A mixed but mostly positive review of the Royal Shakespeare Company's latest offering of Macbeth, with noted Dr. Who actor Christopher Eccleston, ably accompanied by Niamh Cusack as Lady M. As with Michael Fassbender's 2015 movie version, the loss of their child underpins many of the conceits of this production, working sometimes, but not always, in particular in the second half of the production. See the review here.
In this nicely done two minute video, English comedian Rob Brydon runs through some phrases that are in the English language today, that were coined by Shakespeare. How many? By our count, 61. How many do you know? Watch and find out!
One of the sadder Shakespeare related stories from recent history. Shakespeare (indirectly) caused an air crash in 1960. A plane taking off from Logan Airport in Boston was brought down by a flock of starlings. The Shakespeare connection? Starlings are not native to the US, but were brought over by Shakespeare fanatic Eugene Schieffelin in 1860, so that Central Park would be stocked by every bird mentioned in Shakespeare’s works. For more on the story, read a New York Times archive story, and a wikipedia entry on the events surrounding the actual crash of Eastern Airlines Flight 375.
March/19/2018 14:07 Interpretation | Shakespeare | The Winter's Tale | Arin Arbus | James Shapiro | Performance
A three minute interview with director Erin Arbus. She discusses her vision of what Shakespeare may have been thinking and attempting to do with this play, written after his great tragedies had come out. Redemption? Forgiveness. memorialization on the fifteenth anniversary of his son Hamnet's death? Interesting and thoughtful.
March/19/2018 13:15 The Winter's Tale | Shakespeare | Shakespeare Resource | Performance | Interpretation
The Winter's Tale, though of one Shakespeare's more obscure and less performed plays, also claims the dubious honor of "the gaudiest stage direction" in the canon: "Exit, pursued by bear". That's a pity, because the play is memorable for more than just that - for example, the bringing back to life of a dead character through the animation of a statue. The play is also sometimes characterized as one of Shakespeare's "problem plays", that is a play whose type is hard to categorize. It starts off as a dark drama filled with jealousy, fear, recrimination, and child abandonment, and yet works it's way into a "happily ever after" ending. Tragicomedy? Whatever the type, director Arin Arbus with the Theater for a New Audience, has put up an enjoyable version of the play, and well worth seeing if you are in Brooklyn and have an evening to spare!
Almost none of Shakespeare's handwriting survives today — mainly his signature on various legal documents. But this edited script from a play that Shakespeare had a hand in but did not write — The Book of Sir Thomas More — contains some of his handwriting. And what he has to say in it, says something about what Shakespeare believed about the fate of refugees, and mobs that would treat them poorly. A fascinating piece from NPR.
March/16/2018 13:59 Shakespeare | Shakespeare's Relevance | Julius Caesar | Language | James Shapiro | In every day use
March/15/2018 09:45 Shakespeare | Interpretation | Comics | Humor | Macbeth | Shakespeare Resource | Educational Resource
Shakespeare: profound, far reaching, capable of the deepest insights into the human soul, etc. So how could stick figure cartoons possibly capture even the smallest part of his oeuvre? Well, Good Tickle Brain somehow manages to do this, and more. For young students, this may possibly provide a helpful first step. Adults too, for that matter.
March/14/2018 17:40 Shakespeare | Interpretation | Shakespeare's Relevance | Romeo and Juliet | In every day use
This is a two year old summary video by the New York Times, but it is really good. It examines Shakespeare's pervasive influence throughout our high and low culture, and manages neither to sneer nor fawn in the process. Well worth three minutes, and a great primer for classroom discussion. It includes references to The Simpsons, Different Strokes, Star Wars, The Muppets, Sesame Street, Star Trek, Iron Man, A Fish Called Wanda, Die Hard, The Terminator, The Postman, Lion King, Empire, Sons of Anarchy, House of Cards, Gilligan's Island, and performers such as David Bowie, Beyoncé, Styx, and…Bugs Bunny?
