Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Clash of the Icons: Shakespeare, the Beatles, and Wayne Rooney

Those of you accustomed to reading my reflections on language and culture may have been a bit taken aback by my World Cup fever of late. For one thing, I have had few decent thoughts since I finished my dissertation revisions, and have reveled in analyzing sport instead of letters. For another, that translation of Jose + 10 does derive from my interest in language -- I started out in Spanish, went through several other assorted languages, before making a career out of sixteenth-century English. But since I've let my brain go soft in the past week, I've also become addicted to YouTube. I know what you're thinking -- especially since my late ode to iTunes -- aren't you a bit late to the game, Gwynn? Yes, dissertations will do that to you. But it's been so much fun finding these clips on YouTube, clips of things I love, thought I'd never see except randomly. I thus present to you three such clips that show how my passions do in fact intersect. . . all under the rubric of Anglophilia, I suppose, but not entirely. . .

In this first clip, we have the Beatles performing the "mechanicals'" performance of Pyramus and Thisbe, from Act V of Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream (I write on Shakespeare).

This was evidently an attempt to have the Beatles attempt to match wits with the Bard, although at a very early stage in the Beatles' ascendance, in April, 1964*. . . Very forward-thinking, on the behalf of those who thought the Beatles might reach that status in England; and it's interesting, how the Ox-Bridge types in the audience attempt to put them down . . . are they consciously mimicking the rudeness of the mechanicals' gentle audience in MND?

In this next clip, we have Sesame Street -- a childhood icon of mine -- perform "Letter B." My dissertation concerns letters and spelling, so this clip is especially dear to me. I mentioned it -- even sang a bit -- during the Q & A at my job talk at Queen's University, though have yet to learn whether that counted for or against me . . . I doubt their other candidates were so unabashed.

You gotta love the floppy orange beatle wigs.

Finally, I present this hilarious video about English striker Wayne Rooney, which shows the lengths the British will go to to render an anthem for their favorite football players. Personally, I preferred "Michael Owen scores the goals, hallelujah!" (to the tune of "Michael, row your boat ashore"), but my beloved square-mugged Michael tore his ACL two minutes into the Sweden match (yes, I am indeed eating crow on that); Michael being from Liverpool, we might've had a chance at a Beatle coming up with a tune. This video nonetheless proves my point, however, about the intersection of British icons, and, if you watch it full through, brings us full circle . . .

Come on, weren't you a little bit inspired? I know, the lyrics are so painful they're funny ("Beckham's free, Beckham's free. . ."). I promise I'll get back to thinking when I can. In the meantime, a little TV in small doses can't hurt. . .

* When I first made this post, I had said that this program was shown in 1963, before the Beatles arrived in the States (in February, 1964); my error, I have corrected it. My point nonetheless remains the same.


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