Flowchart: which Shakespeare play to see


This illustrated flowchart makes it easy to pick an evening out with the Bard. Read the rest

Which Shakespeare character is Hillary Clinton and should we be worried?

William Lashner's The Four-Night Run is available from Amazon.

To her opponents Hillary Clinton is Lady Macbeth, raging within the corridors of the power, hoarding wealth, punishing her enemies, ever plotting to gain the throne, crying “Out, damned spot!” as she futilely tries to wipe the blood of Vince Foster from her wretched hands.

To her supporters she is Portia, plying her legal skills and declaiming about the “quality of mercy,” even as she mercilessly skewers the Wall Street money lender out to take his pound of flesh from the common man.

But the detail about Hillary Clinton that would surely have attracted Shakespeare’s attention is the sheer gob-smacking length of time she has been seeking the presidency. At least one college classmate predicted she would be the first female president, and it is as if she has spent the subsequent 47 years preparing herself for the role. Shakespeare might have thought Hamlet would make the ideal king if not for the unfortunate ending of that play, but before he wrote Hamlet he spent two plays detailing the preparations of a young price for his kingship, and they have much to say about the education of the presumptive Democratic nominee.

In the two parts of King Henry IV, Shakespeare details the education of the young Prince Harry, who would eventually become the revered Henry V. Prince Harry has two role models influencing his development. His father, King Henry IV, talks of duty and honor, even though he is really all about gaining and maintaining power, having usurped his throne by killing Richard II and then spending his entire reign fighting to maintain it, most notably at the battle of Shrewsbury. Read the rest

Choose your own sex scene from Romeo and/or Juliet


Here's one of millions of different paths you can take in the new book, Romeo and/or Juliet: a Chooseable-Path Adventure, by Ryan North.

We're joining the story in Act 2 Scene 2, which you'll recognize from the actual Shakespeare play. Juliet has SECRETLY MARRIED Romeo, and now she's waiting at home for Romeo to climb up the sex ladder he sent ahead (Romeo is extremely classy), so they can consummate their marriage! Meanwhile, Romeo has killed her cousin Tybalt due to some supremely bad decision making. As Juliet, we've just decided to keep waiting for Romeo. Let's see what (could possibly, depending on what choices we make) happens next, shall we?

From ROMEO AND/OR JULIET: a chooseable-path adventure by Ryan North. Published by arrangement with Riverhead Books, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright © 2016 by Ryan North. Illustrations: Passage 328 © Randall Munroe; Passage 339 © Sara Richard Read the rest

Foundations of early Shakespeare theater uncovered

They found a green eggcup there

Foundations of the Curtain Theater, where Shakespeare performed early in his stage career, were uncovered by developers in Shoreditch, London. And they come with a surprise: they're rectangular, not the expected oval shape.

“There is going to have to be a certain amount of revision of the chapter on The Curtain in my book,” Bowsher said. “It now seems clear that the playhouse was a conversion of an earlier tenement – essentially a block of flats – and was later converted back into a tenement again.

“There’s been a lot of scholarly argument about the shape of Tudor theatres, but the evidence from actors is that it made no difference to the performance of the plays, you could ask them to stand on a chair and they’d just get on and do it.”

The Curtain was first found in 2012, and plans for a Shakespeare museum unveiled shortly thereafter, with the ruins encased under a huge transparent glass stage. Other finds on the site include a green eggcup, a broken comb, and a report of a cutpurse's arrest. Read the rest

You quote Shakespeare every day


Rob Brydon explains that you're probably quoting Shakespeare day-in, day-out; the Bard is responsible for countless idioms and phrases that still infest the English language. Tut tut! Read the rest

Rare Shakespeare's First Folio found in Scottish isle


A rare copy of Shakespeare's First Folio turned up on a Scottish island, reports the BBC. Only 230 copies are known to exist, or thereabouts, and the last to be sold fetched £3.5m (about $5m) in 2003 and £2.8m in 2006. Countless fakes are knocking around, too. This copy of the first collected edition of Shakespeare's plays, published in 1623, was found at Mount Stuart House on the Isle of Bute. Academics who authenticated the book called it a rare and significant find. ... Emma Smith, professor of Shakespeare studies at Oxford University, said her first reaction on being told the stately home was claiming to have an original First Folio was: "Like hell they have." But when she inspected the three-volume book she found it was authentic.

The folio represents the first legitimate compendium of Shakespeare's work; we wouldn't have much of Macbeth were it not for its publication, among many other works preserved in it. Read the rest

Convincing machine-generated Shakespearean sonnets on-demand


Tristan Miller and Dave Morice created a website that produces highly-authentic Shakespearean sonnets. The trick: rather than randomly-generated Markov gobbledygook that evokes the flavor while crudely hitting the meter, each generated sonnet reuses whole lines from the body of Shakespeare's poetic work. The results are more convincing, at the cost of more commonplace repetition.

Writes Miller: "unlike some other poetry generators, this one ensures that the poems have the correct rhythm, rhyme scheme, and grammar. Dave first published the method for generating the poems back in 1991, but this is the first time it's been implemented on the Web." Read the rest

The meaning of blackness in Othello


The Metropolitan opera only just stopped using blackface performers. Yes! White dudes were blacking up to play Othello until 2015 and still things needed to be explained to them.

In Shakespeare's time, though—before the Atlantic slave trade, before imperialism, before Jim Crow, before civil rights, before inconsiderate cosplay—blackness was different. Why, then, was Othello black?

To us today, the word “black” carries with it a specific cluster of associations informed by history, culture, stereotypes, and literature. Othello may have started in conversation with Shakespeare’s definition of blackness, but today, he speaks with ours.

A much more interesting question, really, is: Why is Othello black? Why did Shakespeare write a domestic tragedy about jealousy, and make the husband a Moor? Is Othello’s race a canard, or is it the key to unlocking the play’s deeper meanings?

Would you believe the answer to all of this might involve pirates?

The key, Isaac Butler relates, is to consider that to renaissance Englishfolk, "Moorish" would have been inextricably tied into religion: Othello is a converted Muslim, and his tragedy, then, is possibly one of failed assimilation and acculturation. Read the rest

Shakespeare probably smoked weed, scientists say


Several pipes excavated from William Shakespeare's garden contained cannabis, report scientists who used gas chromatography-mass spectrometry to analyze the items. Read the rest

Kidscomic Shakespeare: The Stratford Zoo Midnight Revue Presents Macbeth

Adapting Shakespeare for kids is an age-old tradition stretching back almost to the time of Shakespeare itself. But as Cory Doctorow discovered, The Stratford Zoo Midnight Revue Presents Macbeth brings The Scottish Play to life for audiences young and old in kids-comic form with a lot of broad humor and some grisly murder besides.

Pulp Shakespeare

"I dare thee, say 'What?' again." [Pulp Bard via JWZ] Read the rest