Happy Birthday Shakespeare!

Image of William Shakespeare

So, you may be wondering, “Shakespeare? On an Austen blog?” Yes, dear readers. Shakespeare on an Austen blog. (For many, this may be no surprise to you.)

The inspiration came when I read April is Shakespeare’s birthday (April 23) month (which seems apropos since April is also National Poetry Month) and remembering I wrote about Will+Jane, an exhibit sponsored by the Folger Shakespeare Library, last year. In support of the exhibit, the Library wrote several articles on topics like collecting Shakespeare and Austen and adaptations and fan fiction*.

Austen read and knew Shakespeare very well and used his plays as jumping off points for plots and characters such as direct use such works as in Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure in Sense and Sensibility and the hodgepodge of influences in Mansfield Park. Stephen Derry writes, “Edmund Bertram declares that ‘one is familiar with Shakespeare in a degree … from one’s earliest years.  His celebrated passages are quoted by every body … we all talk Shakespeare, use his similes, and describe with his descriptions.'”

Austen’s keen insight and use of Shakespeare’s works gives Austen readers an opportunity to know his work without having read his work directly. Austen often indirectly quotes Shakespeare as a critique and satire of the 18th and early 19th centuries as much as Shakespeare’s himself did much the same for the 16th and 17th centuries giving Austen and Shakespeare some common parallels in their works.

If you’ve not read Shakespeare, a good way to get introduced to him, other than Jane, of course, is to check out modern movie adaptations of his work. I’m especially in love with  10 Things I Hate About You, a 1999 adaptation of Taming of the Shrew, starring Heath Ledger as Patrick Verona (Petruchio). A fun series, Shakespeare Re-Told, retells Much Ado About Nothing, MacBeth (starring a future ex-husband of mine, James McAvoy), The Taming of the Shrew (starring Shirley Henderson and Rufus Sewell), and A Midsummer Night’s Dream (starring Bill Paterson and Imelda Staunton) in contemporary settings. There is something hilariously delightful as Sewell spending most of the time in ladies clothes.

(Aside: I had the great pleasure to tour of The Globe Theatre on a trip to London a few years back as well as the Jane Austen Centre in Bath and Basildon Park, Netherfield in the 2005 adaptation of Pride & Prejudice, on a separate trip to the UK. My husband and I are heading to DC next month to see the Folger Shakespeare Library and I’m pretty excited.)

*My favorite Austen fanfiction is Doctor Who/Jane Austen cross-over. Jane makes an appearance in the Doctor Who episode Frostfire. Himself makes also makes an appearance in the Doctor Who episode The Shakespeare Code.

Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters links for April 22, 2018

Image logo for Austentatious Links

Here are your Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters related links for the week:

Smells of The Brontes

Image of Latherati Soap's The Moors perfume

This can’t be a Jane Austen and Bronte blog with naming only Jane Austen perfumes, lotions, and soaps without finding them for the Bronte’s.

While finding the smells of Austen was pretty easy, the Bronte’s were a bit more difficult. You can find more scents by going here and here.

A Breath of Fresh Eyre by BiblioBibuliCrafts ($12)
A solid perfume “…was inspired by the fresh airs on the moors, cheerful banters by a cracking fireside, and early morning walks in the Thornfield garden.”

Jane Eyre by Wrapped and Read ($30+)
A solid perfume locket using “…the scents of summer roses, wild autumn woods, and hearth fires to bring you a floral scent with smokey, dark undertones.” (The seller would like to note the price is for the perfume and locket only. You can purchase a chain for $10 more.)

Jane Eyre Oil Fragrance by Raven’s Ct Apothecary ($43.57)
Vegan perfume that has a “…romantic union of the bashful rose, elegant bergamot and the subtle clary sage.”

The Moors by Latherati Soap ($9)
Inspired by Wuthering Heights, the fragrance is “warm cedarwood, patchouli and black pepper with hints of ripe raspberry and a lush green forest.”

Latherati Soap has additional Bronte inspired products here.

