Celebrating Shakespeare 400

Today marks the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death and the world is coming together to honour and celebrate that man that brought us such wonderful plays like Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet and beautiful sonnets and phrases we still use today. While I’ve been posting all April about all things Shakespeare, this is the actual day that marks the momentous occasion, even the Google Doodle is getting involved. It’s been 400 years since Shakespeare died somewhat unexpectedly (no one is sure what he died from) and judging by the effort and the scale in which people are honouring the playwright it’s incredible that he is as important today as he was in his own day.

shakespeare400

The best place to see all the Shakespeare action is to follow the #Shakespeare400 tag on Twitter and Facebook. There is a myriad of posts from people offering up fun facts, trivia, quizzes and hosting other fun events. I know Bell Shakespeare here in Australia has a scavenger hunt going to find copies of Othello hidden around various cities and the bookstore Dymocks in Sydney have a whole afternoon of Shakespeare activities planned. Over in Britain the BBC have a range of live broadcasts planned as well when they tick over to the 23rd in a few hours. You don’t even need to do anything grand, go on Facebook and share your favourite quote, favourite movie, rewatch Romeo+Juliet, undoubtedly one of the greatest Shakespeare movies ever made. Even if you just want to share in the comments your favourite play/adaptation/quote, feel free!

I’ve included a selection of links below to get you into the Shakespearean mood and I will be posting on Facebook and Twitter (and Instagram if I can) a bunch of things to help keep the celebrations going strong. Or have a look at past Shakespeare posts from this month and see what fun things I’ve included and links I’ve suggested. It’s important to remember Shakespeare isn’t all stuffy boring plays; he’s so ingrained in history and our society there’s a myriad of ways to enjoy his work.

Shakespeare

Good Tickle Brains makes Shakespeare fun

A few wonderful things I will suggest to start off your Shakespeare experience are from Good Tickle Brain, an amazing website where the delightful Mya creates cartoons and funny Shakespeare-themed things. She has recently created a useful flowchart to help you decided which Shakespeare play you should go and see, as well as an awesome Shakespeare Game of Life.

Other things I suggest if you’re in the USA is high tail it over to New York and book a seat to see the hilarious Something Rotten play because while I’ve only heard the soundtrack (on repeat all day every day), I assure you it is amazing.

If reading is more your thing (and why wouldn’t it be) grab a copy of Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series for some great Shakespeare moments. The best one is Something Rotten which is filled with all sorts of great and hilarious things about Shakespeare and a very dramatic Hamlet. Or, if fun insults are more your thing, check out this chart of great Shakespearean insults.

As the day goes on and as other countries move into 23rd April there will no doubt be more exciting things revealed but for now take a look at what’s already around and who knows, you may discover something interesting!

 

Links and Bits

Shakespeare Quiz

Another Shakespeare Quiz

BBC Live broadcast celebrations

Good Tickle Brain

Shakespearean insults

Shakespeare inspired novels

Lessons from Shakespeare

That was Shakespeare?

The very stone one kicks with one’s boot will outlast Shakespeare
– Virginia Woolf

While in terms of human civilisation Woolf may be correct, but as the 400th anniversary of his death approaches it’s clear that Shakespeare is not going away anytime soon. The simplest search proves that Shakespeare is ingrained heavily in today’s culture, not only his original works, but in adaptations and reimaginings, and his influence is undeniably impressive.

There are grand, traditional movies by great directors that bring Shakespeare’s original words to the screen, and there are remakes that play with dialogue or characters but still tell the same story. These modern adaptations can be so clever that you don’t even realise they are Shakespeare adaptations, or they can bring together the new and the old into something fantastic and memorable.

Movies are not the only thing to get the Shakespeare treatment, literature is just as filled with people retelling the works of Shakespeare in new and creative ways. From graphic novels to feminist retellings there are some wonderfully creative retellings out there.

 There really are too many to go into depth about but I’ve linked them to the Wiki page, IMDB page, or other sources like an ultimate movie list from No Sweat Shakespeare. Since there are so many to pick from so I’ve only chosen a select few, some of the greats and some of the sneaky adaptations that may have slipped past you, and some that I myself only just discovered were Shakespeare in disguise.

