It's well known that in Shakespeare's era, young men played female roles (see here, here, and here). So the circle seems to be coming around on the issue of gender roles on stage with a new production by Michelle Terry (artistic director at The Globe) where gender will play no role in making casting decisions — Ms. Terry will herself play the role of Hamlet. It's an interesting discussion, made perhaps more fraught by today's our own era's uneasy discussions about gender roles and stereotyping.
Our first post on commemorative stamps got us interested in how Shakespeare is represented on postage stamps. So we dug around, and found two things. First, from Hat Trick Designs and Marion Deuchars, this series of six stamps that came out in 2011 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Royal Shakespeare Company's founding. Starting at top left, here is the key to actors and plays respectively: David Tennant (Hamlet), Anthony Sher (The Tempest), Chuk Iwuji (Henry VI), Paul Scofield (King Lear), Sarah Kestelman (A Midsummer Night's Dream) and Ian McKellen and Francesca Annis (Romeo and Juliet).
From the same anniversary, and with the aid of illustrator Rebecca Sutherland, a set of four stamps, in a very different style, showing the four Stratford on Avon theaters. The actors are harder to identify, but we think they are, from top left and going clockwise: Francesca Annis, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, and Judy Dench.
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!
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".
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.
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.
We here at The New Book Press can't resist the occasional Spoonerism. So, here 'tis! 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.