Bob Dylan Sings Measure for Measure

Date: 2011
Posted by: BardfilmKJ
Cast: None
Credits: Singer/composer: Keith Jones
Duration: 5.03

As a Shakespearean who is also a lifelong Bob Dylan fan, it is difficult to express just how must joy this video has brought to me. With pitch-perfect Dylan intonation, Keith Jones sings and strums along to his summary of the plot of Measure for Measure, borrowing the tune of ‘Seven Curses’ (Dylan’s version of the traditional song ‘The Maid Freed from the Gallows’ which featured among his early repertoire). Some rudimentary but helpful illustrations guides us through the narrative, with some wordy extracts from the notes to the Arden edition to demonstrate that it is someone who knows the play only too well who singing to us.

This isn’t just a scholarly joke. ‘The Maid Freed from the Gallows’ is about a woman (a man in some versions) due to be hanged who pleads for her life but is let down by a succession of people until her true love at the end is able to save her. ‘Seven Curses’ changes to the protagonist from the victim to the victim’s daughter, who is seduced and betrayed by a judge who has her father executed. The themes of corruption and betrayal fit all too well with Shakespeare’s story, while use of the ballad reveals the folk narrative that may underpin the play. The connection might have worked even better had not the writer/composer felt an obligation to be true to Shakespeare and all the complications of his plot. It might have been better to make things simpler and stay true to where the song should lead you. But Shakespeare would surely have been proud of rhyming ‘Claudio’ with ‘bozo’.

Keith Jones is a professor and English and Literature, and the person behind the excellent Bardfilm: The Shakespeare and Film Microblog. Other videos of his have appeared on BardBox before now, only to be taken down from YouTube for their re-use of published music. Here he is on safer ground, giving us his own music, in a unique blend of scholarship and goofiness.

YouTube page
Wikipedia entry on ‘The Maid Freed from the Gallows’
Bardfilm: The Shakespeare and Film Microblog has three posts on this subject: Shakespeare and Bob Dylan, Bob Dylan, Will Shakespeare, and Measure for Measure and Dylan and Shakespeare, Continued.

Hamlet – the music video

Date: 2008
Posted by: larryc56
Cast: Laurence Olivier (Hamlet) and cast of 1948 film
Credits: Edited and performed by Laurence Campling, song by Adam McNaughton
Duration: 4.53

Here’s a classic parody with a YouTube twist. Scottish folksinger Adam McNaughton’s chirpy song ‘Oor Hamlet’ takes us through the main plot points of Hamlet, gently mocking its absurdities until the final pay-off line, “If you think that was boring, you should see the bloody play”. Video editor Laurence Campling plays and sings the song, delivered in a folky style (without the original’s Scottishisms) reminiscent of Martin Carthy (who does in fact include this song in his repertoire), which he has edited to clips from Laurence Olivier’s 1948 film. The earnestness of Olivier’s film cries out for sending up, and the video achieves the clever trick of pleasing both those who have suffered Hamlet in the classrom and those who love their Shakespeare and find that satire only increases that love.

YouTube page
Adam McNaugthon’s lyrics to Oor Hamlet
Adam McNaughton on Wikipedia
Laurence Campling’s website

Oberon v Titania

Date: 2009
Posted by: chrisnatti
Cast: Borts Minorts (Oberon), Ball Ball Minorts (Titania), Bonestein (Titania fairy dancer), Skin Jones (Oberon fairy dancer)
Credits: A Chris Carlone Creation
Duration: 3.03

Now here’s something to stop you in your tracks. Borts Minorts is a New York performance artist/dancer/musician, real name Chris Carlone, who with his like-minded cohorts combines performance art with avant garde music, pantomime and off-the-wall dance to create an exuberant brew of pure artistic energy. Add Shakespeare into the mix and the results are compelling.

And so we have Oberon v Titania, an open-air assault on Shakespeare’s characters with wild dancing amid the trees, done to the accompaniment of a mad mix of tortured guitar and trombone, and intercut with a concert of the same song (there are words, largely indecipherable). Borts Minorts himself is Oberon, dressed in the white ski suit that is his customary costume. Ball Ball Minorts (his sister, apparently) plays Titania. The how and why of it are a little difficult to determine, but it is pure Dada.

YouTube page
HD YouTube version
Bort Minorts’ MySpace

To bleed or not to bleed

Date: 2009
Posted by: metalshakespeare
Cast: Viceroy Matthew [Matt Stikker] (lead guitar, backing vocals), Lord Simms [Jason Simms] (vocals, rhythm guitar), William Sly [Randy Bemrose] (drums), Sir Raleigh the Valiant [Riley Geare] (drums), Duke Luke (‘Bottom’) [Luke Dennis] (bass)
Credits: Not given
Duration: 4.58

The Metal Shakespeare Company bringing together Shakespeare and heavy metal music. They may not do so entirely seriously, but they certainly go about their business with skull-banging gusto. This full-blooded assault on Hamlet (chiefly Hamlet’s lines on Yorick’s skull, from Act 5 Scene 1) shows as much respect for the tenets of heavy metal as it does for Shakespeare’s verse. The costuming and settings are pure heritage Shakespeare, but the energy of the performance takes the video beyond a mere comic sketch. Chiefly, it demonstrates how neatly Hamlet works seen through the music of modern tortured adolesence (though the addition of an ass’s head from A Midsummer’s Night Dream is a bit odd).

The Metal Shakespeare Company hail from Portland, Oregon, USA. Previously known as Dagger of the Mind, they describe themselves as “70% metal and 30% theater”. They cite their influences as being Iron Maiden, Manowar, Dio, Judas Priest and Mercyful Fate, while they feel that their sound can best be described as “Shakespeare turning in his grave”. Turning rhythmically, at least.

Metal Shakespeare Company site
Myspace page
YouTube page