Movies

Laurence Olivier in Henry V

Laurence Olivier in Henry V

Traditional

Henry V (1944) dir. Laurence Olivier IMDB

Hamlet (1948) dir. Laurence Olivier IMDB

Othello (1952) dir. Orson Welles IMDB

Julius Caesar (1953) dir. Joseph L. Mankiewicz IMDB

Taming of the Shrew (1967) dir. Franco Zeffirelli IMDB

Romeo and Juliet (1968) dir. Franco Zeffirelli IMDB

Macbeth (1971) dir. Roman Polanski IMDB

Henry V (1989) dir. Kenneth Branagh IMDB

Hamlet (1990) dir. Franco Zeffirelli IMDB

Much Ado About Nothing (1993) dir. Kenneth Branagh IMDB

Hamlet (1996) dir. Kenneth Branagh IMDB

Coriolanus (2011) dir. Ralph Fiennes IMDB

Much Ado About Nothing (2012) dir. Joss Whedon IMDB

Remixed

The Boys from Syrcacuse (1940) IMDB dir. A. Edward Sutherland (The Comedy of Errors)

Kiss Me Kate (1953) IMDB dir. George Sidney (Taming of the Shrew)

Forbidden Planet (1956) IMDB dir. Fred M. Wilcox (The Tempest)

Throne of Blood (1957) IMDB dir. Akira Kurosawa (Macbeth)

West Side Story (1961)  IMDB dir. Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins (Romeo and Juliet)

Chimes at Midnight (1965) IMDB dir. Orson Welles (Multiple plays)

My Own Private Idaho (1991) IMDB dir. Gus Van Sant (Henry IV and Henry V)

The Lion King (1994) IMDB dir. Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff (Hamlet)

William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet (1996) IMDB dir. Baz Luhrmann

10 Things I Hate About You (1999) IMDB dir. Gil Junger (Taming of the Shrew)

Hamlet (2000) IMDB dir. Michael Almereyda

Love’s Labour’s Lost (2000) IMDB dir. Kenneth Branagh

She’s the Man (2012) IMDB dir.  Andy Fickman (Twelfth Night)

Baz Luhrmann's Romeo+Juliet

Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo+Juliet

Books

The Gap of Time by Jeanette Winterson (The Winter’s Tale)

A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley (King Lear)

Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler (The Taming of the Shrew)

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski (Hamlet)

The Dead Father’s Club by Matt Haig (Hamlet)

A Wounded Name by Dot Hutchinson (Hamlet)

Exit Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston  (The Winter’s Tale)

Fool by Christopher Moore (King Lear)

Dream of Perpetual Motion by Dexter Palmer (The Tempest)

Warm Bodies by Issac Marion (Romeo and Juliet)

Graphic Novels

Requiem of the Rose King by Aya Kanno (Richard III)

Kill Shakespeare by Conor McCreery, Anthony Del Col, and Andy Belanger (Multiple plays)

Prince of Cats by Ron Wimberly (Romeo and Juliet)

 

There are arguments for whether a traditional or remake is better to see first if you’re new to all things Shakespeare. I have found seeing an adaptation first can help you make sense of the story and get a handle on what’s happening, but on the other hand, if you see the traditional first you can pick up the clever references that have been included when you do see an adaptation. The other fun thing about adaptations is seeing one and not realising it was Shakespeare until later.

Hopefully this list has offered up some great suggestions to start or continue your Shakespeare experience and maybe even enlightened you about just how ingrained Shakespeare has become and how versatile he can be! If I’ve left off one that’s your absolute favourite, let me know in the comments.

Links and Bits

Book Riot | Shortlist

Flavorwire | Refinery29

The Ultimate Movie Adaptation List

 

Films About Shakespeare

We all know about the myriad of adaptations about Shakespeare’s plays, but there are a few adaptations and productions about the man himself. I’ve only looked at three here, but I’m sure there are more. A quick Google search brings up mainly his play adaptations, so if you know of any others, let me know, I’d love to watch them.

Shakespeare in Love (1998)

MV5BMTc0ODI2NDk2OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNTIzNDQ4OQ@@._V1_UY268_CR1,0,182,268_AL_This one is the biggie. The classic Shakespeare film that won all the awards and everyone loved. The British-American romantic comedy-drama was released in 1998 and centres around the fictitious love affair between Shakespeare (Joseph Fiennes) and Viola de Lesseps (Gwyneth Paltrow), with many characters based on real historical figures. Set in 1593 it shows Shakespeare writing his classic Romeo and Juliet and there are many references to his other works as well. It remains a popular movie with a 93% approval on Rotten Tomatoes, and at the time won seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actress, and Best Supporting Actress. Some big names starred in at as well including Judi Dench, Martin Clunes, and Geoffrey Rush. While not that historically accurate it is an interesting and enjoyable film, it was one of my earliest exposures to Shakespeare as a kid and I loved it.

