a reworded version of the same point. “The belief that William Shakespeare wrote the works attributed to him is untenable because such a position cannot reasonably be held.” That statement translates into “The belief is untenable because it’s untenable.” Hamlet plays with circular reasoning when he delivers this line: “There’s never a villain dwelling in all Denmark / But he’s an arrant knave” (I.v.23-24). Horatio’s response is the appropriate response to all circular reasoning: “There needs no ghost, my lord, come from the grave / To tell us this” (I.v.25-26).

Begging the Question. To assume that part of your argument is true without supporting it—to pass off as proof statements that must actually be supported themselves. Often announced with such diversionary tactics as “the fact is,” “obviously,” or “as we can see”—when in fact we can’t. “The accused is clearly innocent [or guilty] because the accused passed [or failed] a polygraph test” assumes that passing [or failing] a polygraph test is equivalent to being innocent [or guilty]. “Obviously, an important author like the man who wrote Shakespeare’s plays would have left a diary behind. William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon didn’t leave one; therefore, he cannot have written the plays.” One of Hamlet’s first responses to his encounter with his father’s ghost is this: “It is an honest ghost” (I.v.38). Later in the play, he realizes that such an assumption commits the fallacy of begging the question, and he resolves to test the proof of that statement: “The spirit that I have seen / May be a devil” (II.ii.598-99).

False Analogy. When two things that are being compared don’t match up feature for feature, or when ideas being compared do not logically connect or are pressed beyond legitimacy. Presents too few points of comparison or ignores a fundamental difference in the nature or purpose of the two things being compared. “This must be a great car, for, like the finest watches in the world, it was made in Switzerland.” “England has free health care for all of its citizens. The same program will work in the United States.” “Woody Allen’s films are widely recognized as autobiographical; the plays attributed to William Shakespeare are likewise autobiographical—and they don’t tell the biography of the man from Stratford.” In Hamlet, Hamlet employs a false analogy when he compares himself (and his lack of passionate resolve) to an actor (and the actor’s seemingly passionate resolve):
Is it not monstrous that this player here,
But in a fiction, in a dream of passion,
Could force his soul so to his own conceit
That from her working all his visage wann’d,
Tears in his eyes, distraction in’s aspect,
A broken voice, and his whole function suiting
With forms to his conceit? (II.ii.551-57)
Hasty Generalization. Conclusion is based on too little evidence. “I’ve seen Kenneth Branagh’s Love’s Labour’s Lost, and I don’t need to see any other films he’s made. The man simply cannot direct.” A generalization can only be as sound as its supporting evidence. Is one corrupt Chicago official enough to form a judgment about all Chicago officials? Be careful about making unqualified claims; avoid using words such as always, all, none, nobody, never, only, and exclusively. “In printed work during the late 1500s and early 1600s, a hyphenated name always indicated a pseudonym. Since many of the plays have the hyphenated name ‘Shake-Speare’ on their title pages, they must have been written by someone else.” This claim can be undermined by finding only one example of a hyphenated name that does not indicate a pseudonym (and far more than one example exists). In Othello, Othello concludes that his wife has been unfaithful to him based on a lost handkerchief and the words of Iago. It proves to be one of the hastiest of generalizations.

Non Sequitur. “Does not follow.” Draws a conclusion that does not follow logically from the premise. “Coal-burning facilities produce noxious gasses; therefore, Nuclear Power Plants are safe.” “No books belonging to Shakespeare have ever surfaced; therefore, he could not have written the plays attributed to him.” When Hamlet refers to Polonius as Jephthah, Polonius says, “If you call me Jephthah, my lord, I have a daughter that I love passing well” (II.ii.411-12); Hamlet immediately recognizes this as a non sequitur: “Nay, that follows not” (II.ii.413). Polonius’ inference is that Hamlet wishes to point out that Polonius loves his daughter; Hamlet actually wishes to point out that Polonius is willing to sacrifice his daughter just as Jephthah was willing to sacrifice his daughter.

