Halloween is just days away and I am still scrambling to put together my costume. If you’re like me and looking for a last-minute Halloween costume with a bookish twist, here are some ideas you may want to consider.
This Halloween outfit was inspired by Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Casual and comfortable, all you need for this Frankenstein costume is some Halloween makeup, a green top, and this Frankenstein Leather Bracelet. Put it all together and you have the perfect costume for scaring up some Halloween fun or a relaxed evening at home, munching Halloween candy and reading.
What do you think, book lovers? Which of my bookish Halloween costumes do you like the best? Let me know in the comments below!
Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears as I share my thoughts on the uproar surrounding the Public Theatre’s Shakespeare in the Park production of William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.
For those of you who aren’t aware, the production in question features a Julius Caesar who bears a striking (and intentional) resemblance to Donald Trump and includes a scene that depicts said Caesar being brutally stabbed to death by Brutus, Cassius, and their fellow conspirators. Despite the fact that William Shakespeare and Julius Caesar both pre-date Donald Trump by a few centuries, and that this play has been produced over the years with many different political leaders cast as Caesar, some have taken this scene as advocating the assassination of our current president. And to be honest, I find this ridiculous for a number of reasons. I’ve spent the past few days thinking about the situation and I even took the time to reread the play before I commented. And I just have to say that I believe it does a HUGE disservice to the play, to Shakespeare, to Trump, to the Arts, and to political discourse in this country to reduce this play, and especially this production of it, to one scene taken out-of-context. Regardless of what you think of the president, and in the interest of full disclosure I should mention that I am not a fan, we need to be able to look at issues in their entirety, rather than focus on the specifics that feed into partisan agendas and social media rants. And we definitely need to re-develop the lost skill of considering context, nuance, and sub-text in our cultural and political discussions.
First of all, can we all agree that, as one of the greatest writers in the English language, Shakespeare can be read on many different levels. Just because Caesar, himself, was literally stabbed in the back, that doesn’t mean that the Public Theatre was advocating or predicting a similar fate for Trump. There are a lot of metaphoric ways to stab someone in the back. In fact – partially due to this play – the phrase, “stabbed in the back” is a common way in our culture to refer to any sort of betrayal, not just those that involve actual knives. So perhaps we can give Shakespeare and the Public Theatre some benefit of the doubt and assume that they are employing a metaphor to make a larger point.
So, if the Public Theatre wasn’t trying to advocate for the assassination of Donald Trump, why cast him as their Caesar in the first place? Frankly, it isn’t uncommon for productions of Shakespeare plays to be set in different times and different places to make the universal themes feel more relevant and current to modern audiences and, as I mentioned before, this play has been performed with Caesar cast as many different political leaders, including a 2012 production that portrayed Barack Obama as Caesar. But, even if that wasn’t the case, there are just too many parallels between the play and the current situation that it’s almost impossible (if not artistically and culturally irresponsible) to avoid the comparison. Let’s be honest, until the Ides of March comes along, Caesar is a character right out of the Trumpian narrative and fits in beautifully with the way Trump likes to think of himself – a larger-than-life leader who comes to power on a swell of popular support from the common man and who is beset by enemies from the political establishment who are waiting for their opportunity to betray him. If Caesar had survived the play, and if Trump was the sort of guy who read / saw Shakespeare plays, he would most likely be the one making the comparison between himself and Julius Caesar. (There’s even a Shakespearean version of “fake news” as Cassius and his co-conspirators forge letters and interpret signs to support their agenda and manipulate Brutus into turning on Caesar). Still, Caesar, whoever he looks like, isn’t the most important part of this play and he isn’t the reason it’s so relevant to this time and this country.
The New York Times has a great article about this topic, Why Julius Caesar Speaks to Politics Today, but here are some of my thoughts on the matter. The play, if you look at it in its entirety, is actually a fairly balanced, cautionary tale to BOTH SIDES of our political divide. To the Right, Julius Caesar is a warning to avoid political hubris. In the play, Caesar is warned multiple times about the danger but is goaded into ignoring the warning. He fails to listen to his advisors and those who have his interests at heart and falls victim to his tragic flaw, hubris. As a result, he walks right into the trap, despite every opportunity to avoid it. In real life, Trump’s overconfidence (and constant tweeting) gives ammunition to his enemies – again, we are talking about metaphoric ammunition, not actual bullets – who are working to bring him down.
Meanwhile, Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar has many relevant things to teach the Left. The conspirators were successful in taking out Caesar, the man, but in doing so, they lost the country and their lives. Some of them were in it for their own self-interest and desire for power. Brutus was motivated by a pure desire to save Rome from what he believed was a would-be tyrant. But regardless of motive, the conspirators lost everything, did not achieve any of their goals, and paid a heavy price for the life of Caesar. The point is, as Oskar Eustis, Artistic Director of the Public Theatre, puts it:
“Our production of ‘Julius Caesar’ in no way advocates violence toward anyone. Shakespeare’s play, and our production, make the opposite point: Those who attempt to defend democracy by undemocratic means pay a terrible price and destroy the very thing they are fighting to save.”