March/13/2018 20:41 In every day use
An unpleasant yet enduring sentiment, here on the side of a Manhattan bus in March 2018, and of course generated by Shakespeare in Henry IV Part II. Yet another confirmation point of Shakespeare's enduring insight into human obsessions.
March/07/2018 13:05 Shakespeare | Authorship | Contemporaries | Hamlet | Scholarship | Textual Analysis
Every six months to a year or so, a claim is made that Will Shakespeare, of Stratford, did not write the plays we generally associate with him. This article is slightly different, since it leaves that aspect of the Shakespeare debate to the end (with a pretty good refutation of the theory that "Shakespeare is not Shakespeare".) The first part of the article suggests that a 1576 copy of a French collection of tragedies (François de Belleforest's Histoires Tragiques) was not only used by Shakespeare for inspiration (specifically, Hamlet), but also has some of his annotations. As always, the debate will rage on!
In the classrooms we have visited over the last few years, we've noticed that Shakespearean insults, and software that generates "Shakespearean-style" insults seems to work well in capturing the imagination of younger students. We recently came across this amusing video of Siobhan Thompson deploying insults in a 21st century context. Cleverly done, and not too insulting…
After the last few days of humorous posts, a more somber one to end the week. At many prisons across the United States, Shakespeare is used as a tool for educating inmates, and re-integrating them into communities. One of the older of these programs is Curt L. Tofteland's Shakespeare Behind Bars program in Kentucky, started in 1991. Their latest production: A Midsummer Night's Dream, a production which uniquely, requires theatergoers to undergo a background check and security clearance.
The Onion pitches in to the distressing state of weapons in classrooms with this humorous piece - the power of the pen over the sword. If only it were ever thus.
A lighthearted (and light touch) approach to introducing Shakespeare to students, as Will Shakespeare visits an English school to explain, amongst other things, his creative process (just don't call him cheat!)
February/26/2018 08:09 Shakespeare | Interpretation | Hamlet | Language | Pedagogy | Performance | Shakespeare Resource | Educational Resource
February/22/2018 09:41 Shakespeare | Shakespeare's Relevance | Macbeth | Performance | Stars Playing Shakespeare
A great interview with Christopher Eccleston, an English actor perhaps best known for being the ninth doctor in the storied Dr. Who series. The interview has two great talking points — the fact that accents matter very little in performance (take note those who say that only the English can perform "true Shakespeare"), and also, now that it has been announced that the 13th Doctor Who will be a woman (Jodie Whittaker), that a time is coming when women can — and should — take on the great (traditionally male) roles in Shakespeare's plays. A very humane and thoughtful discussion. Eccleston will play Macbeth in a new RSC production opening in March.
February/21/2018 08:21 Interpretation | Shakespeare | Romeo and Juliet | Infographic | Performance | Reviews | Shakespeare Resource | Educational Resource
Between 1961 and 2010, The RSC put on sixteen different productions of Romeo and Juliet (including a 1973 production directed by Terry Hands, with Timothy Dalton as Romeo.) (Do they call him Montague…Romeo Montague?) The interactive timeline provides a great teaching resource, allowing teachers to compare and contrast different approaches to the same classic play.
Fans of Rowan Atkinson's Blackadder series should know about Upstart Crow. With the same writer (Ben Elton) and yes, the same slightly lowbrow (but gentle) sensibility, Upstart Crow stars English comic actor David Mitchell. With two seasons under its belt, and a third on its way, it offers an enjoyable peep inside Shakespeare's life. Sort of!
February/16/2018 13:59 Interpretation | Shakespeare | Shakespeare's Relevance | Macbeth | Performance | Reviews
Shakespeare contests abound, and we love to see them pop up here in the US and abroad. This one caught our eye because of the winning passage, which came not from Hamlet, Othello, Henry V — but from The Two Boble Kinsman, certainly one of Shakespeare's least well-known and performed plays. So bravo to Jenna Burns for not only using a passage from that play…but winning with it as well!
