The Silly Side of Shakespeare

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By Mya Gosling

Shakespeare is hilarious: his comedies are funny and his tragedies are even funnier. Well… at least that’s the mindset I have whenever I sit down to draw a new comic poking fun at the Sweet Swan of Avon and his plays.

I’ve been drawing Good Tickle Brain, the world’s foremost (and possibly only) stick figure Shakespeare webcomic, for three years now, and Shakespeare has kindly provided me with enough material to keep on drawing for the rest of my life. I often have people ask me how I get all of my ideas. The truth is that I’m just mining the undercurrent of ridiculousness running through all of Shakespeare’s plays.

For this blog post, I thought it might be fun to walk you through the creation of a comic from start to finish. In order to get an idea, I’m going to open up my copy of The Norton Shakespeare (which just happens to be closest to me right now) to a random page and search for inspiration. Here we go…

 

unnamed

….OK! I’ve landed on Act 3, Scene 4 of As You Like It. Scanning down the page I see these lines:

ROSALIND

I met the Duke yesterday, and had much question with him. He asked me of what parentage I was. I told him, of as good as he, so he laughed and let me go.

Duke Senior’s apparent total inability to recognize his daughter is one of the stupider things in As You Like It, but, as Rosalind and Duke Senior don’t actually share any scenes on stage together until the final denouement, it often gets glossed over. This seems like ample fodder for a comic! I happen to know there’s a line in that final scene that might be useful, so I flip forward to make a note of it.

DUKE SENIOR

I do remember in this shepherd boy
Some lovely touches of my daughter’s favor.

ORLANDO

My lord, the first time that I ever saw him,
Methought he was a brother to your daughter.

HAHAHA, what a pair of idiots. Now, how to turn this into a comic… Well, how about just drawing that offstage meeting between them? In fact, this could be a good idea for a whole series of comics: Unseen Scenes! There are plenty of them in Shakespeare, after all.

I fire up my comic-drawing software of choice, Clip Studio Pro, and get to work. I think I can probably get two rows’ worth of material from this idea, so I open up the appropriate template. (The little blue figure in the middle there is a guide I use to make sure all my stick figures are the same size and shape.)

 

unnamed (1)

 

Then it’s just a matter of writing it out. I settle on a six-panel format. The first panel is the set-up, i.e. Rosalind and Celia’s conversation. The next four panels cover Rosalind’s offstage conversation with the Duke, and the final panel brings it back to Celia and Rosalind, with Celia saying what everyone in the audience is no doubt thinking at this point.

Once I have the text laid out, I add a bunch more little blue stick figure guides to where I want characters to be, so it looks like this:

 

unnamed (2)

 

Then it’s just a matter of drawing the darn thing. I try to give related characters similar hairstyles, so Rosalind and her dad get curly hair, while Celia gets the same type of hair, only straighter. This is what passes for subtlety when it comes to drawing stick figures.

And here’s the finished comic (with some minor dialogue tweaks)!
unnamed (3)

 

Objectively, I’d say that most of my comics aren’t necessarily thigh-slappingly funny. I’m not always out to create a great gag or brilliant punchline. Instead, I see my comics as a means of encouraging people to laugh at the bits of Shakespeare that they’ve always secretly thought were absurd, or, even better, to highlight the bits I find hysterical for people who think Shakespeare more than a bit dull.

Shakespeare is so often put up on a pedestal; we’re taught that he is Great Literature, and thus something to be taken Very Seriously Indeed. But the fact of the matter is that Shakespeare can also be very silly indeed, and ridiculous, and nonsensical, and just plain fun. My comics just try to capture and share some of that fun.

 

The views expressed in this post are the author’s own.

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