Lastly, Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar has one more important lesson to teach both Liberals and Conservatives. After Caesar was gone, betrayed by his enemies, praised and immortalized by those who loved him, his ghost lingered and haunted his foes. I firmly believe that, whatever happens over the next four years, whether Trump completes his term in office and runs for re-election or if the many scandals, investigations, political intrigues, marches and demonstrations succeed in removing him from office, his presence will continue to be felt for years to come. And we as a country need to consider all of the many factors that lead to the rise (and possible) fall of Caesar and how we can move past the hyper – partisan and incredibly toxic state that our current political climate has become. At the end of the day, the purpose of theatre, of any art, is to start a dialogue, to provoke thought and portray life as the artist sees it, and this play, for better or for worse, does exactly that. As Eustis puts it,
“We recognize that our interpretation of the play has provoked heated discussion; audiences, sponsors and supporters have expressed varying viewpoints and opinions. Such discussion is exactly the goal of our civically engaged theater, this discourse is the basis of a healthy democracy. ”
And for this reason, rather than condemn Caesar, both sides of the political divide should praise this production and the Public Theatre for opening a much-needed dialogue.
Now that Memorial Day weekend is finally here, book lovers everywhere are looking for their next summer read and I recommend Jacqueline Carey’s Miranda and Caliban. An interesting read for Shakespeare fans, Jacqueline Carey’s Miranda and Caliban, tells the back-story behind William Shakespeare’s Tempest. While Carey’s re-telling of the tale gives the ending a much more bittersweet, conflicted resolution, I really enjoyed her attempts to flesh out Miranda and Caliban, taking them from Prospero’s pawn and slave to independent characters with feelings and motivations of their own. All in all, Miranda and Caliban is a great summer read for theatre lovers looking for a good beach book.
Have you read Miranda and Caliban? I’d love to hear what you thought of the book. Let’s chat in the comments below!
For more Shakespeare – inspired summer fun, check out this summer outfit inspired by Miranda from The Tempest. Featuring a handmade Tempest pendant from the C. S. Literary Jewelry Etsy shopand crochet barefoot sandals, this outfit is perfect for dreaming on the beach or soaking up some sun while re-reading your favorite Shakespeare plays.
Happy National Teacher’s Day to all you teachers and educations!!! Thank you for all you do to teach and inspire your students!!!
(Hey parents! Looking for a great end-of-the-year gifts for your child’s teacher? How about a piece of handmade jewelry inspired by classic books and literature, including, The Great Gatsby, Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, or Jane Eyre. Each of the pieces shown here are $25 or less and are on sale this week!!! (Use the coupon code CSLJ15 to save 15% on your order!) Visit my Etsy shop to see more handmade jewelry and unique teacher gifts for teachers.
Question of the Day: Did you have an amazing teacher who made a difference in your life? Leave a comment telling us about them and let’s chat about our favorite teachers!!
Go Shakespeare – chic this Valentine’s Day with a romantic Romeo and Juliet outfit inspired by William Shakespeare’s timeless tale of star cross’d lovers. Perfect for Valentine’s Day, prom night, weddings, date night at the theatre, and romantic, starlit rendezvous on your balcony, this elegant outfit features handmade pearl drop jewelry with text from the Romeo and Juliet balcony scene.
I am super excited for the Tony Awards tonight. I love theatre, especially Broadway musicals, and always have a lot of fun watching the Tonys every year. But with an especially talented crop of nominees, this year’s Tony Awards should be amazing. Of course, I expect Hamilton to dominate the night. With a record-breaking 16 nominations, it’s hard to imagine we won’t be seeing a lot of Lin Manuel Miranda’s mega-hit tonight. (Considering how I am utterly obsessed with this show but don’t expect to be get tickets for quite a while, I won’t be mad to get my Hamilton fix during tonight’s ceremony!) But I am also looking forward to seeing how The Color Purple does tonight.
Rob and I saw the show on my birthday and it was incredible. I loved the set and was really interested to see how the minimal amount of props – mostly chairs, baskets, and fabric, were used to convey so much. The cast was amazing. Cynthia Erivo’s voice was simply mind-blowing and she brought both strength and humor to the role of Celie. It’s funny. You don’t often think of humor in connection with The Color Purple. The show, which was based on the Alice Walker novel of the same name, deals with a lot of heavy issues, including domestic abuse and racial violence, but as Celie comes into her own and grows as a character, Erivo really shone at delivering Celie’s wryly humorous comments.