February/13/2018 09:47 Shakespeare | Shakespeare's Relevance | Romeo and Juliet | Politics and Orwell | Language | In every day use
Always beneath the surface with Shakespeare's plays: how do 21st Century teachers handy the sometimes bawdy and violent imagery and language in Shakespeare? In Western Australia, principal Ted Kosicki feels that certain texts — including Romeo and Juliet — need to be reviewed, and possibly removed from the curriculum. A tricky subject, and also proof again of the value Shakespeare provides, by exciting discussion and thought.
February/12/2018 12:32 Shakespeare | Authorship | Contemporaries | Language | Scholarship | Textual Analysis
Shakespeare did not write in a vacuum, and scholars today confirm that he was heavily influenced by Holinshed's Chronicles, and Plutarch's Lives (properly titled Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans.)
Now, an amateur and deeply capable scholar — Dennis McCarthy — has, in collaboration with Professor June Schlueter, ferreted out what is likely to prove a powerful third influence on Shakespeare, the writing of one of Queen Elizabeth I's ambassadors to Sweden, George North. An obscure diplomat until now (his Wikipedia entry starts onFebruary 8, 2018 — 4 days ago!) he had an elegant turn of phrase that clearly caught Shakespeare's attention and imagination. The book that sparked Shakespeare's — and now our — interest, was A Brief Discourse of Rebellion & Rebels. Read the New York Times article here.
February/09/2018 08:36 Shakespeare | Language | Original Productions | Performance | Scholarship | Shakespeare's Globe | Textual Analysis | Shakespeare Resource | Educational Resource
David and Ben Crystal provide a genuine service to Shakespeare lovers (and doubters too, really) by hypothesizing on what Shakespeare's language might have sounded like in its original pronunciation. In addition to being intrinsically interesting, it has an impact on performance, if actors and directors wish to provide an "original" production to their audience. Very worthwhile video clip.
Just when I thought I'd seen Shakespeare used in every way imaginable — I saw something new. Here's an article by Wired on kits for repairing scratches on cars. And who did they choose to quote? Why, Mercutio, naturally, after he has been fatally stabbed by Tybalt in Act 3 Scene 1 of Romeo and Juliet. Here's a link to the fantastic 1968 Zeffirelli movie.
February/07/2018 08:37 Shakespeare | Shakespeare Resource | Stars Playing Shakespeare | Educational Resource
February/06/2018 15:16 Julius Caesar | Shakespeare | Reviews | Interpretation | Shakespeare's Relevance | Performance
February/04/2018 19:31 Julius Caesar | Shakespeare | Reviews | Interpretation | Shakespeare's Relevance | Performance
Another production of Julius Caesar, reflecting our growing preoccupation with demagoguery and the virtues and perils of republics and democracies gone awry. Ben Whishaw, Michelle Fairley, David Calder, and David Morrisey all put in excellent performances, according to Guardian critic Michael Billington. The play is at the Bridge Theatre, an the set design has audience members be part of the mob.
February/02/2018 09:50 Shakespeare | Interpretation | Shakespeare's Relevance | Performance | Macbeth
February/01/2018 10:15 Shakespeare | Contemporaries | First Folio | Scholarship | Shakespeare Resource | Educational Resource
Geneva's Bodmer Lab has made available to the public a full high resolution digital copy of a 1623 First Folio. Pictured above is a part of the dedication of the volume by Heminges and Condell to their patrons, William, Earl of Pembroke, and his brother Philip, Earl of Montgomery. A tremendous asset to scholars, teachers, and students, but note, the text of the web site is in French.
Always fun to track down a misquoted quote. Here, the offending (and never-written-by-Shakespeare) quote is: People usually are the happiest at home Writer Mark Fisher goes on to cite a real quote (from Henry V) which highlights how the initial sense of an Shakespearean phrase can often be the exact opposite of its actual meaning: "Men are merriest when they are from home", where "from" means "away", rather than "at".
January/30/2018 12:04 Interpretation | Shakespeare | Shakespeare's Relevance | Hamlet | In every day use
Turns out, you can attend a performance of Shakespeare, and drink your way through it all. Unorthodox to modern ears, but as this article from NPR points out, likely the approach (for audience members at least) from Elizabethan times. And the name of the troupe? Why, The Drunk Shakespeare Society, of course!
