Soul of the (t)Wit

… or “From Whence come Marcellus_01 ?”

Setting the Stage


@Marcellus_01 on Twitter

I little over a week ago I got into a bit of a DM discussion on Twitter with @danikabarker as she was pondering “some kind of Shakespeare project.” At the time, I was thinking that she might be contemplating a summer-time Stratford Festival dinner-and-theatre Tweet-up, and so I let her know that I was all-in for something like that. (More on that another day.)

As it turns out, however, Danika was looking at collaborating on a combination of Twitter and Shakespeare (specifically, Hamlet) to support her secondary English sections in the weeks following the March break. Within a day or so, she had fleshed out the idea, and was looking for folks who might be interested in participating. You can read all about it on her project blog, Brevity is the Soul of (t)Wit. (Great title, Danika! Borrowed part of it for this blog post.)

Now, let me say that my limited, though thoroughly engaged involvement with Shakespeare formally began (as I recall, at any rate) when we took a six-hour round-trip bus ride in Grade 9 to Stratford, Ontario. The play we went to see was The Taming of the Shrew, and based solely on the title, I can’t say I was overly inspired in advance of that production. However, in seeing the show, I was both enthralled and amazed when I came to realize that not only was it possible to deliver an “old school” play in the manner of a then-modern sit-com (Three’s Company came to mind at the time), but that the content of the play transcended the hundreds of years since it had been put to paper. Subsequent years in high school saw us study The Merchant of VeniceOthello, Macbeth, and included additional trips to the Festival Theatre in Stratford.

By Grade 13, in addition to (I guess somewhat geeky) role-playing stints as Merlin Abrosius (read Mary Stewart if you haven’t) and channelling characters from Monty Python, there were times when I would, as an exercise, work to speak in Iambic Pentameter. Somehow it just added that little extra challenge to the task of communicating an idea.

By the time I was at university, we would travel to Stratford during the summer months to take in shows by Shakespeare, and Gilbert & Sullivan, and it was during one of these Stratford visits that I acquired a souvenir mask — the companion to which is displayed in the photo above. Somewhere, along the way, the speaking-in-rhyme fell to the way side (probably not an overly negative thing).

So, fast-forward to the present, and Danika gets back to me with an invite to play the role of Marcellus, one of the spear-carrier rampart guards. Despite not having studied Hamlet formally, I immediately accepted, and shortly thereafter, on March 1st at 9:41 pm, @Marcellus_01 stepped onto the Twitter stage. As it turns out, Marcellus_01 looks remarkably similar to the photo of my souvenir mask, and so he has decided to use it as his current avatar.

Where We’re At

I think it’s safe to say, one week into this little endeavour, that we’re all “finding our way” and sorting out the rules as we go along. The “official play” doesn’t start up until after the March break (Monday, March 21st is the first official event on our calendar), but folks are taking time to establish their characters and back stories and sorting out the various intricacies of royal protocol. (That in itself is interesting given the levelling effect that social media can have. Imagine having discussions on Twitter with the Queen! More on that another day.)

Anyway, since beginning to tread the boards (or walk the ramparts, in my case), @Marcellus_01 has worked to establish his digital identity and a create bit of verisimilitude, having so far extended out from Twitter to include TwitPic (to be important at a later date),, and FourSquare. I’m sure he’s only just getting started. We’ll see where the play leads. I’m thinking YouTube at some point.

If you’re interested in following the action, the easiest way is to set up a column in your Twitter client for the Brevity/Hamlet cast list, as managed by Danika’s character, Horatio_79.

So What?

Suffice to say, participation in this project is providing an interesting lens through which to think about learning in an active, participatory way, and as with all reflective experiences, leads to new connections which might otherwise gone unnoticed.

I’ll close with this screen capture from the RSA Animate of Ken Robinson’s TED Talk: Changing Education Paradigms.

Yeah — that’s Hamlet there (with Yorick’s skull) — that’s what caused me to stop the video and do the screen capture. But look at what stands out, now that we’re looking at that image for more than the few seconds that it would normally stay within our field of view in video form.

If you watch the video, you’ll see that @SirKenRobinson emphasizes a tension between the aesthetic (as drawn out and enhanced by The Arts) and the anaesthetic (as imposed by various effects of systemized schooling, one among them being the medicating of  students diagnosed with ADHD).

Wow. What a great tension for us all to reflect on. Who wants to be anaesthetized? Rather, who doesn’t want to be engaged? And what a great testament to continuing to involve and engage within the world of The Arts.  This little foray into a bit of Shakespeare, otherwise not too accessible to me here in the March, is doing nothing if not engaging the aesthetic, and drawing on a variety of capacities to create.

Thanks to Danika for providing all of us with this opportunity to be involved and engage. This is going to be a great month!