ComPost Live with Alexandra Petri

Apr 23, 2013

Join us next Tuesday to laugh, cry, and dish about the moments that amused you, shocked you, or caused you to yell things that frightened the other people on the subway.

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Hello all! 

How goes your Tuesday? I have just returned from the International Whistling Convention, and boy are my arms tired, for unrelated reasons.

... than your refrigerator magnets?

My refrigerator magnets consist of an advertising magnet for Crybaby the Musical, Phantom of the Opera, a magnet cartoon of the Obamas, and several magnets inviting me to weddings, so... I hope so?

There is nothing funny about tardiness.

I know! Punctuality is a part of kindness, as Victor Hugo says. Apologies.

Here is some discomfiting news!

Also, it's Shakespeare's birthday. 

Let's have a bardy chat. 

Most functional Shakespeare couple? Beyond the obvious Beatrice and Benedick, I think the Macbeths start off pretty functional and then things head downhill swiftly. 

Least functional? I've heard a good case for Ferdinand and Miranda, or Romeo and Juliet if they survived. 

And the ever-popular: how can you fix all the tragedies? IE, swap characters from one into another in a way that they're capable of dealing with the problem presented. Stick Othello into 'Hamlet' for instance, and he has no problem taking revenge. Put Hamlet into 'Othello,' and he sees right through Iago's machinations. How do you fix 'Macbeth'? 

Chris Cillezza is reporting that George W. Bush's approval rating for his presidency is up. He has achieved this milestone because he has assiduously kept out of the news over the past four years. Do you think this strategy can work for incumbent politicians?

Hey, it'd be worth trying.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder! Or is it 'seldom seen and soon forgot'? 

Regardless, I really want to visit the Bush library and try the Interactive Decision-Making exhibit! How much worse could it be?

So in what may be a regrettable move, I accepted a number of personal friends who I have no professional connection with on linked in. I think its weird for them to endorse my skills in computers, since most of their skills are limited to finding the home & power button on their iPhones. Has this happened to you?

I have yet to answer the siren song of LinkedIn. And by 'siren song' I mean an unpleasant oscillating noise that periodically shows up in my inbox. I don't think I'm missing out?

were the plays written by Shakespeare, or by someone calling himself Shakespeare... let the flames begin! I myself was disappointed in the great Sir Derek Jacobi's championing the Earl of Oxford as author. Everybody who was around in Shakespeare's time said Shakespeare wrote the plays.

Given this chat's well-publicized stance in favor of Bacon, I feel like a traitor agreeing with you, but... yeah. As J. M. Barrie said, if Bacon didn't write Shakespeare he missed the opportunity of a lifetime. 

It's the AWWWWW factor, because everybody loves a glowing first-time grandpa. It doesn't make me forget "Mission Accomplished, though.

As the Colbert report joked last night, the library opens on the anniversary of the Mission Accomplished landing, which means that it will be completed in, oh, 8 years or so. 

We would love you best if you never showed up!

Well, we all loved J. D. Salinger.

Give them cell phones and a decent texting plan. Or IMing.

Although after years of maintaining that this would solve everything, trust this to be the one afternoon Romeo doesn't charge his phone...

"How do you fix 'Macbeth'?" sounds like it would make a great song-and-dance number....

"There is nothing like a Thane/Nothing in the world/Nuts to Hamlet he's a Dane/There ain't anything like a Thane"

You know you're going to die at the end of the play, so you might as well die in an interesting way.

I've been wrestling with Ophelia a lot lately because she actually goes nuts in a play full of people pretending to go nuts. And for this brunch play I've been working on for Fringe, where she's a main character...

You send an intern to distract Macbeth, and let Lady Macbeth take over.

That's certainly one solution, although not if you're aiming to avoid a horrible ambition-based bloodbath.

Mystery writers say they are having a harder time thinking up plausible plots because cell phones eliminate so many possibilities.

It's true! But on the bright side, for anyone who's seen Catfish, Cyrano de Bergerac has never seemed more plausible. 

I vote for Antony & Cleopatra as Shak's most functional couple. Their relationship is so great that Antony completely forgets how to be a triumvir.

Ha! True.

Maybe Cleopatra could fix Macbeth. If she marries the Thane of Cawdor, she makes him so happy that he doesn't try to o'erreach his ambition.

So I'm hearing that Cleopatra might be the solution to all this.

This could have been easily made into a TV sitcom. In fact, I think it already has: either John Ritter as Lear in "Rules for Dating My Teenage Heirs to the Throne" or Bill Cosby as Lear in "The Lear Show."

The thing about Lear, as a professor I had pointed out, is that on the one hand you can view his Okay Daughters Who Loves Me Best contest as a crazy senile old man plan or a bad fairytale (see: The Princess Who Loved Her Father Like Salt) OR as a brilliant political scheme designed to allow him to entail the entire estate on his third-in-the-line-of-succession-but-clearly-most-reliable daughter Cordelia. If he picks something arbitrary like Most Loving instead of a traditional criterion like primo geniture, he can hand it to the third-in-line, and if Cordelia weren't so ploddingly literal/bad at public speaking, he might actually be able to get it to work and get all the peers to agree to it. Then of course it backfires horribly and the tragedy ensues. But I always found that an interesting angle. 