Stacking the Deck. In science, this fallacy goes under the name “data beautification.” This fallacy occurs when an author gives only the evidence that supports the premise while disregarding or withholding contrary evidence. Advertising is replete with examples: “The new Volkswagon Beetle is 700 percent quieter” sounds good until we know that it’s 700 percent quieter than Busch Stadium during the seventh game of the 2011 World Series! “The Earl of Oxford is mentioned in Francis Meres’ Palladis Tamia as among “the best for comedy.” That is true, but it neglects to mention that Meres also says that Shakespeare is “the most excellent in both [comedy and tragedy] for the stage,” which indicates not only that Shakespeare and the Earl are two separate individuals but that Shakespeare is the better author of the two. The Wëird Sisters in Macbeth tell Macbeth that “none of woman born / Shall harm Macbeth” (IV.i.80-81), but they withhold the important information that people born by Caesarian section are not included in their definition of born of a woman.

False Dilemma. Reducing a complex issue to an “either / or” situation when more than two choices are available. “The person who wrote Shakespeare’s plays had extensive knowledge of Elizabethan legal proceedings that he must have obtained either by having legal training or by possessing an aristocratic background.” In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Egeus says that his daughter Hermia must either marry the man he has chosen for her or be put to death. Duke Theseus recognizes this as the fallacy of False Dilemma and offers a third alternative—to become a nun for the rest of her life. It turns out that this, too, is merely an extension of the False Dilemma: even more choices than these three are available.

The Slippery Slope. Presumes that one event will inevitably lead to a whole chain of other events and ultimately to catastrophe. Commonly used in highly-charged political issues, e.g., censorship or gun control: “If we allow the government to register handguns, next it will register hunting rifles; then it will prohibit all citizen ownership of guns, thereby creating a world in which only outlaws have guns.” “If scholars continue to ignore the weight of evidence that supports the Earl of Oxford’s authorship, they will fall into disrepute, bringing their respective colleges into disrepute, and, eventually, ending the true scholarly study of literature forever.” In Henry V, King Henry outlines a Slippery Slope of what will happen to the town of Harfleur if it does not surrender:
Therefore, you men of Harfleur,
Take pity of your town and of your people,
Whiles yet my soldiers are in my command;
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
If not, why, in a moment look to see
The blind and bloody soldier with foul hand
Defile the locks of your shrill-shrieking daughters;
Your fathers taken by the silver beards,
And their most reverend heads dash’d to the walls,
Your naked infants spitted upon pikes,
Whiles the mad mothers with their howls confused
Do break the clouds, as did the wives of Jewry
At Herod’s bloody-hunting slaughtermen.
What say you? will you yield, and this avoid,
Or, guilty in defence, be thus destroy’d? (III.iii.27-29, 33-43)
Red Herring. Introducing a side issue, some point that is not at all relevant to the debate. “The senator is an honest man; he loves sports and plays with his children on weekends.” “William Shakespeare of Stratford cannot have written the plays; his burial register describes him as ‘gent.’ and not as ‘poet.’” In Julius Caesar, Mark Antony is speaking at Caesar’s funeral, pondering why the conspirators assassinated Julius Caesar. In his speech to the people, he turns from that disscusion with these words: “But here's a parchment with the seal of Caesar; / I found it in his closet, ’tis his will” (III.ii.128-29). Caesar’s will isn’t relevant to the debate over the reasons for Caesar’s assassination: it’s a Red Herring.

Appeal to Unqualified Authority. The kind of product endorsement common to advertising is usually guilty of this fallacy. “Wheaties must be healthy. Many successful athletes recommend it.” I wouldn’t take Michael Jordan’s advice on foreign policy issues; neither would I cite Henry Kissinger as an authority on zone defense. “Malcolm X questioned Shakespeare’s authorship of the plays; therefore, Shakespeare can’t have written them.” In Much Ado About Nothing, Claudio and Don Pedro believe that Claudio’s fiancée Hero has been unfaithful to him on the word of the evil Don John and his henchman Borachio. Don John and Borachio do not have the authority to make claims about Hero’s fidelity or infidelity. As a side note, the well-qualified authorities of Hero and Beatrice, who do have specialized knowledge about Hero’s fidelity or infidelity, are ignored.

