In the Spotlight: Romeo and Juliet

In the Spotlight

Romeo and Juliet
Were very much in love when they were wed
They honoured every vow
So where are they now?
They’re dead, dead, very, very dead
– Ms. Fieldmouse, Thumbelina

Date Written: Uncertain but typically placed between 1594-1595

First performed: between 1594 and 1595

Setting: Verona and Mantua in Italy


Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet are teenagers in Verona who fall in love but can’t be together because their families are enemies. They decide to marry in secret despite Juliet being betrothed to Count Paris. Romeo is then forced to leave Verona for killing Juliet’s cousin in a duel and is unable to return.

In an attempt to escape marrying Paris, Juliet fakes her death and tries to let Romeo know of her plan. Unfortunately he never gets the message and he visits her crypt thinking she’s dead. In his grief he kills himself, but Juliet wakes up and seeing Romeo dead before her, kills herself.

Themes: love, revenge, fate


Prince Escalus: ruling Prince of Verona.

Ruling house of Verona

Count Paris: a kinsman of Escalus who wishes to marry Juliet.

Mercutio: a kinsman of Escalus, and a friend of Romeo.

House of Capulet

Capulet: patriarch of the house of Capulet.

Lady Capulet: the matriarch of the house of Capulet.

Juliet: the 13-year-old daughter of Capulet, and the play’s female protagonist.

Tybalt:  cousin of Juliet, and the nephew of Lady Capulet.

The Nurse: Juliet’s personal attendant and confidante.

Rosaline: Lord Capulet’s niece, and Romeo’s love in the beginning of the story.

House of Montague

Montague:  patriarch of the house of Montague.

Lady Montague: matriarch of the house of Montague.

Romeo: son of Montague, and the play’s male protagonist.

Benvolio: Romeo’s cousin and best friend.


Friar Laurence: a Franciscan friar, and is Romeo’s confidant.

 Famous quotes

“Do you bite your thumb at us, sir?” (Act I, Scene I)

“My only love sprung from my only hate.” (Act I, Scene V)

“It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.” (Act II, Scene II)

“Good Night, Good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow, that I shall say good night till it be morrow.” (Act II, Scene II)

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” (Act II, Scene II)

“For never was a story of more woe than this of Juliet and her Romeo.” (Act V, Scene III)

Fun Facts

1. The first words of Romeo and Juliet are in the form of a sonnet. This prologue reveals the ending to the audience before the play has properly begun.

2. The number of words in Romeo and Juliet, according to the Complete Public Domain Text is 25,948

3. Romeo and Juliet has inspired other works, such as Berlioz’s dramatic symphony (1839), Tchaikovsky’s fantasy-overture (1869-80), and Prokofiev’s full-length ballet (1938).

4. The academy award winning musical West Side Story is based on the story of Romeo and Juliet.

5. 90% of the play is in verse, with only 10% in prose. It contains some of Shakespeare’s most beautiful poetry, including the sonnet Romeo and Juliet share when they first meet.

6. Although a story of passionate first love, the play is also full of puns. Even in death, Mercutio manages to joke: ‘ask for me tomorrow and you will find me a grave man’.

7. Juliet is only 13 at the time she meets and marries Romeo, but we never learn exactly how old he is.

8. Nahum Tate adapted the play to give it a happy ending.

9. The famous balcony didn’t appear in Shakespeare’s performances. In the 16th Century, the theatrical scenery was so poor that the location was described by actors, and a balcony would’ve been very difficult to represent. Nevertheless, subsequent stagings of the play made it so famous, that it had to be added to Juliet’s house in Verona at the beginning of the 20th Century.

10. In 1916, a silent film version of the play was made.

11. Shakespeare did not invent the story of Romeo and Juliet. He probably heard it via a poem: Romeus and Juliet (1562) written by a poet called Arthur Brooks.

12. Tudor theatre audiences were vulgar and rude, and they would have cheered Mercutio’s rude sexual innuendos.

13. In the famous line ‘Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?’ ‘wherefore’ doesn’t mean ‘where’ – it means ‘why’.