Except for me, I call it The Scottish Play.

Well I thought as long as we weren't chatting from a theater at the time, we would be okay...

Send the senior Capulets and Montagues to an anger-management class.


Why are they even fighting? Does anyone remember at this point?

One of the most brilliant updated Shakespeare plays I ever encountered was Jane Smiley's "A Thousand Acres." I grew up in midwestern farm country surrounded by family disputes over property, and the whole thing rang true for me. Even the blinding of Lear's pal was worked in, in a way that did not seem contrived in the least.

I've heard good things about it but have not yet managed to get around to reading it. I'll keep it on the list!

Capulet thought Thomas Kyd wrote all of Marlowe's plays.

Them IS fighting words!

That's a really interesting theory. But if Lear were that sharp, then he wouldn't be so angry when Cordelia refuses to play ball. He'd have said something like, "For her honesty, Cordelia wins the game! Hail Queen Cordy!" Instead he turns into a rage monster. (Hmm. Maybe if Lear could turn into the Hulk... "Lear smash!")

Yeah, I think the response could be that she needs to at least appear to play ball for it to seem plausible in front of the court, and she just doesn't. Hence, rage monster. 

and I'm OK!

Sleep all night? 

If Lady Gaga were cast as Cleopatra, who would you cast as Anthony?

Lady Gaga. 

They have the decades of lasting passion to make it believable. 

Make Macbeth a skeptic who doesn't believe in prophecies, and send Lady Macbeth to a shrink.

Or alternatively have all of Macbeth's horoscopes conflict with what the witches have just told him. ("Huh, the weird sisters advised me that I could become king, but Libra today urges me against taking any hasty action against superiors.") 

Replace him with Hamlet, and he'll never make up his mind to kill Duncan, even with Lady Macbeth nagging him.

Oh, this wins! +449, whoever you are!

it's so quintessentially British. Only such a class-ridden society (yes, even today) could get so worked up about a commoner writing great literature.

Although did you see that recently the Globe director is concerned that all the big-name actors are coming out of public schools? 

If in doubt, swap out any protagonist with Titus Andronicus. His attitude of "Let God sort 'em out" would make for some really really short plays. Case in point: the last scene of Hamlet would probably happen right around when the ghost shows up.

He wins for one of my favorite Shakespeare Lines To Use Out of Context -- "Who molests my contemplation?" the nagging-to-kill contest.

Oh gosh. Volumnia wins, I think, just by virtue of having the mom card to play, although if any card trumps the mom card it's the "I would have dashed out the brains of my suckling infant" card.

It shouldn't be a problem if enough of them are in those schools on scholarships.

That's a good point. I hope he's considered that. 

Hamlet betrays the woman who loves him, then blames outsiders when things don't go his way. ("How all occasions do inform against me!") Sounds like Mark Sanford to me.

And they have a similar prose style, in terms of the long, self-centered ramble. 

If you go through Shakespeare's tragic heroines, Ophelia actually has probably the hardest time of anybody: her boyfriend kills her father, whom she's evidently pretty tight with even if he does tell her "go to, you are a green girl" a lot. Desdemona, Juliet, and Cordelia just alienate their fathers, and at most they lose a cousin. 

The Capulets add a serial comma, the Montagues don't.

Not sure the deaths of Romeo and Juliet would be sufficient to bind up those wounds... 

Replace Lady Macbeth with Isabella from Measure for Measure. Strike some fear and trembling in him instead of goading the power grab.

Ugh, I'm sorry, I can't stand the people in Measure for Measure, even the ones I'm supposed to like, and the resolution is just so irksome. Probably that's presentism on my part, but, so be it. I think they are duly punished by being stuck in that play for good. (Admittedly it has been a while since I read it and your solution might actually work.)

And her brother tries to kill her boyfriend...


Landsakes. I'd be depressed too!

I believe that's known as the Earl of Oxford comma.

Ha, well-played! +449!

Watch out for double-barreled names, and given names like Rupert. Cross them off the list first thing.

Catsmeat Potter-Pirbright is RIGHT OUT!

Bravo. Obviously, you don't need to brush up your Shakespeare.

Thank you!

If she says your behavior is heinous

Kick her right in the Corio-- 

'ere, listen.

And Anthony Hopkins called him an Oxon moron.

Well, on that note, I must return to my post(s)! 

Have a glorious and dazzling Tuesday, keep reading the Compost, and feel free but bear to follow me on Twitter!

In This Chat
Alexandra Petri
Alexandra Petri writes the ComPost, a lighter take on the news and issues of the day, and she contributes to the Post editorial page. Her work has appeared in venues such as The Huffington Post, The Week,,, Collegehumor, and The Harvard Crimson. She has appeared on Jeopardy!, Showbiz Tonight and Canadian radio, and she has performed at Boston's Comedy Studio and Comedy Connection. She would love to be on your TV show, radio show, Daily Show, HBO special, or to be an honored guest (or regular guest) at your Bar Mitzvah. She is the author of two books (unpublished, but contact her!), two screenplays, three plays, one musical, and one memoir (Ernest Hemingway's A Moveable Feast.)
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