Curtain Theatre Excavation Prompts Shakespearean Walks And Talks

Archaeologist will draw back the curtain on the remains of Shakespeare’s early play house where Romeo and Juliet were first performed.

Curtain Theatre Excavation Prompts Shakespearean Walks And Talks
A trial excavation of The Curtain a few years ago. Photo by MOLA.

Read the article here.

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Words, Words, Mere Words: Shakespeare Will Goes on Display

shakespeare will goes on display

shakespeare will goes on display

This one is for the Shakespeare fanatic but still fascinating. It looks at the legal documents signed by the Bard.

shakespeare will goes on display

read the article here.

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How did Shakespeare speak?

How did Shakespeare speak

How did Shakespeare speak

This is an awesome clip with Michael Rosen on how Shakespeare’s work sounded at the time of being
written. It is great as loads of the rhymes make sense and take Shakespeare away from the ‘posh’
accent that sometimes put student off. Enjoy…

Click here to listen

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In defence of Shakespeare’s difficult bits Tom Sutcliffe

In defence of Shakespeares difficult bits Tom Sutcliffe

In defence of Shakespeares difficult bits Tom Sutcliffe

Reading this article by Tom Sutcliffe I agreed and then thought well, we actually adapt the plays to introduce them to children!? Our hope is, I suppose, that once they understand the fun of the plays as theatre shows they will explore the language and enter the world of Shakespeare much like any other fantasy world we dip into. Does any else find it works this way around?

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Shakespeare’s Late Plays – Recorded at the Globe’s Playhouse

Shakespeares Late Plays

Shakespeares Late Plays

Andrew Marr presents a special edition of Start the Week, celebrating the later life and works of William Shakespeare. Recorded at the Globe’s candle-lit Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, the actor Simon Russell Beale and Artistic Director Dominic Dromgoole discuss the late romances. The writer Jeanette Winterson explores her personal connection to The Winter’s Tale, and the academic Katherine Duncan-Jones questions whether Shakespeare ever gave up on life in London to retire to Stratford-upon-Avon, and the relevance of his will that left his wife their ‘second-best bed’.

Click here to listen

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The Shakespeare Algorithm

Shakespeare in schools Algorithm

Here is an interesting article from The New Yorker by Alastair Gee.
The original article is here.

Shakespeare in schools AlgorithmIn 1727, a writer and editor named Lewis Theobald was preparing to unveil “Double Falsehood,” a tragicomedy that he said was based on manuscripts of a lost play by Shakespeare. “The good old Master of the English Drama is by a kind of Miracle recall’d from his Grave, and given to us once again,” the London Journal reported, when news of Theobald’s project emerged. Ever since then, however, the work has presented difficulties to the gatekeepers of the canon. For one, the manuscripts have vanished. For another, Theobald has a checkered reputation; he was accused of plagiarizing his play “The Perfidious Brother,” and his starring role in Alexander Pope’s satirical poem “The Dunciad” doesn’t help matters. Then there is the text itself, which isn’t especially good. Certainly “Double Falsehood” contains echoes of Shakespeare (“A gleam of day breaks sudden from her window”), but for the most part the language sags or is ungainly. Would the Bard have called a woman so fair that her face could make “a frozen hermit leap from his cell” to kiss it? (Well, perhaps not, but he did write that “A withered hermit, five-score winters torn, / Might shake off fifty, looking in her eye.”)

In 2010, Theobald was partially unburdened of his ignominy: “Double Falsehood” was released as part of the respected Arden Shakespeare series. “It’s not ‘King Lear’—we have to agree to that,” Brean Hammond, the edition’s editor, told me. “And we have to agree that it’s devoid of a lot of the kinds of metaphorical density—the thickly woven, metaphorical, imagistic passages—for which we now value Shakespeare.” Still, Hammond and a number of other scholars believe that the play, unlike the dozens of others that have been provisionally attributed to Shakespeare, in whole or in part, over the centuries, has the bones of some earlier work in which the playwright was involved. Robert Folkenflik, an emeritus professor of English at the University of California, Irvine, said that he once heard “Double Falsehood” compared to “an old cobblestoned road that’s been asphalted over, and yet you’ve got these cobblestones sticking out.”