14. Shakespeare original title for Romeo and Juliet is “The Most Excellent and Lamentable Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet.”

15. A summary going around the internet is that Romeo and Juliet is not a love story it is a 3 day romance between a 13 years old and a 17 year old that caused six deaths. It is a very weird love story to idealise.


Five Facts about Romeo and Juliet
Shakespeare Facts
Romeo & Juliet Facts

In the Spotlight: Hamlet

In the Spotlight

“Sorry,” Hamlet said, rubbing his temples.
“I don’t know what came over me. 
All of a sudden
I had this overwhelming desire to talk for a very long time without actually doing anything.”
― Jasper Fforde, Something Rotten

 “Hamlet is a terrific play, but there are way too many quotations in it.”
– Hugh Leonard

Any discussion about Shakespeare can’t be complete without talking about what history says is Shakespeare’s greatest play. The full title of the play is The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark and is, as the title suggests, one of Shakespeare’s tragedies.

Date Written: Between 1600 and 1603

First performed: Solid evidence of early performances is scarce. It was most likely to have been first performed by the Lord Chamberlain’s Men at the Globe Theatre. There was an early documented performance by the crew of the ship red Dragon in 1607.

Setting: Elsinore, Denmark


Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, mourns his father’s passing as well as his mother’s sudden remarriage to his uncle, Claudius. The ghost of Hamlet’s father appears before him to tell him he was murdered by Claudius and demands Hamlet avenge him. In an effort to trick his uncle into confession, Hamlet puts on a play to make his uncle confess. Hamlet is deemed mad and it is unclear whether it’s an act or whether it becomes real. Hamlet kills the eavesdropping Polonius and Claudius, becoming paranoid sends Hamlet to England. Polonius’ son vows revenge on Hamlet, and his daughter kills herself in grief over Hamlet’s actions. When Hamlet returns to Denmark there is a great duel resulting in the death of many characters.

Themes:  Madness, revenge, loyalty, religion


Hamlet – Son of the late king and nephew of the present king

Claudius – King of Denmark and Hamlet’s uncle

Gertrude – Queen of Denmark and mother to Hamlet

Polonius – Chief counsellor to the king

Ophelia – Daughter to Polonius

Horatio – True friend to Hamlet

Laertes – Son to Polonius

Voltimand and Cornelius – Courtiers

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern – Courtiers, friends to Hamlet

Osric – a Courtier

Marcellus and Bernardo – Officers

Francisco – a Soldier

Reynaldo – Servant to Polonius

Ghost of Hamlet’s Father

Fortinbras – Prince of Norway

 Famous quotes

“In my mind’s eye” (Act I, Scene II)

“This above all: to thine own self be true” (Act I, Scene III)

“There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy” (Act I, Scene V)

“Brevity is the soul of wit.” (Act II, Scene II)

“Though this be madness, yet there is method in ‘t” (Act II, Scene II)

“To be, or not to be: that is the question” (Act III, Scene I)
“The lady doth protest too much, methinks” (Act III, Scene II)

“I must be cruel only to be kind; Thus bad begins, and worse remains behind.” (Act II, Scene IV)
Fun Facts

1. Judging by the number of reprints, Hamlet appears to have been Shakespeare’s fourth most popular play during his lifetime—only Henry IV Part 1Richard III and Pericles eclipsed it.

2. Oxford editor George Hibbard argues that, since the contemporary literature contains many allusions and references to Hamlet, the play was surely performed with a frequency that the historical record misses.

3. Shakespeare’s longest play, with 4,042 lines, totalling 29,551 words—typically taking over four hours to perform.

4. Contains Shakespeare’s favourite device, a play within a play.

5. Hamlet is one of the most quoted works in the English language and is often included on lists of the world’s greatest literature.

