Monday, July 24, 2006

Three Cheers for Celeste DiNucci!

Now a three-time champ on Jeopardy, and erstwhile grad school confrere. Both students of the Renaissance, Celeste and I used to work with the same faculty member, who (as faculty members do) left for another university. I changed dissertation topics; she changed graduate programs.

As she noted in her chat with Alex on her second appearance, Celeste hosts annual "Shakespeare Jeopardy" competitions on Shakespeare's birthday -- she's a marvel at coming up with nifty topics (such as "Name that Cuckold"). In the one I last participated in (during a party in which we also assembled a miniature of the Globe theatre, a prop I use in my teaching to this day), one category was on stage directions, and I was abashed not to have come up with the most famous of all, from A Winter's Tale: "Exit, followed by a bear." What's worse, I think a "Victorianist" came up with it (grad student egos are unconscionably fragile).

With this shame in mind, I know that despite having won again today, and racked up a sum any hungry grad student would die for, poor Celeste is now suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune -- in the form of stunned e-mails and phone calls -- having missed the first clue in a category on "characters in Shakespeare plays" -- for us, a Cliff Clavin category if ever there was one. The answer: "Benvolio, someone else I can't remember, Mercutio." Piece of cake, no? High school students across the nation delightedly barked, "What is Romeo and Juliet?"

Well, here's the funny thing: I said the same thing as Celeste, in the form of a question, at exactly the same (televised) moment: "What is Merchant of Venice?" Go figure. My aunt, whom I was helping to move today and who was on Jeopardy herself in 1986 (having missed her final Jeopardy question on languages [!], marking Spanish, not Portuguese, as the official language of Brazil), was there to witness our synchronized error and our mutual chagrin. Thankfully, we easily sussed the rest of the category, and Celeste went on to win very capably, her run of the rest of the Shakespeare answers putting her well ahead of her two competitors.

Would that knowledge of Shakespeare would generally be so lucrative! When friends humor me by calling me doctor, I retort that I am available to treat any routine Shakespeare ailments: I need a gloss on this soliloquy, stat! . . .This Troilus is not going to go away on its own . . . Yes, I'm afraid you're suffering from an acute case of Coriolanus. . . Take Two Noble Kinsmen, and call me in the morning . . . (You get the idea.)

Keep it going, Celeste! We're rooting for five acts and an enriching denouement for our spirited protagonist.


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