Various pieces of evidence have been cited—and tussled over—as proof of the play’s provenance. An entry in a publishing registry from nearly four decades after Shakespeare’s death, for instance, seems to indicate that he and John Fletcher, his sometime collaborator, wrote a precursor to “Double Falsehood.” (The registry also lists Shakespeare as the author of some decidedly questionable works. “The Merry Devil of Edmonton,” anyone?) Then, in April, new evidence emerged from an unlikely corner: the journal Psychological Science. At Folkenflik’s suggestion, a pair of researchers at the University of Texas at Austin—James Pennebaker and one of his graduate students, Ryan Boyd—had performed a linguistic analysis of “Double Falsehood.” In his previous studies, Pennebaker had found a correlation between how students use articles and prepositions in their college-application essays and what grades they go on to get, and between self-referential writing and suicidality in poets. “I felt as though it was important to look at this as a cold scientist: Here are the numbers, I have no dog in this hunt, it doesn’t matter which way it comes out,” Pennebaker said.

The study focussed in part on function words, the heavy-lifting but unglamorous class that includes pronouns, articles, and prepositions—“I,” “you,” “the,” “a,” “an,” “on,” “in,” “under.” As Pennebaker has written, there are only about four hundred and fifty of them in English, but they account for fifty-five per cent of the words that we use, the linguistic glue that holds everything together but goes mostly unnoticed. “We can’t hear them,” Pennebaker told me recently. “You and I have now been talking for ten minutes, and you have no idea if I’ve used articles at a high rate or a low rate. I have no idea.” Everyone has a pattern, though, and this is what he and Boyd sought in an array of works by Shakespeare, Theobald, and Fletcher. They also took other habits into account, such as three-word phrases typical to each author; for Shakespeare, these included “my lord your,” “what says thou,” and “as it were.” (“Quality work there, Shakey,” Boyd said.)

Generally speaking, the results of the “Double Falsehood” analysis indicate that the voices of Shakespeare and Fletcher predominate, and that Theobald’s is minimally present. It might be objected that, if Theobald had set out to imitate Shakespeare, he would surely have aped his language. But function-word usage is very hard to mimic, Boyd and Pennebaker told me. As with other linguistic tics, a writer’s own propensities will more than likely bleed through. “The Cuckoo’s Calling,” a detective novel, could only have been written by the fantasy author J. K. Rowling; Federalist No. 49, although published under a pseudonym, could only have been written by James Madison. Indeed, as Maria Konnikova reported in March, function-word patterns and other metrics may be able to establish not only an author’s voice but also her disposition and mood. Pennebaker has already produced rough tools that scan people’s tweets for signs of depression and anxiety. The “Double Falsehood” study purported to shed similar light on the Bard’s psychology, noting, for example, that his “relatively dynamic writing style and relatively high use of social content words” suggested someone who was “socially focused and interested in climbing higher on the social ladder.”

To data-mine Shakespeare is, as the Earl of Worcester might have said, “to o’er-walk a current roaring loud / On the unsteadfast footing of a spear.” Boyd and Pennebaker’s study, in other words, has not been universally lauded. Although the experts with whom I spoke were generally excited by the linguistic evidence of the play’s authorship, several were dismissive of the attempts to draw up a psychological profile of the playwright. Ron Rosenbaum, the author of “The Shakespeare Wars,” also questioned the study’s over-all mission. “It’s so savagely reductive to attempt to reduce literature to some algorithm,” he told me. “The way to understand Shakespeare is to continually reread him.” As proof of his argument, Rosenbaum gave the example of “A Funeral Elegy,” a poem that was initially attributed to Shakespeare, with the help of a database called Shaxicon, and then, on the advice of an altogether less algorithmic human reader, reattributed to John Ford, the author of the play “’Tis Pity She’s a Whore.” But Gary Taylor, an editor of the complete Oxford Shakespeare, sees something more than academic principle at play. “Many great writers and literary critics chose to concentrate on English because they hated math,” he told me.

