WordPlay™ Shakespeare

Now, Half the Page is a Stage...

An Embarrassment...

An Embarrassment
A harsh (and to some extent amusing) editorial piece on a 1928 production of Macbeth. The chief complaint is that the performance is set in modern (that is, circa 1928) dress, and that this impedes the understanding and enjoyment of the play. Shakespeare has come a long way in the last 90 years…

The Two Noble Kinsman

Jenna Burns
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!

Age (In)appropriate?

Objections

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.

Writing While Under the Influence...

George North Manuscript
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.

Sounds About Right!

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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.

'Twill Serve

carscratch
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.

From the Cutting Room Floor

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A great film resource for Shakespeare films from the British Film Institute. Some free, some rentals, and some available to members only, but the list is comprehensive, and well worth a visit if you're looking for old takes on the evergreen Shakespeare canon.

Hail Caesar! (Part II)

JC at Bridge
Another very favorable review by Rebecca Mead at The New Yorker of Nicholas Hytner's production in London of Julius Caesar, and an interesting discussion about staging — in particular the use of audience members as part of the crowd

Hail Caesar!

JC at the NT
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.

Power to the People!

Film company takes Shakespeare's Macbeth to the streets
An interesting approach to making a film of Macbeth, using both professionals, and local amateurs in the overall production process. The trailer for the actual movie (not yet out) looks intriguing, and the production's sentiment genuinely admirable. Nicely done, Screen Northants.

New Digitized Facsimile of 1623 First Folio Published by Bodmer Lab

Dedication
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.

May I Misquote You?

Owen Wilson
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".

How Do You Explain Probelms with the Indian Economy? Shakespeare (obviously!)

sunny-deol-brushes-biceps-with-shakespeare-in-an-effort-to-reach-masses
Yet another indicator of Shakespeare's ubiquity: India's chief economic advisor, Arvind Subramanian, explains aspects of India's economic challenges by referencing who else, but The Bard (and Indian actor Sunny Deol).

Eat, Drink, and Watch Shakespeare!

Boozing Bard

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!

Permission Granted

C82-1690 (78)
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.

An Excellent Resource, From an Excellent Orgnization

Thy Due from me
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.

Meghan and The Bard (13 times removed)

MEGHAN-MARKLE
It seems that Meghan Markle and William Shakespeare are related. It's not a close link (400 years will do that), but according to MyHeritage.com, she is Shakespeare's fifth cousin, 13 times removed — and Winston Churchill's sixth cousin, five times removed.

A Titan Passes

John Barton

An absolute giant in the Shakespeare world has passed away. Read more about John Barton in his
obituary, and his Wikipedia page. To see him at his avuncular and incisive best, watch some of his work on Playing Shakespeare.

Fundamentally Dishonest, or Fundamentally Cautious?

web-titus-globe-rex
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.

If You Can't Make it to Stratford, How About Visiting San Weng?

Stratford Home
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.

If Shakespeare Was Doing A Celebrity Tour Today

New Yorker Bubbe Gum
Illustration by Luci Gutiérrez
The New Yorker's amusing piece imagining Shakespeare as a jaundiced celebrity author doing his umpteenth solipsistic interview

Misquoted... All Around the World

Shakespeare Jet

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.

Shakespeare at the Rugby Stadium

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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!

William Shakespeare as Quentin Tarantino...


Titus Andronicus
Three reviews of the RSC's current season at the Barbican TheaterTitus 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.

Permission to Speak

Equivocation
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.

Shakespeare's Globe Announces New Season Under New Director

michelle-terry-in-as-you-like-it-at-the-globe-theatre
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.

Shakespeare in the News, Sort Of...

Et Tu, Banon?

Shakespeare, Xenophobia, and the Ghetto

New Yorker - Greenblatt

Superb essay by Stephen Greenblatt, very very worth reading. More.

Your Heartrate May Vary...

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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.

Shakespeare: The Cure for Intellectual Lazyness?

Skull with Crown

(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.

Hamlet Around the Globe

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Stephen Greenblatt reviews Dominic Dromgool's new book describing taking Hamlet to every country in the world - Hamlet Globe to Globe.

Shakespeare at War

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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.

A Hofstra Hamlet that "Would Make Shakespeare Proud"

Hofstra Hamlet

Hofstra launches its 68th Annual Shakespeare Festival with a well received Hamlet. More.

Shakespeare in Love, versus Saving Private Ryan

shakespeare-in-love
An enjoyable interview with Harvey Weinstein, explaining why Shakespeare in Love, beat out Saving Private Ryan at the Oscars. More.

A Titan Retires

Michael Kahn
Michael Kahn, a titanic figure in the Shakespeare and theater world, is retiring from his post as artistic director in the Shakespeare Theatre Company, in Washington, D.C. Key quote: "When I’m told I helped make Washington a theater town, that’s the thing I feel the best about,”. More.

Now is the Winter of Our Discontent

Richard III
A very positive review of a play that resonates in today's political environment. More.

The Course of Academia Never Did Run Smooth?

Photo of Terri Bourus Teaching
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.

Oh my...



It looks as if TNT will be releasing a "biopic" of young William Shakespeare. One hesitates to think what they will do with history…

Pity...

BBC Camera fron the 1960s
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.

For Shakespeare...Haters?

