Since the groundbreaking Original Pronunciation productions at Shakespeare’s Globe in London in 2004-05, OP has captured the imagination of performers, directors, and the play-going public. Going back to the pronunciation of the late 16th and early 17th centuries reveals nuances, puns, and rhymes that otherwise lie completely hidden, and gives fresh dynamism to productions.
You may know Christopher Marlowe and Richard Burbage, The Globe Theatre and The Swan, perhaps even The Lord Chamberlain’s Men and The Admirals’ Men. But what do you know of modern Shakespeare: new productions, new performances, and ongoing research in the late 20th and 21st centuries? Shakespeare has, in many ways, remained the same, but actors, directors, designers, and other artists have adapted his work to suit the needs of the world and audiences today.
Like all true Trollopians I carry in my mind a vivid picture of Barsetshire and its people. For me it is a landscape of rolling countryside with ancient churches and great houses, with Barchester a compact cathedral city of great elegance, as if Peterborough cathedral had been miraculously transported ten miles into Stamford.
In 2004, Shakespeare’s Globe in London began a daring experiment. They decided to mount a production of a Shakespeare play in ‘original pronunciation’ (OP) – a reconstruction of the accents that would have been used on the London stage around the year 1600, part of a period known as Early Modern English. They chose Romeo and Juliet as their first production, but – uncertain about how the unfamiliar accent would be received by the audience – performances in OP took place for only one weekend.
Translation of Shakespeare’s works is almost as old as Shakespeare himself; the first German adaptations date from the early 17th century. And within Shakespeare’s plays, moments of translation create comic relief and heighten the awareness that communication is not a given. Translation also served as a metaphor for physical transformation or transportation.
The most striking aspect of Shakespeare in India today is that it seems to have at last got over its colonial hangover. It is well known that Shakespeare was first introduced to Indians under the aegis of colonialism: first as an entertainer for the expatriates, then soon incorporated into the civilizing mission of the empire. This resulted in Indians being awed by Shakespeare, taking him too respectfully, especially in academia.
As Shakespeare’s work grew in popularity, it began to spread outside of England and eventually extended far beyond the Anglophone world. As it was introduced to Africa, Asia, Central and South America, his plays were translated and performed in new and unique ways that reflected the surrounding culture.
Latin, then, was a ubiquitous and commonplace language in the Renaissance, widely spoken, read, and written across Europe and beyond. If the defining characteristics of what has variously been called a “world language” and a “universal language” are its number of non-native speakers and its international circulation, by the time Erasmus was writing his Colloquies and Shakespeare his comedies Latin had been a paradigmatic world language for well over a millennium.
The so-called golden age of Shakespeare coincided with the so-called golden age of exploration. Yet despite the far-reaching impact of the expanding globe, no play is set in the Americas, few plays treat colonization as central to the plot, and only a handful features Native American characters (most of whom are Europeans in disguise).
On 23 April 2014, the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth, a production of Hamlet set off from the Globe Theatre in London. In a span of two years, the 16-person acting group is touring every country in the world, visiting seven continents in 732 days.
There is a moment in the George Miller film Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome (1985) that has stuck with me over the two decades since I first saw it. A bedraggled Max (Mel Gibson) is escorted through the crumbling desert outpost of Bartertown.
When a weary Egeon laments in the first scene of The Comedy of Errors that in quest of his lost son he has spent five years “Roaming clean through the bounds of Asia,” Shakespeare is characteristically using the word only in its classical sense, to indicate the Roman province of Asia Minor, a territory roughly equivalent to that of modern Turkey. Shakespeare’s sense of the geography of the rather larger area we now call Asia, like that of many fellow-Elizabethans, is more vague.
Whether in Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, and beyond — or in various unknown, lost, or mythological places — Early Modern actors tread stage boards that could be familiar or unfamiliar ground. Shakespeare made some creative choices in the settings of his plays, often reaching across vast distances, time, and history.
Why does the world need yet another book on how to write fantasy fiction? Because the public continues to show a nearly insatiable desire for more stories in this genre, and increasing numbers of aspiring authors gravitate toward writing it. As our real lives become more hectic, over-scheduled, insignificant, socially disconnected, and technologically laden, there seems to be a need among readers to reach for a place where the individual matters.
In Shakespeare’s comedies, sex is not only connected to marriage, but postdates it. Prospero in The Tempest insists to his prospective son-in-law that he not break the “virgin-knot” of his intended bride, Miranda, “before / All sanctimonious ceremonies may / With full and holy rite be ministered,” lest “barren hate, / Sour-eyed disdain, and discord . . . bestrew / The union of your bed with weeds so loathly / That you shall hate it both” (4.1.15-22).
Sex was far from simple in 16th century England. Shakespeare himself wed a woman eight years his senior, a departure from the typical ages of both partners. While some of his characters follow the common conventions of Elizabethan culture (male courtship and the “transfer” of a woman from the care of her father to her husband), others show marked indifference toward appropriate gender roles and sexuality.