6. Hamlet has the most lines of any of Shakespeare’s characters with 1530 lines.

7. Hamlet is the second most filmed story in the world, coming second only to Cinderella.

8. Hamlet was the most popular work during Shakespeare’s own time and has remained his most produced play to this day

9. Disney’s The Lion King is an adaptation of Hamlet

10. Hamlet is the most produced play in the world. It has been estimated that Hamlet is being performed somewhere every single minute of every single day

11. It is believed that Shakespeare played the ghost in Hamlet when it was first performed at the Globe.

12. The first actor to ever play Hamlet was Richard Burbage, the leading actor of Shakespeare’s troupe. It was almost certainly written with Burbage in mind to play Hamlet.

13. In the Royal Shakespeare Company’s 2009 production of Hamlet, David Tennant used a real skull in the gravedigger scene. The skull had been bequeathed to the theatre in 1982 by André Tchaikowsky after his death. Tchaikowsky wanted his skull used “in Theatrical Performance.”

14. Hamlet is one of two Shakespeare plays to be translated into Klingon (the other is Much Ado About Nothing).

15. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead is an absurdist tragicomedy by Tom Stoppard based on the two courtiers Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.

16. Kenneth Branagh’s 1996 film adaptation is notable as it includes every word of the play.

Links and Bits

Fun Facts source


British Library

William Shakespeare Info

In the Spotlight: The Tempest

In the Spotlight

Now, Ariel, I am that I am, your late and lonely master,
Who knows what magic is;—the power to enchant
– The Sea and the Mirror, W. H. Auden

The Tempest is one of Shakespeare’s classic comedies; it appears first in the 1623 First Folio selection and is considered by many scholars to be the final play Shakespeare wrote on his own. It also has one of my favourite quotes in it, ‘Thought is free”.

Date Written: 1610 or 1611

First performed: There are records indicating that The Tempest was performed before James I on November 1 1611 but it’s likely there were performances before this.

Setting: an unnamed, uninhabited island


The magician, Prospero, rightful Duke of Milan, and his daughter, Miranda, have been stranded for twelve years on an island after Prospero’s jealous brother Antonio deposed him. Prospero is reluctantly served by a spirit, Ariel, whom Prospero had rescued from a tree in which he had been trapped by the cruel witch, Sycorax. Her son, Caliban, a deformed monster and the only non-spiritual inhabitant before the arrival of Prospero, was initially adopted and raised by him. He taught Prospero how to survive on the island, while Prospero and Miranda taught Caliban religion and their own language.

Three plots alternate through the play. In one, Caliban falls in with Stephano and Trinculo, two drunkards. They attempt to raise a coup against Prospero, which ultimately fails. In another, Prospero works to encourage a romantic relationship between Ferdinand and Miranda. In the third subplot, Antonio and Sebastian conspire to kill Alonso and Gonzalo so that Sebastian can become King.

Themes: Theatre, the soul, and magic


Prospero: the main character. The overthrown Duke of Milan. He now lives on an island and is a great sorcerer.

Miranda: Prospero’s daughter

Ariel: a spirit who does Prospero’s bidding and is, at times, visible only to him.

Caliban: a villainous island native, who ruled the island before Prospero arrived. Sycorax (unseen), a deceased Algerian sorceress who was banished to the island before Prospero arrived and enslaved the spirits on the island.

Iris, Ceres, and Juno: spirits who perform the roles of goddesses in a masque presented to the young lovers.

Alonso: King of Naples

Sebastian: Alonso’s treacherous brother.

Antonio: Prospero’s brother, who usurped his position as Duke of Milan.

Ferdinand: Alonso’s son.

Gonzalo: a kindly Neapolitan courtier

Trinculo: the King’s jester

Stephano: the King’s drunken butler


Master of the ship

 Famous quotes

Hell is empty, and all the devils are here!” (Act I, Scene II)
Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows.” (Act II, Scene II)

Thought is free.” (Act III, Scene II)

He that dies pays all debts.” (Act III, Scene II)

We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life, is rounded with a sleep.” (Act IV, Scene I)

O, brave new world that has such people in’t!” (Act V, Scene I)

Fun Facts

1. Adaptations of the play, different from Shakespeare’s original, dominated theatre performances from the English Restoration in 1660 until the mid-19th century.