January/26/2018 10:11 Shakespeare | Contemporaries | Scholarship | Shakespeare's Own Life | Shakespeare Resource
The original document used to announce King James I's granting of a royal warrant to Shakespeare's acting troupe, changing their name from The Lord Chamberlain's Men to The King's Men, and permitting them to perform "Comedies, Tragedies, Histories, Enterludes, Moralles, Pastoralles, Stageplayes". Read and see high quality digital scans of the warrant.
Photo by Rob Freeman © RSC
In addition to doing remarkable work in Stratford and beyond, the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) also provides a host of excellent resources for teachers and students. Feast! (And if you're wondering what text is being worked on in the photo — it's Henry IV, 2 Act 4, Scene 3 (Thy due from me / Is tears and heavy sorrows of the blood, / Which nature, love, and filial tenderness / Shall, O dear father, pay thee plenteously. / My due from thee is this imperial crown.
January/23/2018 15:30 Interpretation | Shakespeare | Language | Performance | Stars Playing Shakespeare
January/19/2018 09:12 Shakespeare | Interpretation | Titus Andronicus | Language | Pedagogy | Scholarship
The discussion about trigger warnings lapped on to Cambridge's shores late last year, with the news that English literature students at Cambridge received trigger warnings about sexual violence and assault in regards to Titus Andronicus and Comedy of Errors. Professor Mary Beard and Cambridge Shakespeare Festival Artistic Director David Crilly reacted strongly against the move.
China will recreate the playwright's family home / Shakespeare Birthplace Trust
The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust has signed an agreement with the Fuzhou Culture and Tourism Investment Company, permitting the building of a replica of Shakespeare's Stratford home in San Weng. Two other notable writers will be so honored, including Miguel de Cervantes, and Tang Xianzu — very roughly China's nearest equivalent to Shakespeare.
Illustration by Luci Gutiérrez
The New Yorker's amusing piece imagining Shakespeare as a jaundiced celebrity author doing his umpteenth solipsistic interview
A brief but good examination by Professor David McInnis at the University of Melbourne, of how widely and thoroughly Shakespeare is misquoted. Some of the examples ("Wherefore art thou Romeo") are quite well known, others less so.
This is an article about rugby (obviously). But it's always nice to see a little Shakespeare allusion threaded in, amongst the heaving athletes, and the blood, sweat, toil, and tears!
January/12/2018 13:05 Titus Andronicus | Julius Caesar | Antony and Cleopatra | Shakespeare | Performance
Three reviews of the RSC's current season at the Barbican Theater — Titus Andronicus, Antony and Cleopatra, and Julius Caesar. Of the three, Titus comes off best, with some interesting analysis by reviewer Matt Wolf, in particular the idea that Titus Andronicus in some ways was Shakespeare's preparation for King Lear — particularly in terms of the channeling of extreme violence and the resulting pathos. An interesting take.
Michael Axel, right, as Shagspeare, performs alongside Emilty Cady, as Judith, in "Equivocation," a play that imagines a
scenario in which Shakespeare has been commissioned as a government propagandist.
Bend, Oregon's 2nd Street Theater put on an original production, "Equivocation", examining whether playwrights should write about contemporary events, whether in polemical opposition, or as propagandists. An interesting fact that emerges from this review: Shakespeare and his contemporaries were forbidden from writing about current events in their works.
January/10/2018 13:46 Interpretation | Hamlet | As You Like It | Merchant of Venice | Taming of the Shrew | The Two Noble Kinsmen | The Winter's Tale | Emma Rice
The new director of Shakespeare's Globe, Michelle Terry, sets the direction for the first season, with some tried and trusted plays, and some of Shakespeare's lesser known works.
Superb essay by Stephen Greenblatt, very very worth reading. More.
Tom McCall, left, and Stefan Adegbola in Royal Shakespeare Company’s “Titus Andronicus.” “Pretty much every night there’s somebody who faints or is sick,” said Becky Loftus, the R.S.C.’s head of audience insight. “We want to see how the audience reacts physically to the production.” Credit Helen Maybanks/RSC
Does watching a production live, versus on a movie screen, engender a different physiological reaction? The RSC intends to find out. More.
