(Dromgoole’s article appeared in the Telegraph, 8/4.)
Next April I will be leaving Shakespeare’s Globe, after ten exhausting, exhilarating years as Artistic Director. This winter’s season in our indoor Sam Wanamaker Playhouse will therefore be my last, and the run of four Shakespeare plays that we announced today – Pericles, Cymbeline, The Winter’s Tale and The Tempest, known collectively as the late plays or romances – feel like the right way to say goodbye. Written at a very particular and poignant moment in Shakespeare’s life, they are some of his greatest achievements, works in which he finally reconciles all the innocent enthusiasm of his youth with all the bitter world-weariness of his maturity.
At some point in his early forties, Shakespeare sank into cynicism. In plays like Troilus & Cressida, King Lear and Coriolanus he turns a wilful aggression against himself, his characters and his audiences. Timon of Athens, also written during that period, is probably Shakespeare’s meanest play, a concentrated vision of self-loathing and misanthropy – and by all contemporary accounts, it bombed at the Globe. When Coriolanus discovers that his popularity ratings among the Romans who once lionised him have hit rock bottom, we surely feel some of the writer’s own sourness in the fallen hero’s scornful shrugging words, ‘There is a world elsewhere’, as he turns his back on the city.
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