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Preface: As I've said, oldie writing will be dusted off and plunked blogside (at least at first; new stuff should gradually overtake i...

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Summary: Dylan's Basement-borrowings from Shakespeare

Judging from my finds so far, Bob Dylan had a pretty definite "let's paraphrase Shakespeare crazily" program in mind on the Basement Tapes. Condensed results to date, from around the blog here, and from my haphazard Twitter and Facebook posts:

"Odds and Ends" -- from Troilus and Cressida (tent scene)
"Crash on the Levee" -- from Hamlet (Prince Hamlet versus mom and Ophelia)
 "Please Mrs Henry"-- from Henry IV, Part 1 (Falstaff freestyled; from Merry Wives too??)
 "Tiny Montgomery"-- from Timon of Athens (title, etc)*
"Apple Suckling Tree" -- from Taming of the Shrew (Bartholomew, seven years)
"Wheels on Fire" -- Othello (title/scholarly tome) (May 22, 2013: woops! Nope!*****)
"Lo and Behold" -- Antony and Cleopatra (mound! 30 BC! etc)**
"Million Dollar Bash" -- Midsummer Night's Dream?? (title, later: or general overview??)***
"Going to Acapulco" -- As You Like It (Arden is "big places" etc)...
"You Ain't Going Nowhere" -- A Winter's Tale (cold weather, "railings" pun, aged bride coming, etc)
"Yea, Heavy and a Bottle of Bread" -- Measure for Measure (bread, smell, general dissipation--it's maybe the most complicated yet!)****
"Open the door, Homer" -- Richard II, bit o' King Lear too?? (man...)
"Mighty Quinn" -- Richard III, (far more clearcut, thankfully)
"I'm Not There"-- Romeo and Juliet, ("gone" from dead Romeo, e.g. scene V iii)
"Tears of Rage" -- King Lear ("rake your name in sand"?)
"I Shall Be Released" Richard II("light" from west to east, Mowbray "framed" etc.)(June 1; excuse slowness)

Man, gotta sort all this stuff out... if you're really interested, imaginary reader, snout around the blog etc. for the tedious details, or ask me...

*Just on a hunch, from Dylan's "gas that dog" I checked "dog" in the Shakespeare Concordance. Slight surprise: Timon of Athens has more uses of the word "dog" (14) than any other play, and 13 of the 14 instances have the same cadence as Dylan's usage; only "unpeaceable dog" doesn't. Check the others if thou doubtest:

** (Oct. 11) Put some of the evidence/argument on youtube (of all places) with a little swipe at the adjoining Alan J. Weberman uber-sophistry. Heh. =]
(Oct. 21) Put a load of detailed additions onto Twitter; keywords: hook, vacant seat/vacancy, shame, name, hat/helmet. Really, this is about the most open-and-shut case of borrowing in all the songs.

*** (Oct. 11) Okay, a little searching of my e-self TOTALLY drew a blank. Is my e-face red? But hey, check THIS possibility for the mysterious "cheeks in a chunk"
A fairly direct hit methinks, although I don't think the whole song "reduces" to Henry VI. More like the song is some sort of bizarre pan-Shakespeare fanfare, possibly directed like a bullet at Weberman ("Along came Jones and emptied the trash"). In fact it is easy to imagine Dylan writing the tune and muttering under his breath, "Interpret THIS, you dumb bastard."
Dec. 23 postscript: a little research suggests Dylan didn't know Weberman until a year or two later. Damn!--and the line seemed like such a perfect reference too (now about the Lieber and Stoller possibilities...). But still: I now HAVE figured out exactly WHO the Shakespearean "big dumb blonde with her wheel gorged/in the gorge" is. Oh yes! Beg me to tell you, o whizbot following this blog! =]
Oct 21, 2013 The "wrist" is easy to find in Hamlet...
         *         *         *         *
Okay, I'll try to be organized and make this post Clearinghouse Central for all the emerging Dylan-Shakespeare stuff (and date each item) as I dig it up. We're still only at the tip of the iceberg, I'm guessing... and never mind that this mixaphor implies digging the water around an iceberg, dammit. =]

*         *         *         *

**** This song ("Yea, Heavy") submits well to word-checking on the Shakespeare concordance (trouts, catch, etc.) but I'm also picking up distinct echoes of Love's Labor Lost in the song (e.g. pipe). Hm--"the comic book in me" might be two? Nice joke. But alas, while I've read Measure for Measure (big help) I'm unfamiliar with Love's Labors Lost...

*****Proof it pays to be thorough: further dips into the concordance (favors, unpack) hit Titus Andronicus and Hamlet respectively, and as I've possibly mentioned elsewhere (others Dylanologists have too) The Wheel of Fire is a prominent study of Shakespearean tragedy, therefore the song is quite arguably a tragic mishmash. Yeah, THERE is a great two-word blurb, eh?--tragic mishmash. Parallelly (is that a word?) "Yea, Heavy and a Bottle of Bread" may be a general mishmash of the comedies? Onward to the tedious research.

June 14, 2013 Initial indications: "Long-Distance Operator" rooted in Cymbeline (operate, thousands) and Minstrel Boy" in Love's Labor Lost (coin, twelve, roll and the suggestion of "toil"), Romeo and Juliet (minstrel in a money context), and Rape of Lucrece (?--Mocking-bird). Needs some work and nailing-down, but really, who has the time... and my initial ridiculous guess was "Twelve forward gears" MIGHT be a reference to sonnet-structure. And/or the song is about John Lennon. File all that under "a headful of ideas that are..."

circa Oct 7, 2013 (check Twitter @frameofmind...) "Don't Ya Tell Henry" taps Henry V (and makes a sort of surreal "sense" or two of "Apple's got your fly!"