Happy Birthday, William Shakespeare!

Photo credit Dean Beattie http://www.eastwing.co.uk/news/?p=504

Photo credit Dean Beattie http://www.eastwing.co.uk/news/?p=504


On this day (much disputed due to no actual record of the day of his birth) in 1564, William Shakespeare was born!

Happy 450th Birthday, Bill!

To learn more about the Bard, visit our author bio here.


Wrap-Up: Hamlet

Congratulations! You have officially read Shakespeare outside of a school assignment. You should be very proud of yourself, and feel free to use that accomplishment to impress friends at dinner parties. If you go to dinner parties. And your friends are impressed by that sort of thing.

Anyway, I hope you’ve enjoyed this foray into theater, and are looking forward to reading the five other plays on the official SSBC reading list (most of them are Shakespeare). And now for the final discussion questions, which we will be repeating at the end of every book club selection.

Question #1 – What did you think of Hamlet? 

Question #2 – What do you think Daria would have thought of the play? 

Question #3 – Are there any final, thoughts, themes, questions, etc. that you would like to discuss?

Reading Assignment: The next book on our list is Walden by Henry David Thoreau. The intro and first assignment will be posted next week! You can purchase or download the book from one of the links on the left sidebar. It’s also available as a free ebook from iBooks (and presumably all other major e-readers as well).


As always, if you have any questions, comments, or just want to chat, you can email us at SickSadBookClub@gmail.com or find us on Twitter at @SickSadBookClub

Discussion #4: Hamlet

We’re nearing the end of the play, and true to tragic form, the bodies are starting to pile up. Hamlet’s father has been dead since before the play started, and in the last two acts have seen the deaths of both Polonius and his daughter, Ophelia. I don’t know about you guys, but I don’t remember this much death in The Lion King. Or pirates, who show up as a rather interesting plot device while  Timon and Pumbaa Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are taking Hamlet to England. Just when you think things can’t get more ridiculous, Shakespeare throws in some pirates.

Anyway, I’ve been waiting to share this clip with you all until closer to the end of the play, so without further ado, may I introduce you to the YouTube channel Thug Notes – Classical Literature. Original Gangster. So far the series has 29 videos, including many that are on the SSBC reading list and that we will absolutely share in our future posts. Check out his post on Hamlet [he will spoil the end, so do your homework first! 🙂 ]

Hamlet actin’ cray-cray

And now for some discussion:

Question #1 – Hamlet has had multiple encounters with his uncle and not taken the opportunity to kill him. At the end of Scene IV, he exclaims, “My thoughts be bloody, or be nothing worth!” – notice he said his thoughts, not his actions. Do you think Hamlet really wants to go through with a murder?

Question #2 – With Polonius dead, her brother Laertes abroad, and Hamlet bound for England, Ophelia is without men in her life to tell her what to do. As a result, she goes mad and ceremonially drowns herself while draped in garlands of flowers. Do you find this event symbolic in any way?

Question #3 – Claudius and Laertes have multiple plans to murder Hamlet when he returns to Denmark. Hamlet still hasn’t avenged his father’s death and has contemplated suicide in the past. Do you think Hamlet will survive Act V?

Assignment: Finish the play.


Thou poisonous bunch-back’d toad!: Shakespearean Insults

It is no secret that Shakespeare has a way with words. I think my favorite example is his use of insults. I have especially enjoyed the insults that Hamlet has offered to Polonius (especially in Act 2 Scene 2).


We have all seen the coffee mugs, magnetic quote boxes and other swag featuring the eloquent phrases to smite your enemies (some of you may even own some of these items :))!  Here are a few of my favorites from the pen of The Bard:

Thou poisonous bunch-back’d toad! – Richard III

Thou are pigeon-liver’d and lack gall – Hamlet

Thine face is not worth sunburning – Henry V

Come, come, you froward and unable worms! – The Taming of the Shrew

My wife’s a hobby horse! – The Winter’s Tale

Thou art a flesh-monger, a fool and a coward. – Measure for Measure

You scullion! You rampallian! You fustilarian! I’ll tickle your catastrophe! – Henry IV Part 2

Your virginity breeds mites, much like a cheese.-  All’s Well That Ends Well


If you would like to find more ammunition for your verbal arsenal, look here, here or here. If you don’t like it then consider, “your brain is as dry as the remainder biscuit after voyage.”! (As You Like It)


Discussion #2: Hamlet

It’s the last day of the year, so I hope you are have some plans to ring in 2014 with friends! It’s been awesome starting this book club this year, and I hope you’ve enjoyed it as well. If you’re still reading along with us this holiday season, we’re tackling Hamlet – thankfully a fairly short read. Act II has brought us a little deeper into the drama that is going on in Denmark, still churning around Hamlet and the scandal of his father’s death. Everyone seems to be hiding things and knowing more than they are telling. In this section we see a lot of spying (Polonius on his son Laertes, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern on Hamlet for the king and queen) and I think it is pretty safe to guess that it isn’t going to end well. Then again, when it comes to Shakespeare, it is about a 50/50 chance that the play is going to end up a tragedy.

