WordPlay™ Shakespeare

Now, Half the Page is a Stage...

Against Expectations

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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.

Stamp of Approval (Part 2)

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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).

RSC 50th Number 2

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.

Stamp of Approval (Part 1)

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Almost exactly two years ago, in 2016, the
Royal Mail issued ten commemorative stamps celebrating Shakespeare's 400th anniversary. Scholar Sir Jonathan Bate chose quotes from Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, and Julius Caesar. Have a look at what other plays and sonnets made the cut.

It's Time, Once Again, to Suggest that Shakespeare was not Shakespeare...

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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!

Speak the Speech...

26mag-26tip_CA0-master315The Royal Shakespeare provides many valuable educational resources. Here, Jacqui O'Hanlon, Director of the RSC's Education outreach group, provides some tips on how to memorize Shakespearean verse. Useful.

May I Misquote You?

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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!)

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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).

Misquoted... All Around the World

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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's Globe Announces New Season Under New Director

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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.

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.

A Hofstra Hamlet that "Would Make Shakespeare Proud"

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

Not Guilty!

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

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.

Hamlet's Father...and Halloween

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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.

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.