Category Archives: Shakespeare

SHAKESPEARE, ECOLOGY, AND THE ENVIRONMENT ·

(Randall Martin’s article appeared on Folger’s Shakespeare & Beyond, 4/18; via Pam Green.)

What does Shakespeare say about ecology and its politically engaged cousin environmentalism? Neither term appears in his work—unsurprising since they hadn’t been coined yet. Nevertheless, we see Shakespeare thinking ecologically in ways that resonate with our own perceptions of the environmental challenges we face today.

He was writing when early capitalism, globalized trade, and colonialism were beginning to extend Western and masculine ideals of conquering nature around the world. Responding imaginatively to these developments, Shakespeare recognizes the limits nature imposes on human exploitation, the necessity of conserving the bio-integrity of ecosystems for human and non-human benefit, and the earth’s absolute power to overrule human attempts at domination.

(Read more)

http://shakespeareandbeyond.folger.edu/2017/04/18/shakespeare-ecology-environmental-earth-day/?utm_source=wordfly&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=ShakespearePlus19Apr2017&utm_content=version_A&promo=

(Photo: Legal Insurrection)

SPY REPORT THAT CRITICISED MARLOWE FOR ‘GAY CHRIST’ CLAIM IS REVEALED ONLINE ·

(Andrew Dickson’s article appeared in the Guardian, 3/30.)

A controversial document in which the playwright Christopher Marlowereportedly declared that Christ was gay, that the only purpose of religion was to intimidate people, and that “all they that love not tobacco and boys were fools” is to go on show online for the first time.

The so-called “Baines note”, a star item in the British Library’s Renaissance manuscript collection, offers tantalising evidence about the private life of Marlowe, one of the most scandalous and magnetic figures of the Elizabeth period.

Compiled in May 1593 by the police informant and part-time spy Richard Baines, it claims to record a conversation between the two men in which the playwright airs a long list of what Baines describes as “monstrous opinions”.

Among them, Marlowe casts doubt on the existence of God, claims that the New Testament was so “filthily written” that he himself could do a better job, and makes the eyebrow-raising assertion that the Christian communion would be more satisfying if it were smoked “in a tobacco pipe”.

(Read more)

https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2017/mar/31/christopher-marlowe-spy-baines-note-gay-christ-british-library-online

***** SHAKESPEARE: ‘THE ROMAN TRAGEDIES’ FROM IVO VAN HOVE (SV PICK, UK) ·

(Lyn Gardner’s article appeared in the Guardian, 3/19.)

Hans Kesting is about to give his funeral oration as Mark Antony. He stumbles towards the lectern, wild-eyed and dishevelled. He suddenly throws away his carefully prepared notes, slumps in front of the stand, loosens his tie and appears to spontaneously address the crowd. But is it an honest, grief-stricken response to the death of Julius Caesar? Or a cleverly staged, managed and calculated piece of performance designed to enhance his own political ambitions? One that is conveniently caught on camera and broadcast on screens everywhere.

It’s one of several electrifying moments in Ivo van Hove’s lean, clean, condensed six-hour version of Coriolanus, Julius Caesar, and Antony and Cleopatra which returns to the Barbican where it was first staged in 2009. My, it’s still in great shape, the ensemble playing ferocious and purposeful. Jan Versweyveld’s designreframes Barbican’s stage as a bland, modern international conference hall, complete with pot plants, screens displaying the action, news bulletins and interviews with the lead actors, and an LED displays bringing news from the outside world – reminding us that in an era of instant communication and 24-hour news it is as easy to be misinformed as well informed. Unsurprisingly, in the opening minutes some screens briefly show a clip from Donald Trump’s inauguration.

(Read more)

https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2017/mar/19/the-roman-tragedies-review-barbican-ivo-van-hove-barbican

TEEN STARRING ON CHICAGO SHAKESPEARE STAGE ·

(Catey Sullivan’s article appeared in the Chicago Tribune, 3/6.)

At 14, Wilmette’s Aaron Lamm has the kind of an acting career many adult performers dream of. The New Trier freshman has credits at the biggest Equity theaters in Chicago. He’s signed with an agent. And through March 26, he’s playing a major supporting role in Chicago Shakespeare’s production of “Love’s Labor’s Lost.”

As Moth, the cheeky page and the smartest character in the room in “Love’s Labor’s Lost,” Lamm is stealing scenes and getting major laughs at the Tony-winning Navy Pier theater.

(Read more)

http://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/wilmette/lifestyles/ct-evr-go-aaron-lamm-tl-0309-20170306-story.html

Photo: chicago Tribune.

THE RADICAL ARGUMENT OF THE NEW OXFORD SHAKESPEARE ·

(Daniel Pollack-Pelzner’s article appeared in the New Yorker, 2/19.)

In 1989, a young professor named Gary Taylor published “Reinventing Shakespeare,” in which he argued that Shakespeare’s unrivalled literary status derives less from the sheer greatness of his plays than from the cultural institutions that have mythologized the Bard, elevating him above equally talented Renaissance playwrights. “Shakespeare was a star, but never the only one in our galaxy,” Taylor wrote. The book was his second major attempt to counter the view of Shakespeare as a singular genius; a few years earlier, he had served as one of two general editors of the Oxford Shakespeare, which credited co-authors for five of Shakespeare’s plays. In “Reinventing Shakespeare,” Taylor wrote that the Oxford Shakespeare “repeatedly shocks its readers, and knows that it will.”

(Read more)

http://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/the-radical-argument-of-the-new-oxford-shakespeare?utm_source=wordfly&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=ShakespearePlus22Feb2017&utm_content=version_A&promo=

Above, painting of Christopher Marlowe.)