Straw Man. A diversionary tactic. Attributing to your opponent erroneous and usually ridiculous views which can be easily attacked. Don’t mistake genuine counter-arguments for straw men. “Those who think William Shakespeare of Stratford wrote the plays are completely uninterested in the biographical details of anyone else living in that time period.” Hamlet attributes the quality of silliness to Polonius in an effort to get the better of him in front of the travelling players: “He’s for a jig or a tale of bawdry, or he sleeps” (II.ii.500-01).

Is / Ought. States that because a thing is so it ought to be so. Used by advocates for the status quo: “You think we need a stop sign at that corner? What do you mean? We’ve never had a stop sign there.” “Hamlet is interpreted with details from the Elizabethan Court; it ought always and only to be interpreted with those details.” The Montagues and the Capulets are locked in a feud at the beginning of Romeo and Juliet. They are feuding, but that doesn’t mean that they ought to be feuding.

Guilt by Association. States that two things are the same thing because they share an attribute. “The Earl of Oxford had knowledge of the aristocracy. The author of the plays attributed to William Shakespeare had knowledge of the aristocracy. Therefore, the author of the plays attributed to William Shakespeare was the Earl of Oxford.” In Romeo and Juliet, Tybalt commits this fallacy when he thinks about Romeo. His argument is essentially this: “I hate all Montagues. Romeo is a Montague. Therefore, I hate Romeo.”

Special Pleading. Disregarding contrary evidence on insufficient grounds. “The best writers of the English Renaissance had a university education. Yes, Ben Johnson, who lacked a university education, was a prolific and popular author during the time and is still exceedingly well-regarded as one of the greatest of Shakespeare’s contemporaries, but he doesn’t really count. No one without a university education could have written the plays attributed to Shakespeare.” In Much Ado About Nothing, Leonato’s daughter Hero is accused of being unfaithful. When Beatrice says that she has been Hero’s roommate for a year (with the exception of the night before the accusation) and would have noticed if she had been unfaithful, Leonato discounts this information on the insufficient grounds that Hero’s accusers would not lie.

Personal Incredulity. Arguing that something is too complex or too incredible to be believed. “The Shakespeare Establishment continues to disregard all the evidence that proves that the Earl of Oxford wrote the plays. I cannot understand how they can be so willfully ignorant.” In The Tempest, Gonzalo can’t quite credit the fact that Prospero—whom he saw banished many years ago—stands before him. He says, “Whether this be, / Or be not, I’ll not swear” (V.i.122-23). Prospero calls attention to the implicit fallacy of personal incredulity with these lines:
                                          You yet do taste
Some subtleties o’ th’ isle, that will not let you
Believe things certain. (V.i.124-26).

Bardfilm is normally written as one word, though it can also be found under a search for "Bard Film Blog." Bardfilm is a Shakespeare blog (admittedly, one of many Shakespeare blogs), and it is dedicated to commentary on films (Shakespeare movies, The Shakespeare Movie, Shakespeare on television, Shakespeare at the cinema), plays, and other matter related to Shakespeare (allusions to Shakespeare in pop culture, quotes from Shakespeare in popular culture, quotations that come from Shakespeare, et cetera).

Unless otherwise indicated, quotations from Shakespeare's works are from the following edition:
Shakespeare, William. The Riverside Shakespeare. 2nd ed. Gen. ed. G. Blakemore Evans. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997.
All material original to this blog is copyrighted: Copyright 2008-2016 (and into perpetuity thereafter) by Keith Jones.

The very instant that I saw you did / My heart fly to your service; there resides, / To make me slave to it; and, for your sake, / Am I this patient [b]log-man.

—The Tempest