2. The Tempest has more music than any other Shakespeare play, and has proved more popular with composers than most of his other plays with 46 operatic performances throughout history, the first in 1695 by Henry Purcell. Two arrangements that might have been used in Shakespeare’s time still exist – one for “Full Fathom Five” and another for “Where The Bee Sucks There Suck I”, both printed in the 1659 publication Cheerful Ayres or Ballads’.

3. There is no single origin for the plot in The Tempest and many scholars believe it is an amalgamation of many. A strong contender being a document from William Strachey, titled A True Reportory of the Wracke and Redemption of Sir Thomas Gates, Knight.

4. Many well known phrases came from The Tempest including “Brave new world”, “In a pickle”, “Melted into thin air”, “sea change” and “Such stuff as dreams are made on”.

5. The play also demonstrates Shakespeare’s knack for creating new words with word such as abstemious (from the Latin absetmius meaning to indulge slightly in an alcoholic drink), baseless, eyeball, leaky, and watchdog.

6. With only one female speaking role The Tempest has the fewest female characters compared with the other plays.

7. The 1948 western Yellow Sky is a subtle yet clear adaptation of the play, as is the 1956 film Forbidden Planet.

8. One of the shortest Shakespeare play with 17 233 words; outdone only by A Midsummer Night’s Dream (16 511) and A Comedy of Errors (14 701).

9. It is the most performed Shakespeare play on BBC Radio with 21 productions.

10. Thanks to a precedent set by John Herschel, son of astronomer William Herschel who discovered Uranus, two regular moons and seven of the outermost moons of Uranus are named after characters from The Tempest. These are Ariel, Miranda, Caliban, Sycorax, Prospero, Setebos, Stephano, Trinculo, Francisco, and Ferdinand.

11. Unlike most of his plays, The Tempest conforms to Aristotle’s unities – the neoclassical notion that drama should follow three rules: unity of action (a play should have one main plot line with few distractions), unity of place (it should take place in one physical space) and the unity of time (the action fit within 24 hours).

12. Characters from The Tempest have gone further into space than even Uranus with numerous satellites being launched with their namesakes. Ariel 1 was the first British satellite in space, launched in 1962, in addition to six other Ariel satellites developed between 1962 and 1979. In 1971, the Black Arrow R3 rocket launched “Prospero X-3.

Links and Bits

Fun Facts source


Shakespeare Week 17th-23rd March

shakespeare week

17th to 23rd March 2014 will see the first Shakespeare Week taking place across the UK and a few places around the world in celebration of the 450th anniversary of the bard’s birth. Celebrations are held each year but being the 450th anniversary big things are happening. This is certainly a big deal in Britain, I haven’t so far seen anything for Australia but that isn’t to say there aren’t any celebrations, just perhaps not as grand. Toby’s gotten into the spirit here so that’s how we’re celebrating.

Shakespeare Owl

Despite the festivities, this is not the week Shakespeare was born though. William Shakespeare was born on 23rd April 1564 in Stratford-upon-Avon, and actually died in 1616 on this same date. This was one of my favourite facts as a child, that Shakespeare died on his birthday. I did think it was a bit spooky, but it was a nice circular way to go, out the same day you came in; though it would be slightly depressing to die on your birthday. There is actually no exact date recorded of his birthday, though based on christening records historians have worked out when he would have most likely been born, giving us the 23rd April. He is buried in Stratford-Upon-Avon and you are still able to see his grave at the Holy Trinity Church.

