Thursday, May 6, 2010

Shakespeare at Large


One of our readers, basketball scholar and author of the Charles Oakley-inspired blog What Would Oakley Do? has produced a brilliant Shakespearean analysis of this year’s NBA playoffs.

Did you know that Lebron James has Lear-sized tragic potential? Or that Boston Globe sports writer Dan Shaugnessy is a stand-in for one of the witches in Macbeth? I am now convinced that all the world’s a stage, and we are merely basketball players. Check out "The NBA: Where Shakespeare Happens" on this renowned sports blog to find out why. Here are some Bardelicious excerpts:

Cleveland Cavaliers as King Lear
Like Lear, Lebron is a king whose undoing may be his desire to see which franchise loves him the most.

Orland Magic as Romeo and Juliet
The 2009-2010 Magic campaign has been about the unlikely affair between lovers from two long discordant NBA factions: Vince Carter of the haughty Primadiva clan and Stan Van Gundy of the short-limbed and shorter tempered Benchaparte line. This play is a tragedy and anything less than a return to the Finals for Orlando will be viewed thusly by the hoops punditry. Yet I don't see the woe ranking on a scale with Hamlet or a loss by the Cavaliers so I've paired Orlando with this teenaged tragedy rather than any of the more "mature" ones.

Boston Celtics as Macbeth
With Bill Simmons, Bob Ryan and Dan Shaugnessy taking star turns as those three witches claiming to know everything that can and should ever happen to local athletes this one very nearly writes itself.

Charlotte Bobcats as The Tempest
With Larry Brown as Prospero pulling the strings of his top servant Caliban, being played with menace and depth by Stephen Jackson, visiting teams have been in trouble when they've found themselves marooned in Charlotte.

Los Angeles Lakers as Hamlet
What hoops player has a more publicly dissected inner life than Kobe? Who care so much about how he is viewed? And who has tried more different personas? Is he trying to be a good teammate? The Black Mamba? Or a comic puppet pitchman? Does he have street cred? Or is he safe for soccer moms? From the neurotic way that he so readily tries to affect the manner in which others view of him with his "Look I'm not selfish!" moments of pass-first play to the manner in which he has to tried to hold the affections of Phil Jackson (undoubtedly the Gertrude to Kobe's prince Hamlet) there is little doubt that Kobe is endlessly self-examining. One can only imagine the soliloquies during his trips to the Staples Center in his Ferrari, at least on the trips when he doesn't have Rick Reilly riding shotgun to pen a puff piece meant to affect the way we view him. And, obviously, Sasha Vujacic and Luke Walton are Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.

The Dallas Mavericks as Othello
In the predominantly black world of the NBA it would make sense that blond German guy would be cast as the un-Moorish Othello. And, yes, that means that Mark Cuban is standing in for Iago. A famous and much-staged tragedy, Othello consistently rates just below the best of the best in part because of its lack of compelling subplots and perhaps even due to the race of the main character.

The Denver Nuggets as Cymbeline
In the First Folio, Cymbeline was listed with the tragedies just as the Nuggets were ranked among the contenders into the All-Star break. But eventually the play lost favor with critics and came to be considered a "romance." With the illness of George Karl, the Nuggets took a similar tumble in public esteem. They've gone from darkhorse title contender to a sympathetic human interest feature.

The Utah Jazz as The Merchant of Venice
Presumptions about the racism in Salt Lake City will abound just as the anti-semitic subtext of this play distracts from the action (and even from other more sympathetic reads on Shylock), but there is no doubting that both have key places in their respective canons. Merchant's ending makes it a comedy despite the fact that other issues give it a weightier reputation. What will the ending of the Jazz say about them?

The San Antonio Spurs as Julius Caesar
Et tu Manu?

The Oklahoma City Thunder as A Midsummer Night’s Dream
It’s a no-brainer to pair the most entertaining young team in the NBA with the comedy most enjoyed on the stage. In his Introduction to a recent edition of the play, Stanley Wells recounts something he overheard while attending a performance of one of Shakespeare’s other plays. He heard a schoolboy lament “I wish it was A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” I think that I'll be watching a lot of teams over the next few seasons and find myself wishing they were Kevin Durant and the StolenSonics.

1 comment:

  1. Haha. Weird. I love the connections here and am glad that Shakespeare is still important to people, even sports writers. He's always a great inspiration for my illustrations. Your blog here is very nice.