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The best of Illuminating Shakespeare

To mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, we brought you a new theme every month throughout 2016. From women to race, from money to the supernatural, we delved into complex subjects surrounding his life and works, exploring their relevance for a modern audience. With specially commissioned videos, articles, and interactive content from a host of Shakespearean experts, Illuminating Shakespeare presented the very best Shakespeare resources from across Oxford University Press. Take a look at nine of our favourite posts from this anniversary year…

1. Shakespeare and sex in the 16th century – [infographic]

Did you know that Shakespeare created many more unfaithful wives than unfaithful husbands? He also created many more paranoid male partners than female. Shakespearean explorations of sexuality involve the collisions of identity, eroticism, and power.

2. Shakespeare and Islam

“Without Islam there would be no Shakespeare” begins Matthew Dimmock, Professor of Early Modern Studies at the University of Sussex, in his exploration of Shakespeare’s encounters with Islam and Islamic culture for the Shakespeare and Religion theme.

3. Shakespeare across the globe [map]

Even mere decades after Shakespeare’s works were published in London, they had circulated from the west coast of Africa to New York City. Only a century or two after that, his plays had reached places like Japan, China, Italy, and Argentina. For the theme of Shakespeare Worldwide, take a look at some of the locations where Shakespeare and his work have had a profound effect in our interactive map.

Bildnis William Shakespeare, 1939; Berlin. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
Bildnis William Shakespeare, 1939; Berlin, Heinrich Vogeler. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

4. “This blasted heath” – Justin Kurzel’s new Macbeth

For the theme of Shakespeare and Film, Erin Sullivan (one of the revising editors of the second edition of The Oxford Companion to Shakespeare) explores the sumptuous and bloody 2015 adaptation of Macbeth starring Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard.

5. Michael Dobson on Shakespeare and the Supernatural

From the ghost in Hamlet to the miniature fairy Queen Mab from Romeo and Juliet, in this short video Michael Dobson explores Shakespeare’s use of all elements of the supernatural. Paradoxically, his witches and fairies and devils coexist with a scepticism about their very existence.

6. Quiz: last lines in Shakespeare

“I kill’d not thee with half so good a will” – whose dying words were these? Death is everywhere in Shakespeare, from the blasted heath to the marriage bed to the battlefield. The Oxford Dictionaries team test our knowledge of dying words of various Shakespeare characters.

7. Shakespeare and the suffragettes

As it approaches 100 years since the Representation of the People Act, introduced in 1918, Sophie Duncan looked back at the role of Shakespeare in the campaign for women’s suffrage. She explores how suffragettes found political inspiration in Shakespeare’s heroines, for the theme of Shakespeare and Women.

8. What music would Shakespeare’s characters listen to?

To celebrate the important relationship between Shakespeare and Music, we imagined modern playlists for some of Shakespeare’s most famous characters. Do you agree that Beatrice would have enjoyed a bit of Chaka Khan and Beyoncé? Or do you think Henry V would have worked out to ‘All I Do is Win’ by DJ Khaled?

9. Shakespeare’s clowns and fools [infographic]

Fools, or jesters, would have been known by many of those in Shakespeare’s contemporary audience, as they were often kept by the royal court, and some rich households, to act as entertainers. For the theme of Shakespeare and Performance, take a look at a host of facts around these subversive figures.

Featured image credit: ‘Shakespeare400’ design created for Oxford University Press. Used with permission. 

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