According to Stratford Vision’s website, the aim of Shakespeare Week is to “bring Shakespeare’s stories, language, historical backdrop and creative influence vividly to life for more than 3 million children in the UK and ensure that his cultural legacy is a central part of the primary school learning experience”. While there is a school and children focus for Shakespeare Week, there are other things for everyone, especially in Stratford-Upon-Avon. Being the centre of all things Shakespeare, Stratford-Upon-Avon have a multitude of festivities to enjoy including parades and other activities. This isn’t the first celebration either, there have been birthday celebrations for hundreds of years, dating all the way back to 1824 for the bard, though with the 450th anniversary it is possibly going to be bigger and better than ever.  I think it is wonderful that people are celebrating so much, even after 450 years there is still a place for Shakespeare in the world.

There are a lot of interesting facts about Shakespeare, he invented so many words and phrases we still use today in the English language, he was loved by Queen Elizabeth I (which influenced the script and events depicted in his play Richard III), and he spelt his name at least six different ways. That is another fun fact, in the Tudor era there was no formalised way of spelling so anything went really. This could have advantages, but you would know there would be a time when you spell something a bit too much on pronunciation alone there is going to be some long and strange looking words you have to decipher. Though really, I would have thought being his own name he may have found one way he liked and stuck with it. Makes you wonder whether we’d have “Shakespeare” looking differently if he did.

There are so many other wonderful things to learn about Shakespeare too, and you can’t ignore just how influential to language and to theatre he was. I really wish I could be in Stratford-Upon-Avon this week to see these events because I think it would be amazing. When I was in the UK last year I got to go there and it was pretty amazing. When I was in London I also went to the Globe Theatre and for those who haven’t been, let me tell you it was amazing! This was Globe No. 3 mind you. The first Globe was built but then because it was too expensive in that location, Shakespeare moved to the other side of the river. Then this rebuild actually got burned down during a performance. The new and current version was built by Sam Wanamaker, American actor and director, and it stands only a few hundred metres from its original location. Based on the original design and layout and historically accurate as possible, the new Globe is a wonder. There are tours given and a museum/display section, but the best part is that it still puts on plays. And with everything historically right you can experience what it was like to see a play as Shakespeare wanted. When I was there I sat in on a rehearsal for Henry VI and it was amazing, I only wish I had been able to see something performed there properly, but alas it wasn’t to be. 


The Globe Theatre

I could talk about all things Shakespeare for days if given the chance but I shan’t. I will just insist that you check out some sites about his life, his works, and about the Globe itself. As for the celebrations, the few links I’ve given show you the grand fan fair in Stratford-Upon-Avon with some links to other places, I can’t say I know of anything happening in Australia, I haven’t seen anything from the Australian Shakespeare Company, but that isn’t stopping you from having your own celebrations. Also, there are bound to be events throughout the year to celebrate this 450th anniversary, so look out for them as well. I believe the Stratford Vision site mentioned that the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust will run other events and exhibitions through 2014 to celebrate the legacy. Yet another reason I wish I was in Britain, they get all the fun.

For now I must enjoy from a distance. I’ve put some links below for all things Shakespeare Week, no doubt I have missed some but I found what I could to start you off. And if you want some fun Shakespeare things, I’ve added some QI clips as well as some skits and a song from the show Horrible Histories which are simply divine, plus I’ve added in Shakespeare’s Birthday Bonanza that I did last year for his birthday where I have a bit more information and  look  briefly at a few of my favourite plays. Who knows, with all this excitement and information at your disposal, you may learn something new and wonderful about the bard and have an ‘oohhh, didn’t know that’ moment, they’re always fun.

Have a wonderful Shakespeare Week wherever you are. If you’re in Britain I hope you enjoy it and get to go to some celebrations, if not, maybe grab a copy of a play or sonnet and appreciate some of the great works Shakespeare has contributed to the world in your own way.

Shakespeare Week

Shakespeare’s Birthday Celebrations

Stratford Division – Shakespeare’s 450th birthday

About Shakespeare

Shakespeare’s Globe

Happy Birthday Shakespeare

QI episode ‘The Immortal Bard’

QI clip – Words of Shakespeare that didn’t catch on

Horrible Histories – William Shakespeare song

Horrible Histories – Shakespeare insults

Horrible Histories – Shakespeare invented words

Horrible Histories – Shakespeare’s Globe

Happy Birthday Shakespeare


Happy Birthday William Shakespeare!

