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Shakespeare in the Alley


the shows in the series

 

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brief summaries of each show below

(Click on the title or use the drop down atthe left to see an expanded description and some of the text from the show.)

Show One - Introduction

Show one introduces three questions the series will address: What kind of poet is Dylan? How can we deepen our appreciation of his work? How does his poetry work? The short answers will be developed in later shows. It focuses primarily on one song, "To Ramona," a simple song in appearance with deep philosophical implications about what the "radical solitude" in which each of us exist.

Show Two - THE THREE KINGS

This show continues the idea of "radical solitude" in "Just Like a Woman" and then turns to the question of interpreation, including a radio drama based on the liner notes to John Wesley Harding.

Show THREE: THE JOKER AND THE THIEFE

Using songs from all  five decades of Dylan’s career, this show demonstrates how Dylan alternates artistic masks.  He fluctuates back and forth  between a Classical mode of moderation and a Romantic mode of excess.  These two modes are symbolically expressed in  the joker and the thief from “All Along the Watchtower.” They reveal Dylan's alternation between Dionysian rebellion and Apollonian order.

SHOW FOUR -- THE BALLADS, PART I

This two part series of shows focuses on narrative songs, the form we call “ballads.” The first part looks at ballads on albums in ’63, ‘64,’ 65 and ’68.  The theme of America emerges in three of these ballads: “ Motorpsycho Nightmare,” “Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream,”  and “As I Went Out One Morning,” where America appears as the “fairest damsel that ever did walk in chains.”

Show five - THE ballads, part ii

Part two moves from analysis of short ballads on the John Wesley Harding album to a close reading of  two long ballads: “The Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest” and the much more powerful and mythic “Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts,” then closes with "A Simple Twist of Fate" which reverses the gender roles in the "Jack of Hearts."

SHOW SIX -- THE LOVE SONGS, PART I

This two part series begins by demonstrating Dylan’s rejection of Tin Pan Alley and of "protest" songs. This leads to a focus on his love songs.  Some are really love song, some explore the artist/audience relationship, some are about spiritual love.  This show closes with an analysis of “I Want You” as critique of popular love song tradition, with the Beatles portrayed in the final verse as “your dancing child with his Chinese suit.”

Show SEVEN - THE LOVE SONGS, PART II-

Part II focuses on a single song, “Visions of Johanna,” one of Dylan’s richest and most complex songs about human longing for the eternal.  The real vs. the ideal is explored as Dylan declares, “Inside the museum infinity goes up on trial.”  This is perhaps Dylan’s finest song in the Romantic mid-sixties period, where "little boy lost" longs for the ideal.

show eight -- myths

Dylan debunks the false myths of “true love” in “Love Sick”  and  American righteousness in "With God on Our Side,” seeking those true myths which lead to salvation and seeks to promote true myths which help us find our place in the eternal rather than the immediate.

Show NINE -- QUENTIESSENCE

Following up on the myths in show eight, this show explores other songs which convey Dylan’s quest for the eternal rather than the temporal. It builds not only on show eight but also show seven in about “Visions of Johanna,” moving on to “Mr. Tambourine Man,” “Quinn the Eskimo,” "When I Paint My Masterpiece," et al.

Show TEN -- THE JOHN WESLEY HARDING ALBUM

This show focuses entirely on one album,  moving through the album analyzing each song as a step in the progression from the outlaw figure of John Wesley Harding to the totally moderate family man who says, “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight.”  This show builds on show three where the  joker/thief dichotomy is introduced as well as the ballad show which covers several songs on the album.

show ELEVEN-- THE ART/ARTIST/AUDIENCE RELATIONSHIP

Following up earlier references to the theme of art’s relationship to artist and audience, this show compares  romantic/classical modes, folk vs. fine art, popular vs. high culture as seen in such songs as “She Belongs to Me” and “Visions of Johanna” and  “When I Paint My Masterpiece.”

SHOW TWELVE: DYLAN AND THE TRADITIONS

This concluding show explores Dylan’s relationship to three traditions: modern poetry, popular song, traditional song.  I argue that he is indebted to all three but at the same time tries to overcome the limitations which each impose on the artist. My conclusion:  he takes the best, leaves the rest.

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