THE NOBILITY OF HIGH POLITICS IN SHAKESPEARE ·

(Gary B. Goldstein’s article appeared in the National Review, 1/21.)

Every scholar is aware of the precision with which Shakespeare limns contemporary knowledge of medicine, science, and the law in nearly every one of his 37 canonical plays. Yet few are aware that the political behavior depicted by Shakespeare is equally accurate, as attested by modern scholars and especially by modern politicians and diplomats — an assessment that adds to the ongoing controversy over the authorship of the Shakespeare canon.
Read more at: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/444060/shakespeare-politics-elizabethan-court-life

HOW ‘SHERLOCK OF THE LIBRARY’ CRACKED THE CASE OF SHAKESPEARE’S IDENTITY ·

(Robert McCrum’s article appeared in the Observer, 1/12; via Pam Green.)

Deep in the Folger Library, in Washington DC, Heather Wolfe says that studying Shakespeare makes an ideal preparation for the onset of Trump’s America. You can see her point: Shakespeare would have revelled in the mad excesses, the sinister vanities and the pervasive stench of cronyism and corruption surrounding the president-elect as America makes the painful transition from Barack Obama.

Dr Wolfe is a willowy, bright-eyed manuscript scholar, a paleographer specialising in Elizabethan England who in certain moods of candour might put you in mind of Portia or perhaps Cordelia. She’s also a Shakespeare detective who, last year, made the career-defining discovery that is going to transform our understanding of Shakespeare’s biography. In the simplest terms, Wolfe delivered the coup de grace to the wild-eyed army of conspiracy theorists, including Vanessa Redgrave and Derek Jacobi, who contest the authenticity, even the existence, of the playwright known to contemporaries as Master Will Shakespeare.

Wolfe is an accidental sleuth. Her scholar’s passion is as much for old manuscripts as for the obscurities surrounding our national poet. Project Dustbunny, for example, one of her initiatives at the Folger Shakespeare Library, has made some extraordinary discoveries based on microscopic fragments of hair and skin accumulated in the crevices and gutters of 17th-century books.

(Read more)

https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2017/jan/08/sherlock-holmes-of-the-library-cracks-shakespeare-identity

Photo: New York Times

SHAKESPEARE: LORD OF MISRULE ·

(listen now on BBC Radio 4: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b086s64x )

As we move towards the celebration of Twelfth Night, historian Jerry Brotton looks back at the meaning and power of Shakespearian mischief.

For Shakespeare and his contempories festivals such as Twelfth Night were not just dates on a calendar, but often opportunities for boundaries to be tested and a whole society to implicitly re-examine the structures by which they lived.

Shakespeare’s plays are a clue to this pattern, and Jerry Brotton hears from actors Dame Harriet Walter and Simon Russell Beale; Simon Godwin, director of a new version of Twelfth Night; and Shakespeare scholar Emma Smith.

Featuring unwelcome commentary from Malvolio, written and performed by Tim Crouch.

Producer: Martin Williams.

GOUNOD: ‘ROMÉO ET JULIETTE’ AT THE MET (SV PICK, NY) ·

(Anthony Tommasini’s article appeared The New York Times, 1/1/17.)

During a recent interview, the German soprano Diana Damrau and the Italian tenor Vittorio Grigolo tried to describe the chemistry they have together onstage. Reading their comments, I worried that they might be overthinking things. After all, they first worked together only last year, appearing as the lovers in Massenet’s “Manon” at the Metropolitan Opera. The couple thrilled audiences and critics with the smoldering intensity they emitted. So this is a new relationship. In talking about their instinctive connection might they risk making it self-conscious?

Not to fear. On Saturday night for its New Year’s Eve gala, the Met introduced a new production of Gounod’s “Roméo et Juliette” starring Mr. Grigolo and Ms. Damrau as Shakespeare’s star-crossed adolescent lovers. In scene after scene, these exciting and charismatic artists disappeared into their characters, emboldening each other to sing with white-hot sensuality and impassioned lyricism.

The production, by the director Bartlett Sher, his seventh for the Met, updates the setting from Renaissance to 18th-century Verona, presenting an essentially traditional staging with some surreal touches that seem a little forced. Still, to whatever degree Mr. Sher shaped the courageous performances of his stars, and this very strong cast, he deserves much credit.

(Read more)

http://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/01/arts/music/review-diana-damrau-and-vittorio-grigolo-sizzle-in-romeo-et-juliette-at-the-met.html?ref=todayspaper

WHY THE MOONS OF URANUS ARE NAMED AFTER CHARACTERS IN SHAKESPEARE ·

(Julia Franz’s article appeared on PI, 1/1/17.)

What’s in a name?” Shakespeare’s star-crossed Juliet famously wanted to know. And for those of us peering skyward, it’s a question for the ages: Where do celestial bodies get their names from?

here are constellations and planets christened after Greek and Roman gods. The craters on Mercury are artists and musicians, like Bach, John Lennon and Disney. And the moons of the planet Uranus — there are, impressively, 27 altogether — have literary ties — 25 of them relate to characters in Shakespeare’s plays. 

For centuries, whoever discovered a celestial body usually had dibs on the naming rights. But when it comes to Uranus’ moons, details are murky about who exactly began doling out Shakespearean monikers.

The first two moons called Titania and Oberon, after the king and queen of the fairies in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” were discovered by William Herschel in 1787. (He was also a famous composer.) But Herschel simply referred to the satellites as “number one” and “number two,” according to Cambridge University historian Michael Hoskin.

“I’ve read a huge amount of what Herschel wrote. And as far as I know, he’d never heard of Shakespeare,” Hoskin says.

(Read more)

http://www.pri.org/stories/2017-01-01/why-moons-uranus-are-named-after-characters-shakespeare