Instead of trying to review one, or discuss all his works and poems and influence I am instead going to do some mini reviews/discussing of some favourites, my association with Shakespeare, and talk about where Shakespeare keeps popping up.

The actual birthday of Shakespeare is not actually known, but many scholars believe it is on or around the 23rd April. He was baptised on the 26th so it is definitely in the right area. I know in high school when I first started learning about Shakespeare I found is rather spooky that he died on the day he was born. Like some strange circle that he was in and out on the same day. So we shall go with the scholars on this and say today is his birthday for all intents and purposes. Option B is of course to just say we are here celebrating his death? But that sounds a tad sombre and crass so perhaps not.

In his life he wrote numerous plays and sonnets, and has sparked quite a large conspiracy theory about whether he actual wrote the things he wrote. This is not the time to get into this but it is interesting what people find to claim his fraudulence. I think I only know his 18th Sonnet which is the infamous ‘Shall I compare thee to a Summer’s day?’ and being not all that keen on poetry that may have to do me. But I am not adverse to a play. Of course like most things if you research you might find you actually know a lot more but never realised they came from Shakespeare.

A lot of people tend to quote Shakespeare in everyday life and certainly in popular culture which is interesting, considering how many people seem to dislike him and find his works hard and annoying to read. There are certainly the main handfuls that get referenced and adapted over and over, while others are rarely seen outside the theatre. Luckily, and thankfully really, movies can help bring the interest back around. Films like Romeo + Juliet certainly, but also She’s the Man and 10 Things I Hate About You are sneaky retellings of Shakespeare plays, Twelfth Night and Taming of the Shrew respectively. If you peak an interest in the story by a film, then you can bring people back to the play.

Romeo and Juliet ★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

Probably the most idealised relationship that from memory lasted for three days between a 13 year and a possibly a 17 year old (no one really knows) and resulted in 6 deaths. How sweet. But what Shakespeare manages to do is show the consequences of how feuds and hatred can impact on people in ways you never thought possible. What Romeo and Juliet did just because of their family feud is extreme. The mere mention of the opposite family is enough to spark anger, and hatred for generations simply because it is instilled from an early age. ‘My only love sprung from my only hate’, as it goes.

I remember my first introduction to this was through the Brady Bunch and Marsha was Juliet and she let it go to her head. It certainly imprinted ‘Deny thy father and refuse thy name; Or if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love and I’ll no longer be a Capulet’  in my brain as she announced it from atop the stairs over and over.

The second was in the film Romeo + Juliet where it made it cool and exciting, while still keeping Shakespeare’s words true. I adored this film. I remember watching the 1968 version a few years ago and it is still Shakespeare, but it is also a lot stranger, though they do use the right ages for their actors. Perhaps that is part of the unsettling nature. Moving on from modern views on historic works!

Macbeth ★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

I wrote a review for Macbeth on Goodreads late last year, what is interesting when I revisited it I was surprised to see I had said I wouldn’t read Shakespeare on my own accord, it has always been for school or uni that I read them. Considering I gave Macbeth four stars didn’t seem to change this opinion, I have also given Shakespeare works two stars. But that isn’t what was interesting; what is was is that now, only a few months later, I find myself actually wanting to read his plays. Those I have read I have both loved and hated, but I feel like I need to read them, almost like the feeling of you should read the classics, but it is also in part an individual want to read them, not just the entertaining popular ones. And anything can be entertaining if you adapt it the right way of course, but in the play format you have to be determined. And I think if you choose to read them by your own will, then you probably will enjoy them more. But as I say, I liked many I had to read, it does depend on the story too. I don’t know, perhaps I am just getting older and this is what people do when they are six months older.