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“Make trivial price of serious things we have”

Sometimes I like to allow myself to be distracted by things vaguely related to the work I am supposed to be doing. Often the distraction takes the form of interesting facts about Shakespeare. I find it very satisfying, for example, to note that Shakespeare’s birth was recorded in Latin and yet his death was recorded in English – fitting for a man who has made such a contribution to the English language. That sounds like a clever thing to be distracted but then I find out that two of Shakespeare’s plays have been translated into Klingon. And now I really want to see a Klingon production of Hamlet. The idea of those long introspective soliloquys delivered in such an aggressive sounding language… Then I find myself interested in the fact that William Shakespeare is an anagram of ‘I am a weakish speller’ and I know it is time to get back to work.

Follow the link below for some more Shakespeare facts, but don’t get too distracted – remember you were supposed to be booking our new show “Shakespeare’s Lost Panto” for your school…

Posted in adapting shakespeare, Pantomime, primary school Shakespeare, Shakespeare for schools, shakespeare modern speech, teaching A Midsummer's Night Dream, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Knock Knock. Who’s There?

Everytime I work with the words of Shakespeare I am astounded about how often you find bits of Shakespeare in everyday life. Whether these idioms were coined by Shakespeare or simply written down by him, his influence is astounding. Ever waited with ‘bated breath’? Ever said ‘for goodness sake’? Ever thought that it was a ‘foregone conclusion’ that something would not ‘budge an inch’? Ever bid’ good riddance’ to something or dealt with things in ‘one fell swoop’? There seems no end to these expressions and I guess that is why I am still coming across new ones. This time round while working through the script of “Shakespeare’ Lost Pantomime” (one of his finest works…) I was delighted to discover that “What the Dickens” has nothing to do with Charles Dickens and is a quote from Merry Wives of windsor.

I think that my favourite realisation was while trying to write some jokes for the show. What would be the perfect joke for a pantomime and include a quote from Shakespeare? That’s right, “Knock Knock, who’s there?” is a quote from shakespeare. I was very pleased when i realised that. Now if you want to know what awful punchline I attached to the quote, then you will just have to come and see the show.


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This precious stone set in a silver sea, this sceptered isle, this…Ramsbottom.

Once again, the Splats travelling players will be dragging their suitcase of surprises to Ramsbottom, this time for the Ramsbottom Literature Festival. It will be a grand day of performing Midsummer nights dream in the morning and then creating a performance of The Tempest with local children in the afternoon. If you are anywhere nearby on the 21st November then come and see what we are up to.


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“If this were play’d upon the stage now, I could condemn it as an improbable fiction”

I am sure you have wondered from time to time about the genius of Shakespeare. And I am sure that in your wonderings you have asked yourself the same question that we at Splats have been pondering for a while. The question is this:

If Shakespeare was so great, where is his Pantomime?

But now, historians at the archives of castle Splats have discovered* what Shakespeare was doing in those lost years. We know that Shakespeare was influenced by various theatrical traditions. We also know that pantomime has its roots in things that Shakespeare would have known about – The Masques of Elizabethan England, the Tudor Feast of Fools and Commedia dell’Arte. And we also know that Shakespeare sometimes used stories from long ago as the basis for his plays, much like in pantomime. When we pieced these things together we unearthed** the truth that is:


Using fragments of original text, historical notes and other things that we just made up we are producing for you a great revival of this long lost masterpiece.

You will see the ancient origins of the Cinderella story, some Shakespearean plot devices, some of the most influential characters from other Shakespeare plays and some magic beans all in one historically accurate*** show.

Watch this space for more details.

*Made up


***”historically accurate” in this case means “hysterically inaccurate”

Posted in adapting shakespeare, Pantomime, primary school Shakespeare, Shakespeare for schools | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment
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