Trailer

IMDB

Anonymous (2011)

MV5BMjAxOTA5MTMxOV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNDI4MzU0NQ@@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_Starring Rhys Ifans as Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford, this political thriller and historical drama looks at whether de Vere could be the real author of the Shakespeare plays. I am going to talk more about the authorship debate in a later post so I won’t go into it too much here, but it is a curious claim people have made. De Vere is depicted as a literary prodigy and Elizabeth I’s occasional lover, and many of the events are highly dramatised. Where Shakespeare comes into play is that De Vere uses him as a frontman to have his plays and poems performed. For all the controversy and conspiracy theories, I actually liked this film. It was a compelling case but one deeply flawed and one that did not sway my opinion. So much of the argument is based on ignoring key facts, but despite that, it was interesting.

Trailer

IMDB

Bill (2015)

MV5BNjkxOTkzNDgwMF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNDQxNTg4NzE@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_As a lover of the TV series Horrible Histories I was excited to hear the principal performers from it were making a movie about Shakespeare. This adventure-comedy film is a fictitious version of a young Shakespeare’s search for fame and fortune and tries to explain what happened during Shakespeare’s lost years. When Queen Elizabeth I wants a play written Shakespeare sees his chance, and with an evil plot to foil as well there is plenty of excitement and humour on offer. The six lead actors play multiple roles, just like on Horrible Histories, and while unfortunately there are no musical numbers to enjoy, the laughter and cheekiness is prevalent. Mathew Baynton stars as Shakespeare, with Simon Farnaby, Martha Howe-Douglas, Jim Howick, Laurence Rockard, and Ben Willbond alongside him.

Trailer

IMDB

Extras

While they’re not massive productions or movies, there have been other instances where Shakespeare has made it to the screen.

Doctor Who

From the classic series to the new era Shakespeare has been a reoccurring figure in many Doctor Who episodes. In 2007 he got an episode devoted entirely to him with The Shakespeare Code. The full list of Shakespeare in Doctor Who can be found here.

Waste of Shame (2005) – Mini Series

This 90 minute television drama focuses on Shakespeare and the composition of his sonnets. The story depicts moments of Shakespeare’s life with Anne and son Hamnet, as well as other life experiences he has that influences his sonnets. Rupert Graves plays Shakespeare with a supporting cast including Zoë Wanamaker, Tom Hiddleston, and Indira Varma.

Trailer

IMDB

William Shakespeare (1978) – Mini Series

This mini-series, also known as Life of Shakespeare and William Shakespeare: his Life & Times, is a historical drama. Broadcast in six parts it is a dramatisation of Shakespeare’s life and each episode was intended to be based around the creation of one of his plays with real life experiences influenced the writing. Shakespeare is played by Tim Curry with Ian McShane as Christopher Marlowe and Paul Freeman as Richard Burbage.

IMDB

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

Summary

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

Characters

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

Wikipedia

British Library

William Shakespeare Info

Fun With Shakespeare

It’s not all plays and analysis here, there’s a whole heap of fun stuff about Shakespeare to enjoy. From stories to skits and songs there’s a range of things to enjoy and discover. I’ve compiled a list of things to get you started on the fun side of Shakespeare.

Fun Stuff

Shakespeare through infographs
How the Shakespeare Characters Are Connected
Shakespeare in Pop Culture
Shakespeare references in Disney movies
TV Shows and Movies based on Shakespeare
Further fun at No Sweat Shakespeare
Shakespeare Quiz
Insult by Shakeapeare
Shakespearean Insulter
Shakespeare Insults
17 Shakespearean Insults To Unleash In Everyday Life
Shakespeare for Kids
Shakespeare Fun Stuff
That’s not Shakespeare
The Ultimate Movie Adaptation List

Articles

Shakespeare’s Skull is Missing
Rare Shakespeare Edition Found
Shakespeare’s Handwriting to be Digitised

Stories

A Tiny Feast by Chris Adrian

Titania and Oberon, the Queen and King of the Fairies, live under a hill in a modern city park. To save their marriage, they take a mortal toddler and raise him, only to discover he has developed terminal leukaemia. The story is set in a fairy den and an oncology ward, and is a heartbreaking and very real story about love, death, and parenthood.

Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde

Granted this series isn’t solely about Shakespeare, but there are running themes, ongoing jokes and references, and the ?? book, Something Rotten, is so Shakespeare it’s incredibly clever and amusing. If you’ve read the books you may want to check out the many allusions to Shakespeare in the series, there are references to plays but also mentions about the author debate and Shakespeare clones.

Goodreads

This glorious website has multiple lists that explore Shakespeare retellings of every kind.

Rewriting Shakespeare (YA edition)
Popular Shakespeare Retellings
Retelling Shakespeare

Poetry

Epitaph on Shakespeare by John Milton
Poems about Shakespeare

 Media

Horrible Histories Shakespeare Song
Horrible Histories Shakespeare Mastermind
Horrible Histories Shakespeare Doesn’t Like Fighting Song
Horrible Histories Quote Alert
QI The Immortal Bard
Changing interpretations of Hamlet

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