The thing about doing a Shakespeare course at uni meant I also watched a few film adaptations. There were the traditional ones where we stayed in era and costume and language, but there was one that I loved was a television show that retold Macbeth using a restaurant with the Chef being Joe Macbeth and Lady Macbeth was Ella, his wife and the hostess. It was part of a series called ShakespeaRe-Told by Peter Moffet. It was really great, there were a lot of very clever references that were woven into the story that made sense in the new modern context, but also tied in to the play and theatre origins.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream ★   ★   ★   ★   ★ – 5 Stars

This is one of my favourite plays; it was also one of the few I remember understanding pretty much straight away. There was nothing in there that confused me, and the jovial nature of it was rather amusing. It also wasn’t that familiar to me and I didn’t have any existing knowledge of the story like Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, or Hamlet.

What I enjoyed about A Midsummer Night’s Dream was the magical element of it. It wasn’t set in some cold castle, and wasn’t about killing and revenge, it was about mystical and magical fairies who controlled the love and lives of people who entered their forest.

The story tells of the marriage of the Duke of Athens, Theseus and Hippolyta, and the events that surround it. These include the adventures of four Athenian loves and six amateur actors, all interwoven and running about in this forest, unaware of the fairies who influence their night. There are three interlocking plots all up within this play, connected by the marriage. I do remember learning that this was the origin of the famous Wedding March. Composed by Felix Mendelssohn for the play it has been used to introduce the bride pretty much ever since. The other is the Bridal March composed by Wagner. Both are used nowadays hence the confusion between them, but it was Mendelssohn’s that came out of Shakespeare. So that’s rather cool.

The greatest film adaptation, and by far favourite, was the 1935 version with a very young Mickey Rooney playing Puck. What also came from this play are more wonderful quotes: Lord, what fools these mortals be!;  Cupid is a knavish lad, Thus to make poor females mad;  and the always wonderful,  ‘If we shadows have offended, Think but this, and all is mended, That you have but slumbered here, While these visions did appear’.

Puck was always a favourite, though the antics of Bottom and the interaction between the characters are wonderful as well. I think this story works well as a film adaptation because so much of the magic can be shown on the screen, and because it is so magical it is beautiful as well. While Macbeth or Othello have a strong story presence and a foreboding and darker scene to portray, A Midsummer Night’s Dream can have a jovial story with an elegant setting.

I realise a lot of talk of these plays is through films, but I think once you have read the play, seeing it in film, or as a play live, can help you appreciate the story better, especially when it comes to the language of Shakespeare. As I mentioned, there is Shakespeare in popular culture whether we notice it or not. Tim Minchin uses Shakespeare in his song Storm, Horrible Histories did an excellent song about the words and phrases we get from Shakespeare, He gave us a myriad of words and phrases and this song is a prime example and it is brilliant. They also do a lot on Shakespeare in generally about his exsquisit insults, trying to debunk myths about Richard lll told in song and funny skits. They are a lot better than reading that play, was not a favourite that is for sure.

Even words you never knew all seem to come back to Shakespeare, and of course a lot never caught on, like this QI clip shows. The full Shakespeare dedicated episode can be watched here, always a laugh and with costumes!

In terms of the Shakespeare doubt, Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series (yes that again), has a wonderfully reoccurrence of Shakespeare and this idea of his authenticity. If you don’t read it for the obvious reasons to start this series, it may be for the Shakespeare angle. There is even a Doctor Who episode about him and he pops up elsewhere with the Doctor as well. There is no escaping him really.

No matter what you believe in terms of his authenticity or whether you loathe him because you had to study him, you do not like the language, or you are simply not a play and sonnet type of person, you still have to acknowledge and admit that the Bard has done a lot for language and society in terms of the influence he has had over so much of what do and say and how we interact with the world. So with that substantial affect and power he has had on the world, I wish him a happy birthday, marvel at his works no matter what I think of them, and rather wish we had more concrete answers so we could spend less time debating and know all the facts to offer the best appreciation.