Romeo and Juliet
Guardian columnist William Keegan deftly suggests that Shakespeare would have voted for England to stay in the European Union, largely on the basis of all the plays that Shakespeare admiringly set in Europe — chiefly, of course, Italy — Romeo and Juliet (Julite's balcony in modern day Verona pictured above), Othello, Merchant of Venice, to name just three. Of course, one could just as easily suggest that Shakespeare championed England as a standalone and defiant entity in a sea of European wars (The Henriad) — but on the day before his birthday, let's go with Keegan's view!
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.
There's a usual crew of actors we expect with Shakespeare (Gielgud, McKellen, Stewart, Dench, etc…) This list of 12 unexpected actors playing Shakespeare makes a change, even though the list does contain one person at least with whom we very much associate Shakespeare — Dame Helen Mirren. Still, there are some unexpected names on the list — the image above gives you a clue to three of them, and the visual answer is below. Enjoy.
It's always interesting — and sometimes instructive — to see how a story changes when it makes the jump from one medium to another. In this case, The Austin Playhouse is putting on an adaptation for stage of the movie Shakespeare in Love (most recently tainted by the Harvey Weinstein scandal). The review is brief, and gives the adaptation and the performers a solid thumbs up, but acknowledges that it breaks no new ground. A safe, and probably enjoyable evening of theater — just as Shakespeare would have wanted it!
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?
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…
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!)
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.
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.
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.
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…
Michael Crichton leaned heavily on Shakespeare's words when writing Westworld. What does it all mean? More.