The word chameleon is often broken down to mean "lion on the ground," which is quite odd for what are generally tree-dwelling lizards. But if you look further at the etymology of its name, it indicates it could also mean "small lion," potentially because some have head-crests that could resemble a lion's mane. Oh, and people in Shakespeare's time thought chameleons ate only air, an idea that can be traced back to Pliny the Elder's description in Natural History. This notion of eating air, or surviving for long periods with no food, also fostered the notion that chameleons represented strength to survive, as possibly referenced in the Bible, so it could be that chameleon really meant "small lion" for its strength, not its appearance. [more inside]
Live Broadcast of Midsummer Night's Dream. Right now! "First ever production to be live streamed around the world from The Globe. Sunday's sold-out show is the final Dream performance in the Wonder Season. The Globe says to expect naughtiness of a sexual nature!" The production has gotten some fine reviews: "a glittering, unnerving comic triumph."
"... since the audience could not, would not, and did not, endure his interpretations of the classics. A riot was the inevitable result, death or serious injury the probable outcome, of these attempts." So wrote Edith Sitwell of the in/famous amateur thespian Robert "Romeo" Coates in her book English Eccentrics, here appreciated by the Paris Review blog. [more inside]
William Shakespeare, playwright and poet, is dead at 52 of causes unknown. Shakespeare often meditated upon death in his works, once stating "Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player/ That struts and frets his hour upon the stage/ And then is heard no more." In one of his last recorded texts, he urged sympathy for immigrants. [more inside]
Archaeologists who scanned the grave of William Shakespeare say they have made a head-scratching discovery: His skull appears to be missing.
Ophelia feels that Hamlet is acting strangely. So she hires Titus and Dronicus, private investigators, to find out what's going on. (A three episode web series on youtube.)
In 1796, Jane Austen visited John Boydell's Shakespeare Gallery. The museum (operational from 1789-1805) was entirely devoted to specially-commissioned paintings of scenes from Shakespeare's plays, and played a significant role in shaping the dramatist's reputation during the late eighteenth century. This reconstruction of the gallery includes the catalog and the paintings that would have been hanging there in 1796 (the museum's collection ultimately included well over 150 paintings). For more information on the gallery, see the Folger Library's Marketing Shakespeare. The Romantic Illustration Network is working on digitizing extant engravings of the gallery's entire collection. Visitors to the gallery were themselves painted in 1790.
The Many Facets of Hamlet: Hamlet's most famous monologue, spliced together from performances by Mel Gibson, Laurence Olivier, David Tennant, and Kenneth Branagh. [more inside]
The battle of Agincourt was fought on a muddy field in northern France 600 years ago on Sunday – St Crispin’s Day, October 25th 1415. Legend says Agincourt was won by arrows. It was not. It was won by men using lead-weighted hammers, poleaxes, mauls and falcon-beaks, the ghastly paraphernalia of medieval hand-to-hand fighting. It was fought on a field knee-deep in mud, and it was more of a massacre than a battle. [more inside]
Oregon Shakespeare Festival Launches Three-Year Shakespeare Translation Commissioning Project [Oregon Shakespeare Festival]
OSF is commissioning 36 playwrights and pairing them with dramaturgs to translate 39 plays attributed to Shakespeare into contemporary modern English between now and December 31, 2018. By seeking out a diverse set of playwrights (more than half writers of color and more than half women), we hope to bring fresh voices and perspectives to the rigorous work of translation. Play on![more inside]
If you want to read the latest work of Shakespeare, written and performed 200 years after his death, look no further! Vortigern, an historical play(sic) is it! Performed for the first time on April 2, 1796 it was not performed again until 2008, when the Pembrooke Players put on a revival. Why not? [more inside]
Vengeance, Death, Blood, and Revenge by Dan Piepenbring [The Paris Review] Leonard Baskin’s grotesque etchings of William Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus. Below are some of the highlights to his Andronicus etchings—he made twenty-four in all. You can see more at the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco, which has a number of Baskin’s works in their collection. [more inside]
play movie trailer: Starring Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard.
Elsinore is an adventure game set in the world of Shakespeare's Hamlet - which places it, historically, in 16th century Denmark. Since we began work on the project a year or so ago, I've shown the playtest build to family, friends, and strangers alike. After they're done playing, intermingled with their feedback on gameplay, they often point to Ophelia and ask: Why is she black?For Gamasutra, Katie Chironis, team lead and writer of Elsinore talks about why they made the protagonist black, the possibilities of black people living in Denmark in the 16th century and why history and "history" in games is so often whitewashed.