(Simón Prades for The Washington Post/For The Washington Post)
A good (if not slightly harsh) review of modern perspectives on Shakespeare. Are we too timid with our productions? Is "relevance" overblown"? More.
April/23/2017 21:36 Interpretation | Shakespeare | Hamlet | Performance | Reviews | Stephen Greenblatt
March/13/2017 14:24 Interpretation | Shakespeare | Shakespeare's Relevance | Performance | Richard III
Stephan Wolfert rehearsing his one-man show, “Cry Havoc!”
SARA KRULWICH / THE NEW YORK TIMES
A closer look at how Shakespeare makes sense of war, to veterans and those who have lost friends in war.
March/08/2017 11:28 Shakespeare | Interpretation | Hamlet | Language | Original Productions | Performance | Reviews
February/27/2017 18:07 Shakespeare | Interpretation | Performance | Shakespeare's Own Life | Stars Playing Shakespeare
A very positive review of a play that resonates in today's political environment. More.
IUPUI professor Terri Bourus teaches Shakespeare classes. She was one of four general editors of “The New Oxford Shakespeare.” (IBJ photo/Eric Learned)
Troubles assail the inner working of the production of the New Oxford Shakespeare project.
February/03/2017 14:49 Shakespeare | Interpretation | Shakespeare in Translation | Shakespeare's Own Life
It looks as if TNT will be releasing a "biopic" of young William Shakespeare. One hesitates to think what they will do with history…
The BBC have put up what looks like a fantastic Shakespeare resource, but unfortunately, they have made it accessible only to students in the UK. That's a shame.
A seasoned (and quite amusing) Pittsburgh theater critic, Ted Hoover, cannot abide Shakespeare and his works. Among his pithier quotes on Studio 360: “If you had a lick of intelligence in your head , this play [Romeo and Juliet] wouldn’t happen. It only happens if you’re stupid.” Possibly... More. Oh, and NPR's Ira Glass also dislikes the bard…
Political stability, apparently. Interesting article from 2014 in The Guardian on China's clampdown on...wordplay. Coded language can be dangerous, according to the Chinese government. More.
December/10/2016 15:45 Interpretation | Performance | Stars Playing Shakespeare | Shakespeare | Star Trek
Michael Dorn (Worf in Star trek) is set to play Marc Antony.
December/05/2016 15:42 Interpretation | Performance | Reviews | Shakespeare | Shared Light | The Tempest
A production photo of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s collaboration with Intel on “The Tempest.”
PHOTOGRAPH BY TOPHER MCGRILLIS / R.S.C.
Daniel Pollack-Pelzner reviews the RSC's production of the Tempest, and examines the limits of real-time computer effects blended with a live performance.
Starting next year, The RSC will display political cartoons influenced by Shakespeare. The influence runs deep, and long ("...an 1846 cartoon depicting the then prime minister Robert Peel's resignation as the fall of Caesar... [to]... Morten Morland's cartoon of David Cameron as Hamlet gazing at Boris Johnson's skull, from 2016"). More.
December/01/2016 15:39 Humor | Interpretation | Language | Scholarship | Shakespeare | Textual Analysis
November/23/2016 15:33 Uncategorized
We like spoonerisms and incomprehensible theater reviews, but we love dogs, so when we saw this piece of advice with a Shakespearean twist at the end, we had to post! Happy Thanksgiving (and don't let your dog eat cooked bone, it seems...) Hat tip to barkbox (with whom we have no affiliation.)
- We know, we know! Dog and Bone feels like the Romeo & Juliet of the dinner table: who are we to keep them apart? But cooked bones can splinter and become a choking hazard. And that makes for one seriously unhappy ending. “For never was a story of more woe than this of Drooliet… and her Boneo.”
