Did you know that next Saturday is the 400th anniversary of his death?
To commemorate his life and works, the BBC and the British Council are curating an amazing celebration called Shakespeare Lives, a six-month festival of Shakespeare-related events, which will be available online globally (free!). Many of the UK’s finest arts organisations and performers will be part of the action. The fun starts next weekend with Shakespeare Day Live, which actually runs over two days next Friday and Saturday, 22 and 23 April.
Shakespeare Day Live will be available on a pop-up digital channel offering odes, Hamlet from Shakespeare’s Globe in Bankside, London, features, ballet, opera, songs, movies and best of all, from 10.30pm BST next Saturday (great timing for any Shakespeare fans across the pond), the Royal Shakespeare Company with David Tennant as Richard II.
Find out more about the overall Shakespeare Lives festival here.
Link to the Shakespeare Day Live schedule here.
Maybe you’re not a Shakespeare fan. Maybe now is the time to give the great man a try. He wrote popular comedy, tragedy, historicals and fantasy, and his stories live on today because the characters are so powerful and the emotions so strongly and clearly expressed. You’ll find love, hatred, jealousy, treachery, ambition, humor, bigotry, cross-dressing, spectacular Big Misunderstandings, lots of sex, filthy jokes, and if you’re willing to put in a little work to attune your ear to the language, vivid imagery, deeply pleasing rhythms and truly dazzling wordplay.
If you think that sounds rather OTT, I refer you to this brilliant piece of video gold on youtube – 1979 footage of Sir Ian McKellen picking apart and explaining Macbeth’s famous speech “Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow.” The clip is twelve minutes long and ends with the soliloquy itself. I found it moving and inspiring and I hope you do too (link here).
You probably know that Shakespeare gave us many sayings that are still in common usage today. Did you know that all of these are his (and there are many, many more):
- The lady doth protest too much (Hamlet)
- Love is blind (The Merchant of Venice)
- The better part of valour is discretion (King Henry IV, Part I)
- I’ll not budge an inch (Taming of the Shrew)
- Cry “Havoc” and let slip the dogs of war (Julius Caesar)
- I bear a charmed life (Macbeth)
- I am a man more sinned against than sinning (King Lear)
- I will wear my heart upon my sleeve (Othello)
- The game is up (Cymbeline)
- Some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them (Twelfth Night)
- The course of true love never did run smooth (A Midsummer Night’s Dream).
If you’re tempted to dip a toe in the water but think Richard II may not be the place to start, you could check out a movie instead, frex:
- Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo & Juliet, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes, or
- Joss Whedon’s mafia-set Much Ado About Nothing, filmed in his own home, or
- Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard in Macbeth, or
- Ralph Fiennes’ Coriolanus, set in present-day Eastern Europe (“Bloodied, brutal and brilliant”) or
- Anything starring Kenneth Branagh, especially Henry V.
Still not convinced? What about a contemporary homage to the Bard? Maybe:
- West Side Story, Leonard Bernstein’s musical version of Romeo & Juliet, or
- Kiss Me Kate, the famous musical based on The Taming of the Shrew, or
- Return to The Forbidden Planet, musical comedy based on The Tempest, or
- Warm Bodies, the heart-warming (literally) zombie Romeo & Juliet.
I could go on and on, but I won’t.
Are you a Shakespeare fan?
If not, why not?
If you are, what’s your favorite, traditional or modern?