Shakespeare in Tehran by Stephen Greenblatt [New York Review of Books]
"For more than four centuries now he has served as a crucial link across the boundaries that divide cultures, ideologies, religions, nations, and all the other ways in which humans define and demarcate their identities. The differences, of course, remain—Shakespeare cannot simply erase them—and yet he offers the opportunity for what he called “atonement.” He used the word in the special sense, no longer current, of “at-one-ment,” a bringing together in shared dialogue of those who have been for too long opposed and apart."
Paul Mason: What Shakespeare taught me about marxism.
Shakespeare's Restless World is a BBC radio series (podcast link) where the director of the British Museum, Neil MacGregor, explores England during the lifetime of William Shakespeare as represented by twenty objects, much in the way of his earlier A History of the World in a 100 Objects (previously). The focus is on Shakespeare's plays and how they were understood by his contemporaries. The series was also published as a book.
Folger Shakespeare Library Releases 80,000 Images for Creative Common Use. The Folger Shakespeare Library announced yesterday, that they have released the contents of their Digital Image Collection under a Creative Commons Share-Alike (CC-BY-SA) license. Full database can be accessed here.
Performances of Shakespeare are common enough that various reimaginings are often deemed necessary. One of the latest? King Lear With Sheep.
Ira Glass tweeted that John Lithgow was "amazing" as King Lear in Central Park, but added, "Shakespeare: not good. No stakes, not relatable. I think I'm realizing: Shakespeare sucks." Then ProPublica reporter Lois Beckett had an idea: This American Lear.
Welcome to Haider, a Bollywood version of Hamlet set for a controversial, much anticipated release this autumn. Vishal Bhardwaj's latest Shakespearian adaptation turns the Prince of Denmark into a philosophy student from Kashmir, the former Himalayan princedom, who returns home from university after hearing that his doctor father has disappeared and his mother is in a new relationship. View the trailer here - captions available. [more inside]
Slings & Arrows (trailer) was an award-winning Canadian dramedy that enjoyed great critical reception on both sides of the border. It ran for three seasons from 2003 to 2006, produced by Rhombus Media with Niv Fichman as Executive Producer, and aired on Showcase, The Movie Network, and Movie Central. Co-written by Mark McKinney (of Kids in the Hall fame), Susan Coyne (a Canadian playwright, actor, novelist, Stratford veteran, and co-founder of Toronto's Soulpepper Theatre), and Bob Martin (a comedian, creator of The Drowsy Chaperone, which won five Tony awards), the show starred Paul Gross (possibly most famous for his role on Due South, also a Stratfordian actor), Martha Burns (a major Canadian actor and another founding member of Soulpepper, another Stratfordian), and Stephen Ouimette (another major Canadian actor who, unsurprisingly, has also spent time onstage at Stratford), as well as Coyne and McKinney. The show takes place in the fictional town of New Burbage, which is a stand-in for a thinly-veiled Stratford Festival, which most of the actors and creative team have acted and/or directed in. The writers take great pains to note that they aren't mocking Stratford in the series, but there are obvious parallels. The entire run of the series was directed by Peter Wellington. (There are many spoilers inside, and in the critical reception links, for those who haven't yet watched the show). Much [more inside]
“Putting magic at the center of a play about a magician doesn’t seem like that radical a choice,” explained Teller’s co-director and co-adapter Aaron Posner. "But in the history, at least the modern history of producing 'The Tempest', it is a radical choice."
Songwriter, singer, poet, memoirist, artist, icon Patti Smith performs in WNYC's The Greene Space. In a program of songs and poetry coordinated by her daughter Jesse Paris Smith, Patti Smith performs with Tree Laboratory (Jesse Paris Smith and Eric Hoegemeyer) and her long-time collaborator guitarist Lenny Kaye. They titled the event "Mixing Memory and Desire: An Evening of Music, Poetry, Sound, and Remembrance," celebrating the "chaos and transformation of spring." [~1h30m, scroll down for video] [more inside]
Shakespeare Jest-Books: Reprints of the Early and Very Rare Jest-Books Supposed to Have Been Used by Shakespeare.
Shakespeare is known for his brilliant use of language and rhetorical imagery. Now two antiquarian booksellers believe they have found his dictionary. The Bibliophagist has been keeping an updated survey of responses to the announcement.
Today is the 450th anniversary of William Shakespeare's birth - "...The centenary of Shakespeare’s birth fell soon after the theatres reopened with the Restoration of the monarchy, following the period when the Puritans had closed them down for the duration of the Civil War. His plays formed a staple part of the repertoire, but those of Beaumont and John Fletcher were performed more frequently. Shakespeare only pulled ahead of the pack in the Georgian era. It was around his 200th anniversary, under the auspices of the great actor David Garrick, that he took on his status as National Poet and exemplar of artistic genius...." More here
The BBC put together a series of television commentaries from Orson Welles, "Orson Wells' Sketchbook" none of which need more than his then slightly unfamiliar face (without, he underscores, the usual false nose he wears for roles), his unmistakable voice, and his illustrations — taken, literally, from his sketchbook. In these six fifteen-minute broadcasts, which originally aired in 1955, Welles talks about not just the inauspicious beginnings of his illustrious working life but his experiences with the critics, the police, John Barrymore and Harry Houdini, the infamous radio production of War of the Worlds , and bullfighting Playlist here.