This is from the movie Stranger Than Fiction, which has nothing to do with Shakespeare, but I still love it.

This is from the movie Stranger Than Fiction, which has nothing to do with Shakespeare, but I still love it.

Anyway, I only have two discussion questions for you today! Have a happy new year and see you back here in 2014 🙂

Question #1 – Hamlet has been acting strange – he’s absent minded, he creepily showed up at Ophelia’s just to stare at her and sigh – and everyone believes him to be crazy. At this point, do you think he is truly delusional or just misunderstood?

Question #2 – Hamlet plans to find out if his uncle actually murdered his father by convincing actors to put on a play with a similar murder and gauge his reaction to the event. How do you think this will go over with the king and the rest of the family?

Reading Assignment: Read Act III.


Discussion #1: Hamlet

Second title on our reading list, and we’re already diving into Shakespeare. Somehow, the plays can manage to be both intimidating and approachable at the same time. They’re written in a vernacular that is completely foreign to how we speak today, but we start studying them in high school – which means just about every single person in America has read at least one 350+ year old play in their lifetime. How crazy is that?

simba hamlet

Even if you haven’t read Hamlet, you’re probably familiar with the storyline (you’ve seen The Lion King, right??) or know some of the phrases without realizing where they originated. I love this quote from science fiction writer Isaac Asimov in his book Asimov’s Guide to Shakespeare:

There is the story of the woman who read Hamlet for the first time and said, “I don’t see why people admire that play so. It is nothing but a bunch of quotations strung together.”

In Act I, which we read for today, we’ve already seen the famous line “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark” – a phrase that sums up the first act quite nicely. Denmark is in a weird situation with the former king dead and the his brother taking over the throne by marrying the queen. And now Hamlet is seeing ghosts.

Question #1 – In the first scene we are introduced to an interesting character, the ghost of the former king. What sort of tone does this set for the rest of the play?

Question #2 – Only a month after his father’s death, Hamlet’s mother marries her late husband’s brother. Based on what little we’ve seen of them, how do you think this has affected the relationship between Queen Gertrude and her son?

Question #3 – In Scene V, Hamlet declares that “it is an honest ghost.” Do you think the ghost is a reliable figure?

Reading Assignment: Read Act II.

VERY IMPORTANT NOTE: We will not be posting the week of Christmas so we can spend time with our families. Next discussion will be posted Tuesday, December 31.


Author Bio: William Shakespeare


A fool thinks himself to be wise, but a wise man knows himself to be a fool.
William Shakespeare

Since Daria is in high school, she naturally reads a lot of Shakespeare for school assignments. We are all familiar with the general history of William Shakespeare  but here is a brief rundown of the basics:

Born: unknown, but Baptized April 26, 1564 in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, England

Died:  April 23, 1616 at the age of 52 in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, England

Occupation: playwright, poet, actor

Spouse: Anne Hathaway

Children:  Susanna Hall, Hamnet Shakespeare, Judith Quiney

Body of work: 16 comedies, 10 histories, 12 tragedies, 6 collections of poems and sonnets

Nickname: The Bard

There is probably more speculation than actual fact about his life. We do know that he was born to affluent parents and lived a very comfortable childhood. He was married at the age of 18 and had three children. One of whom, his only son, died at the age of 11.


available at shoppbs.org

Most of his professional career was spent in London. It is unclear when he started writing but, well, we all know the affects 🙂 It is not known how many theatre companies he was involved with in the early days of his career but later in his career he was a part-owner of Lord Chamberlain’s Men (aka The King’s Men) and wrote and performed many of his later plays at the now famous Globe Theatre.

He died at his home in Stratford-upon-Avon and was survived by his wife and two daughters.

If you want more info on The Bard, you can find it here and more of the Globe Theatre here.

William Shakespeare's grave, Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-on-Avon, England

William Shakespeare’s grave, Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-on-Avon, England