Saturday, April 9, 2016

Shakespeare’s First Folio: The Most Important Shakespearean Document?

Even though it was published seven years after his death, did you know that Shakespeare’s first folio could be the most important Shakespearean document cause without it he would be largely forgotten?

By: Ringo Bones 

With the recent find of a rare first edition copy of Shakespeare’s First Folio that was published in 1623 at a stately home on the Scottish island – i.e. the library at Mount Stuart on the Isle of Bute back in April 7, 2016 seems to yet again to remind the whole world how important this vital document is, not only to Shakespeare fans but also to all of humanity as well. Even though it was published seven years after his death, without a number of Shakespeare’s First Folio surviving over the centuries, William Shakespeare would have been largely forgotten if there are no surviving copies of his plays. 

Published in 1623, Shakespeare’s First Folio brought together the majority of Shakespeare’s plays and without it there would be no copies of more than half of them, including Macbeth, The Tempest, Julius Caesar, As You Like It and Twelfth Night. And the First Folio is also the only source of the famous “balding portrait” of William Shakespeare by Martin Droeshout. The find brings the total of known surviving copies to 234 which is of vital importance given that we will be observing the 400th Anniversary of the playwright’s death on the 23rd of April. Academics who authenticated the book called it a rare and significant find. A copy owned by Oxford University sold for UK £ 3.5-million back in 2003. 

Prof. Emma Smith - one of the scholars who authenticated the find and author of Shakespeare’s First Folio: Four Centuries of an Iconic Book – says it is uncertain the exact number of copies of Shakespeare’s First Folio were produced back in 1623, although some put the figure at about 750 copies. The Scottish find had been previously owned by an 18th Century literary editor and then appears in the Bute library collection in 1896. 

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Shakespeare’s Hamlet in Calais’ “The Jungle”: All The World’s A Stage?

With the recent performance of Shakespeare’s Hamlet in Calais’ The Jungle refugee camp proves that all the world’s a stage?

By: Ringo Bones 

“All the world’s a stage”, indeed, when Shakespeare’s Globe Theater took Hamlet into the notorious “Jungle migrant camp” in Calais. About 300 refugees watched Hamlet – “a play that speaks to the human spirit in its darkest moments” – in biting cold. Under a steely gray sky, in bitter cold weather, actors from Shakespeare’s Globe Theater performed Hamlet back in Wednesday, February 3, 2016 to about 300 refugees in Calais at the ad hoc refugee camp notoriously known as “The Jungle”. Majority of the refugees have not even heard of William Shakespeare and his plays their whole life and there are even a large number who don’t even speak the English language. 

It was a wild thing to do but also entirely appropriate, Joe Murphy, a playwright and co-founder of the Good Chance Project, said it was the ideal play. “Hamlet is the story of a young man who is depressed and frustrated, between life and death, who does not know what to do, who is struggling to make decisions,” he said. “That story is going to translate to thousands of people here who are exactly in the same position.” One of the aims of the Good Chance Project is to provide some light amid the bleakness. Approximately 6,000 refugees from 22 countries live in the camp, the vast majority hoping to get to the UK. Volunteers say most are pessimistic that it will ever happen.  

Murphy said Wednesday’s performance was “a remarkable, beautiful thing.” The audience, who were offered popcorn, chai and synopses of the play in English, Pashto, Farsi, Arabic, French and Kurdish, did not get every nuance, but Murphy said: “Who does?” Well, at least the great English bard will gain a few thousand more fans. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Shakespeare’s Coriolanus: A Farewell To Tragedy?

Of all his tragic chronicle / biographical plays, is Shakespeare’s Coriolanus the bard’s “farewell” to the tragedy play format?

By: Ringo Bones 

Recent studies by scholars have shown that William Shakespeare’s “ruthlessness” as a businessman who profited from famine and hardship was largely influenced by his tragic chronicle / biographical play Coriolanus. After he finished most of his plays, Shakespeare returned to Warwickshire where he had a lot of land planted with corn and barley crops and hoarded the season’s harvests where he managed to manipulate and cornered the then existing grain market during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.  

The bard’s “complex character” was evident on his action as an “illegal food hoarder” 400 years ago who sold grain at inflated prices during famine was recently uncovered by researchers back in 2013. And it seems that this particular play very much influenced Shakespeare as a “shrewd” businessman. And sometimes I also wonder if Shakespeare had read Sun Tsu’s The Art of War.  