Wuthering Heights by Little Book Eater ($12)
“This fragrance is inspired by Emily Bronte’s only novel, Wuthering Heights. Made with the scents of black chamomile, wild lily, herbal lavender, fresh fern, and earthy juniper.”

Wuthering Heights bar soap by The Soap Librarian ($6)
“The lavender green tea fragrance is a soothing blend of earthy green tea and floral lavender that creates a deep, mysterious scent.”

Jane Austen: Myth, Reality and Global Celebrity

Image of a Jane Austen book in the front of a stack of books

One of the reasons I started this blog, the primary reason really, is I’m fascinated and a bit obsessed with the pop cultrafication of Austen and the Brontes. It’s perfumes and candles, games, and home decor. It’s the massive amounts of para-literature, modern spins, and interpretative plays. I read a few years back the Austen empire generates a $1 billion dollars a year. I’m sure the Brontes are in the millions of dollars a year themselves, especially with the 200th anniversary of Austen’s death and books and the Brontes births between 2017-2020.

To put it succinctly: Austen and the Brontes have never gone out of style.

So when I heard about the free MOOC (massive online open course) at FutureLearnJane Austen: Myth, Reality and Global Celebrity, I knew this was up my alley.

According to the course’s landing page, here are the topics you’ll cover:

  • The Austen myth: who is she and what does she mean to people around the world?
  • An 18th century education: Jane and women’s education and reading
  • Austen’s literary and family influences
  • Austen’s ‘dirty walks’: gardens and landscapes in Austen’s writing
  • The marketing of Jane Austen at home and abroad – how her legacy has endured and built her celebrity
  • Austen’s afterlives: adapting Jane Austen for the modern age in film, TV
  • Austen as a commodity: portraits, hair and merchandising

The course, taught by the University of Southampton, begins April 23 and ends June 16. And don’t forget, it’s free!

[A dreadful darkness closes in]

It would not be poetry month without posting poems from the Bronte sisters and Jane Austen! Every Thursday this month, I’ll post a new poem from one of our leading ladies.

[A dreadful darkness closes in]
by Anne Bronte

A dreadful darkness closes in
                     On my bewildered mind;
O let me suffer and not sin,
                     Be tortured yet resigned.
Through all this world of whelming mist
                    Still let me look to Thee,
And give me courage to resist
                    The Tempter till he flee.
Weary I am — O give me strength
                    And leave me not to faint;
Say Thou wilt comfort me at legnth
                    And pity my complaint.
I’ve begged to serve Thee heart and soul,
                    To sacrifice to Thee
No niggard portion, but the whole
                    Of my identity.
I hoped amid the brave and strong
                    My portioned task might lie,
To toil amid the labouring throng
                    With purpose pure and high.
But Thou hast fixed another part,
                    And Thou hast fixed it well;
I said so with my bleeding heart
                    When first the anguish fell.
For Thou hast taken my delight,
And hope of life away,
And bid me watch the painful night
And wait the weary day.
The hope and delight were Thine;
                    I bless Thee for their loan;
I gave Thee while I deemed them mine
                    Too little thanks, I own.
Shall I with joy Thy blessings share
                    And not endure their loss?
Or hope the martyr’s crown to wear
                    And cast away the cross?
These weary hours will not be lost,
                    These days of passive misery,
These nights of darkness anguish tost
                    If I can fix my heart on Thee.
Weak and weary though I lie,
                    Crushed with sorrow, worn with pain,
Still I may lift to Heaven mine eye,
                    And strive and labour not in vain,
That inward strife against the sins
                    That ever wait on suffering;
To watch and strike where first begins
                    Each ill that would corruption bring,
That secret labour to sustain
                    With humble patience every blow,
To gather fortitude from pain,
                    And hope and holiness from woe.
Thus let me serve Thee from my heart,
                    Whatever be my written fate,
Whether thus early to depart
                    Or yet a while to wait.
If Thou shouldst bring me back to life
                    More humbled I should be;
More wise, more strengthened for the strife,
                    More apt to lean on Thee.
Should Death be standing at the gate
                    Thus should I keep my vow;
But, Lord, whate’er my future fate
                    So let me serve Thee now.