November/21/2016 15:31 Interpretation | Performance | Reviews | Shakespeare | Shakespeare in Translation | Taming of the Shrew
We can't say we fully (or even partially) understand this review of Taming of the Shrew by the Russian Kachalov Theatre, but in the spirit of acknowledging Shakespeare's global reach, we put it forward here. Opaque though the commentary may be, it certainly seems like a visually arresting production. More.
November/20/2016 15:28 Contemporaries | Interpretation | Language | Shakespeare | Shakespeare's Relevance | Textual Analysis
The Guardian proposes that Leonard Cohen is to Bob Dylan, as John Donne was to Shakespeare. Discuss...More.
November/11/2016 15:23 Interpretation | Language | Performance | Shakespeare | Shakespeare in Translation
Tremendous article in the Financial Times detailing the possibilities and pitfalls in translating Shakespeare's works into Mandarin. More.
November/09/2016 15:19 Language | Scholarship | Shakespeare | Shakespeare's Relevance | Textual Analysis
Isaac Butler, compares Lin-Manuel Miranda's Hamilton, with Shakespeare's Henry IV, part 1 -- (proper title: 1 Henry IV) in this complex but well reasoned piece for Slate. More.
This delightful article by Madeline White in the Brisbane Times provides the answer: provenance. These three words are very much part of today's English lexicon, but all three originated from the Arabic language. The point? That historically, the English language has proved very adept at incorporating elements from other languages into the vernacular - with Shakespeare in the lead as an arch-shaper of that language, and emoji as the latest digital import into English. Ms. White makes the case better than we can! More.
We here at The New Book Press can't resist the occasional Spoonerism. So, here 'tis! More.
Michael Crichton leaned heavily on Shakespeare's words when writing Westworld. What does it all mean? More.
Celia Imrie and Glenda Jackson in a rehearsal of “King Lear” at the Old Vic. Credit Manuel Harlan.
After a quarter century absence, two time Oscar winner and former English member of parliament Glenda Jackson will return to the stage this Friday, to play one of the most challenging of Shakespeare's roles - King Lear. More.
Leonard DiCaprio and Claire Danes in Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet
The Guardian re-reviews Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet on its 20th anniversary. More.
A solid review of Margaret Atwood's retelling and reinterpreting of The Tempest. More.
Shakespeare takes center stage in a novel intervention for children with autism. A new study from the Nisonger Center at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center shows children with autism had improved communication and language skills after ten weeks of Shakespeare classes.
A remarkable article on how Shakespeare's The Tempest is being used to help students with autism spectrum disorder. More.
A great article that looks at Shakespeare's writing through the prism of medicine - what he (and his contemporaries) knew about medical conditions, and where that knowledge came from. More.
A fascinating discussion about playing Hamlet from a 1963 BBC TV program (or programme, as you like it). It's a peculiarly chaotic interview, with everyone talking over each other, Wheldon (the host), not controlling the discussion at all, and some fairly poor camera work. However, it's worth listening to what Welles, O'Toole, and Milton are saying. They're thoughtful, humorous, and in their own separate ways, deeply in tune with Shakespeare's masterpiece.
The Globe, which opened in 1997, is a reconstruction of a Shakespearean theatre.
Emma Rice, the Shakespeare Globe's artistic director, will step down at the end of the 2017 season, after clashing with management over the use of sound equipment and lighting rigs. At the heart of the disagreement is whether the Globe should focus on traditional productions that mimic the constraints of Elizabethan theatre tech, or incorporate current theatrical methods (the "shared light" issue in theatre shorthand). For now, the traditionalists have won. More.
From Wikipedia: A portrait, supposedly of Christopher Marlowe. There is in fact no evidence that the anonymous sitter is Marlowe, but the clues do point in that direction. Marlowe was 21 years old in 1585, when the painting was made. He was also the only 21-year old student at Corpus Christi, where the painting was later found.
New scholarship from the Oxford University Press suggests that Shakespeare had help from Christopher Marlowe when writing Henry VI, parts 1, 2 and 3. Corpus analysis helps solve the puzzle! More.
Long did, but famous in his time, he was more known for his vaudeville and broadway performances. As a not very helpful hint - he was born Joseph Yule, Jr.