Shakespeare with a devil's horns, and an angel's halo
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…

What's in a Word(Play)?

Chinese students in the gym
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.

It's Not Just Picard...

Michael Dorn Star Trek ActorMichael Dorn Star Trek Actor Worf
Michael Dorn (Worf in Star trek) is set to play Marc Antony.

The Limits of Technology

Visual representation of a Shakespeare set
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.

Cartoonish (New Mischief)

Cartoon of Tony Blair as Yorick
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.

It's All Just Vector Space Mathematics to Me (Or Maybe Not...)

Monty Python, John Cleese
Fascinating (and a little over our head) article in MIT Technology Review about how computers may one day be able to detect sarcasm, and other subtle linguistic tricks. More.

Not Guilty!

Poster for The Trial of Hamlet, showing a skull in cartoon form

Shakespeare's Own Drama

Image of Shakespeare surrounded by swooning women
An excellent overview by Stanley Wells of the drama (broadly speaking) that William Shakespeare experienced in his own family affairs. More

Bone of Contention

German Shepherd puppy. Very cute!
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.)
  1. 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.”

    🎭

The Stage Design Was Quite Laconic...

Russian actor in strange headgear and dark glasses.
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.

Analogy Lovers, Start Your Engines!

Image of Leonard Cohen wearing a bolo tie
The Guardian proposes that Leonard Cohen is to Bob Dylan, as John Donne was to Shakespeare. Discuss...More.

The More You Like Each Other, The Meaner You Can Be!

Photograph of David Oyelowo as Henry VI
Great interview with David Oyelowo, who plays Othello against Daniel Craig's Iago at The New York Theater Workshop starting November 22. More.

Shakespeare in Mandarin

Poster for a performnce of Shakespeare's Hamlet in Mandarin Chinese
Tremendous article in the Financial Times detailing the possibilities and pitfalls in translating Shakespeare's works into Mandarin. More.

Comparing Hamilton to Henry IV, part 1.

Graphic of Hamilton as Henry V, with a castle as a backdrop
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.

What do the words "magazine", "coffee", and "alcohol" have in common?

A panel of Emojis
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.

Calling Dr. Spooner...

Poster for the One Ham Manlet Show
We here at The New Book Press can't resist the occasional Spoonerism. So, here 'tis! More.

Westworld and Shakespeare

Image of Abernathy in Westworld
Michael Crichton leaned heavily on Shakespeare's words when writing Westworld.  What does it all mean? More.

Tina Packer on Shakespeare and the Election Cycle

Photo of Director Tina Packer
Great radio piece on WBUR's Radio Boston (and the as-always excellent Meghna Chakrabarti) with Tina Packer addressing our current election discussion through Shakespeare's eyes. More.

Glenda Will Howl

Photo of Glenda Jackson rehearsing to be King Lear
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.

Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet At 20

Still photo from Baz Lurhmann's Romeo + Juliet with Clare Danes and Leonardo DiCaprio
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.

We Almost Lost 16 Plays...

David Kastan at lecture podium
George M. Bodman Professor of English David Kastan speaks at Drew
Yale scholar David Kastan speaks at Drew University, and explains how the first folio saved at least 16 of Shakespeare's plays from obscurity. A close call. More.

Hamlet's Father...and Halloween

Photo of Stephen Greenblatt, facing camera
John Cogan University Professor of the Humanities Stephen Greenblatt.
Leading Harvard Shakespeare Scholar Stephen Greenblatt launches a new MOOC today, entitled "Hamlet's Ghost". More.

Hag-Seed; Margaret Atwood Retells The Tempest

Graphic illustrating review of Margaret Attwood's book. Man sits indoors as woman looks inside.
A solid review of Margaret Atwood's retelling and reinterpreting of The Tempest. More.

A Heartbeat Away: Shakespeare and Autism

Image of performer working with young students on a stage
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.

Shakespeare and Medicine

Graphic of a Shakespeare lookalike
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.

Welles, O'Toole, Wheldon and Milton Discuss Hamlet



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.

Shakespeare's Co-Writers

Infographic showing a list of all Shakespeare's Contemporaries
Shakespeare did not work alone, but was profoundly influenced by those around him -- actors, directors, writers and other theater professionals. This delightful infographic from the Oxford University Press neatly captures the vibrant artistic environment in which he worked.

Shared Light

Photo of the outside of the modern day Globe Theater in London
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.

Henry VI, Part 1 By W. Shakespeare... and Christopher Marlowe.


1585 oil painting of Christopher Marlowe
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.

Shakespeare Embodied

Actors working on Shakespeare text on a stage floor
“We say, ‘When I say Shakespeare, you say …?' And we turn it into a kind of a call-and-response thing, and we hear things like ‘Dead!’ ‘White guy!' You know. ‘Who cares!’ ”

A great piece from WBUR on Actor's Shakespeare Project, which works with teachers to bring Shakespeare's plays to life. More.

Choices, Choices...

Good Tickle Brain Graphic on how to choose a Shakespeare play
Wondering whi to see, and in what order? Wonder no longer, as Good Tickle Brain gives you a easy to use (and amusing) flowchart on how to choose. Enjoy!

A Child Star - But Which One?



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.

Rallying the Troops



Benedict Cumberbatch as Richard III and Luke Treadaway as Richmond prepare for battle. The power of oratory.