The earliest Shakespeare quartos are over four hundred years old and constitute the rarest, most fragile body of printed literature available to Shakespeare scholars. Sold unbound and often read to pieces, they are among the most ephemeral books of the age and survive in relatively low numbers. In the absence of surviving manuscripts, the quartos offer the earliest known evidence of what Shakespeare might actually have written, and what appeared on the early modern English stage. Only about half of Shakespeare’s plays were printed in quarto during his lifetime (1564–1616), and before the first printed collection of his plays, the First Folio of 1623. They are living artifacts telling the story of how Shakespeare's Hamlet, Henry V, King Lear, A Midsummer Night's Dream, and Romeo and Juliet, to name just a few, first circulated in print.... Due to their rarity and fragility, the earliest quartos are often not accessible to those who need to study them. Today, six institutions in the United Kingdom and United States stand out as the main repositories of the pre-1642 quartos.... Through this international collaboration, many of the earliest Shakespeare quartos are now freely available for in-depth study to students of Shakespeare across the globe. You can read, compare, read annotations and overlay copies at Quartos.org.
Ian McKellen: Acting Shakespeare (SLVimeo) a one-man show of Shakespearean monologues from 1982
"The perception of Shakespeare's matchless linguistic inventiveness is closely bound up with his role as an icon of English nationalism." New computerized research indicates he didn't make up so many words. [more inside]
New technology has changed scholarship. Whereas previous generations of experts have sought to reconcile the differences between quarto and Folio, current thinking highlights the difficult relationship between the various incarnations of Shakespeare's texts, something made easier by the availability of rare Shakespeare quartos in digital databases such as Early English Books Online. The scholar Eleanor Prosser thus detects "considerable evidence" for the elimination of metrical and stylistic "irregularities" in the Folio: short lines are lengthened to 10 syllables, verbs agreed with subjects, double negatives resolved. In addition, a range of unusual words are added to the text, words not used elsewhere by Shakespeare. Prosser concludes: "somewhere behind the Folio … lies a conscientious and exacting editor with literary pretensions", albeit one "more experienced in the transcription of literary than of theatrical works". But who was it?—Who edited Shakespeare? by Saul Frampton. [more inside]
Christopher Pound combines and weights lists and ratings from Project Gutenberg, Goodreads, and elsewhere to produce novel sortings of familiar data—Shakespeare's plays by popularity, for example. The most successful fiction writers at Gutenberg, and the top thousand most popular works of fiction found there. The most highly rated films of 2012 and 2011. The most popular Sci-fi and fantasy sub-genres at Goodreads. [more inside]
Neither a borrower nor a lender be. 198 movies and shows cut together to reform, Voltron-like, as Hamlet
"...saw digital artists working closely with history experts to ensure the portraits gave a real sense of how historical characters would look if they were alive in the 21st Century." Come for the hilarious justifications of modern-day standards of fitness and beauty, stay for the "hipster Shakespeare."
In 1964, The Beatles put together a one-off variety show, with musical numbers specially pre-recorded for the show, presented in the style of theater-in-the-round. Around the Beatles was aired in the UK and later that same year in the US, but never commercially released. The show includes The Beatles performing a scene from A Midsummer's Night Dream, with Paul McCartney as Pyramus, John Lennon as his lover Thisbe, George Harrison as Moonshine, Starr as Lion, and Trevor Peacock (the only actual actor in the lot) in the role of Quince. A color clip of that was posted previously, but you can watch the entire (almost) hour-long show with The Beatles' segments accompanied by seven other musical acts, on Dailymotion or YouTube, though it's in black and white. [more inside]
First trailer for Joss Whedon's Much Ado About Nothing. (Direct MP4 link based on the official site.) The film (shot in 12 days at Joss's house while taking a break from making The Avengers) will be getting its U.S. premiere this weekend at SXSW, with limited general release starting in June. Previously shown at TIFF, the Dublin Film Festival and the Glasgow Film Festival. [more inside]
Richard Briers, TV, radio, movie and stage actor, died yesterday aged 79. Richard was most well-known for playing Tom, who gives up his 9 to 5 job to attempt a sustainable lifestyle, much to the horror of his posh neighbor Margo, in The Good Life (1975-78). [more inside]