Shakespeare: the Creator of Rudolph?
You’ve probably heard the song “Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer,” and seen the movie that came with it (I’m talking about the Rankin-Bass quality one, not the later 2-d animation or any such thing). If you haven’t seen it, go, now. I’ll wait.There now, great movie, huh? But what you may not know is that our little red-nosed friend is only about two degrees removed from Shakespeare.
Now, before you start combing over your Shakespeare library, let me save you the trouble right now. No, Shakespeare never wrote anything about a misfit reindeer who was ostracized because of his neon nose. However, Shakespeare did write about one character who, we can safely assume, had a VERY red nose.
Remember Henry IV and Henry V? Well, those plays included a character so popular, he received his own spin-off play: The Merry Wives of Windsor. Falstaff! If you want to see a picture, head on over to my about page. The picture of me has a very prominently placed Falstaff.
Falstaff was one of Shakespeare’s most beloved comedic characters. As a matter of fact, he even has his own Verdi opera: Falstaff. This is where we get to the Bard inspiring the character of a neon-nosed reindeer. You see, in this opera, there is a character named Bardolph, who is basically one of Falstaff’s drinking buddies.
Now we get to the line in the opera that inspired the character of Rudolph: “So che se andiam, la notte, di taverna in taverna, Quel tuo naso ardentissimo mi serve da lanterna! Ma quel risparmio d’olio tu lo consumi in vino” roughly translated to English, this reads: “[Bardolph] With your nose so bright, tonight you will guide me to the tavern. But you’ll cost me more in wine than I’ll save in oil!”
Robert L. May, the man who created Rudolph, was known to be a Shakespeare and Verdi aficionado. Thus, when he created a character for the department store chain Montgomery Ward, some of his influences rubbed off on the main character. So, we have a 17-th century drunkard/clown turned into an opera character with an equally drunk buddy, who was in turn transformed into an anthropomorphic reindeer.
This is the sort of connection that made me want to start this blog, so to find it in one of my favorite childhood Christmas movies makes a great early Christmas present for me! What are some of your favorite movies to watch during Christmas? Who knows? If you do a little digging, you might find that the Bard influenced your childhood more than you thought! And, if you do happen upon such a thing, I’d love to hear about it! Also, is there anything you would like to know about Christmas in Shakespeare’s time? Drop me a note! I’d love to hear from you, and I may feature your question on my blog! Until tomorrow, merry Christmastide/happy holidays/ all that good stuff!