To most Stratfordian scholars, William Shakespeare’s Coriolanus are founded on Sir Thomas North’s English translation of Plutarch’s Lives, a fact of which may indicate that the wearied poet felt the need of a source he could follow closely without having to rack his brains in invention. Shakespeare’s Coriolanus – composed between 1608 and 1609 – is a more firmly built play of the most of his “biographical tragedies”. After the civic riots and pitched battles of the first act, recalling the technique of the chronicle plays, Shakespeare concentrates upon the character and fate of the protagonist. And this fate is, perhaps, more rigidly determined by character than elsewhere in Shakespeare. Coriolanus might be called Shakespeare’s farewell to tragedy; the tragic temper, the sympathetic hero and the poetic expression of the tragic theme seem fainter and less effective here than in the earlier and greater plays. 

Thursday, June 5, 2014

William Shakespeare Goes the World on his 450th Birthday

In celebration of his 450th birth celebration, will the 2014 William Shakespeare world tour be a runaway theatrical success?

By: Ringo Bones 

Even to official tenured scholars and devoted fans – no one knows the absolute exact date of William Shakespeare’s birth, but devotees had ever since adopted April 23 as the day to celebrate his birthday. And in 2014, that great bard from Stratford turns 450 and there are plans to celebrate this milestone via a very ambitious world tour that’s as grandiose as the plays created by the great bard himself. 

Shakespeare’s Globe Theater – a re-creation of the theater troupe that hosted most of his plays that dates back during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I – is marking the occasion with an ambitious world tour of Hamlet, the English bard’s most iconic play, which the troupe plans to perform in every country in the world. Given the lofty aims of such a very ambitious Shakespearean world tour, it could well last as long as 2 to 5 years depending on the fans encore. 

Shakespeare Globe Theater’s Artistic Director Dominic Dromgoole tells in a recent press conference that the tour “is a stupid idea.””And the great thing about stupid ideas,” he says, “is that people understand them very swiftly.””So when we go out to people around the world and say, very simply”: “We are taking Hamlet to every country in the world they immediately get the fun of it and the ambition of it.” Given the average times a very experienced theatrical troupe like Shakespeare’s Globe Theater can perform Hamlet in a week, it would probably take them 5 years to perform the play on every country on the planet if you add the travel time. 

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Does William Shakespeare Have A Low Opinion of King Richard III?

With the recent archeological discovery of King Richard III’s skeletal remains in a Leicester car park, should we reevaluate Shakespeare’s impression of King Richard III? 

By: Ringo Bones 

Even though he was killed in battle back in 1485, the recent archeological discovery and confirmation of King Richard III’s skeletal remains that were found buried under a Leicester car park became one of the major news stories of February 4, 2013. This could well be the catalyst to reassess everyone’s Stratfordian view of the life and reign of King Richard III. And could it also revise Shakespeare’s view of the much maligned historical monarch? 

For over 400 years, the reputation of King Richard III – according to the great bard William Shakespeare – has been a subject of acrimonious debate by historians. As the king of England during the closing years of the Wars of the Roses, even the most neutral and non-Stratfordianly partisan historical research has not been able to solve the question of Richard III’s guilt or innocence of the murder of the princes – i.e. Edward V and Richard, sons of Edward IV – but has established that the character and other crimes of Richard III as shown in the play represent an exuberant dramatizing of Tudor distortions and fabrications. 

Contrary to Shakespeare, Richard III was not so much as a “hunch-backed toad” with a withered arm and crippled leg, but an attractive, though rather frail, prince who was the leading general of the kingdom and next to his brother Edward IV, was the most successful warrior in Europe. Rather than stepping himself in crime and plots during Edward IV’s reign he was, in fact, a loyal and indefatigable supporter of his brother’s government. 

The true historically accurate King Richard III could well be a stark contrast in comparison to the early chronicle play by William Shakespeare. Shakespeare’s Richard III is closer to the example of Marlowe in many respects, than any other of the great bard’s plays. It carries on the story of the Wars of the Roses from the point where Shakespeare had dropped it in the last act of 3 King Henry VI. 

On the recently found skeletal remains of King Richard III, it shows a rather malformed skeletal spine of a hunchbacked person – one of the aspects that Shakespeare didn’t dissemble about Richard III. Even though the nearly 600-year-old skeletal remains can only tell us so much using current analytical techniques, many of us will still be left asking – was the real life King Richard III way more fascinating than the great bard William Shakespeare portrayed him to be?