You quote Shakespeare every day

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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