Of course, Erivo had help in bringing humor to the show. I particularly loved the Church Ladies, who as a cross between a Baptist Choir and a Greek Chorus, offered context, commentary, and sass to the proceedings. Danielle Brooks, from Orange is the New Black, obviously had a great time playing Sofia and that came across in her performance. And with the crowd pleasing number, Hell No!, and a lot of the show’s funniest lines, she really had the chance to shine. (This is the second time I have seen an actress from Orange is the New Black perform on Broadway. Rob and I saw Uzo Aduba perform in the recent revival of Godspell a few years back. And if these two ladies are any indication of what to expect, I will be sure to see any Broadway show that features someone from OITNB from here on in.) All in all, The Color Purple was a powerful show that received not one but two standing ovations throughout the evening. And I will be shocked if Cynthia Erivo does not bring home a Tony tonight.
To help tide me over until the Tonys start, I made this little tribute to a classic Broadway musical, My Fair Lady. Great for a day at the Ascot races or seeing a play on Broadway, this outfit was inspired by a dress worn by Audrey Hepburn in the film version of the musical. Although Eliza’s outfit in that scene is a dramatic and elegant black and white ensemble, I added one of my Tea With Eliza Doolittle necklaces to the outfit for a pop of color and a little reference to Eliza’s time selling flowers on the streets of London.
After I discovered this list of 7 YA Books That Would Make Excellent Prom Themes from the Barnes and Nobel blog, two things have happened. First of all, I am now officially heartbroken that I will never have the opportunity to attend a Night Circus themed prom. *sob* (Why aren’t book themed proms for 40-something book geeks a thing? I mean, I even have the perfect outfit for a Night Circus prom all picked out!! You know, just in case.) And secondly, I can’t stop thinking of great Bookish Themes For a Totally Awesome Prom. Some of my ideas are somewhat problematic. (I mean, can you imagine a Catcher in the Rye themed prom? No one would show up because Prom is for phonies and would, instead, go and wander NYC for the night. I am not sure if this makes it a great prom theme or a terrible one.) But I did manage to come up with six great prom theme ideas that would make any book geek proud.
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
This book actually ended up on a list of Terrible Prom Ideas but I respectfully disagree. Despite the fact that the book didn’t end too well for Gatsby, the parties were epic and unforgettable, which is what you want for Prom night. And besides, there is something about Gatsby’s endless obsession with that one perfect moment (and that one perfect girl) from his past that resonates with the whole concept of prom.
The best thing about a Gatsby Prom is getting to pull out your best Gatsby glam. Whether you go full-on flapper fabulous or go with a traditional prom dress with a few Gatsby – themed accessories, like this Great Gatsby Pearl Drop Necklace and Great Gatsby Earrings, you’ll be all set to party with Gatsby.
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne
A fresh and fun take on the traditional Enchantment Under the Sea prom theme, a 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea prom would perfect for lots of cool, Steampunk styling and fashion.
The Harry Potter Series by J. K. Rowlings
While Harry, Ron, and Hermione were too busy fighting Voldemort to do typical senior year activities like the prom, I am sure that a Hogwarts prom would be nothing short of magical! And if you’re like Ron and would rather skip the dress robes, you can still show off your Hogwarts pride (and carry all your prom night essentials) with this Harry Potter Book Purse by Novel Creations –
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
Can you imagine how much fun the prom committee could have creating a world of pure imagination for Prom? Get some Willy Wonka style top hats for the gentleman and lots, and lots, and lots of candy everywhere for an evening (and a sugar rush) you’ll never forget!
The World of Dr. Seuss
Ok. Hear me out on this one. Think about it. If you are going to the prom, most likely you are getting ready to graduate soon. And nothing says graduation like Oh, The Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss. Odds are you will get at least one copy of the book as a graduation present and hear it quoted at least once during graduation itself. So you may as well embrace the inevitable and have a wild and wacky evening to smile about during all those graduation speeches.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare
Can you imagine a more magical evening than a Shakespeare – themed fairy revel inside an enchanted grove? While my own memories of prom make me think that all the couple drama in the play – including random break ups and hook ups, makes it especially fitting for prom night, the truth is that A Midsummer Night’s Dream, complete with fairy wings for the girls, decorations with a mossy, woodland feel, and lots of fairy lights hung everywhere, would simply be a dream come true.
In two weeks the literary world will celebrate the life and work of William Shakespeare on the 400th anniversary of his death but I’ve decided to start the festivities a little early. And so I dedicated this week’s Friday Favorites collection to the Bard and created a treasury of unique Etsy finds inspired by the play, Hamlet. Perfect for book lovers, theatre lovers, actors, teachers and librarians, these wonderful literary gifts are sure to delight your favorite Shakespeare fan. You can also find lovely, handmade Shakespeare jewelry here in the C. S. Literary Jewelry Etsy shop.
Like what you see? Click on any item to see it (or buy it) on Etsy. You can also see the full collection here. Enjoy!