Shakespeare

In an early episode of the cult Canadian television series Slings & Arrows (2003), the director of the ‘Burbage Festival’ finds himself addressing a corporate audience, forced to teach management strategy through Shakespeare: ‘Do any of you seriously believe that you’re going to sell more plastics products to the construction industry by studying, say, the crisis management techniques of Claudius?’ Fortunately, Scott Newstok wouldn’t be answering that question in the affirmative. His How to Think Like Shakespeare doesn’t strain analogies or instrumentalise Shakespeare’s plays and characters to make Shakespeare seem relevant to patently unrelated contexts; rather, it explores both Shakespeare’s thinking and the ‘educational assumptions that shaped Shakespeare’ (since these frequently differ from our own system of education). At the heart of this book is Newstok’s conviction that ‘education must be about thinking – not training a set of specific skills’. After all, there is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.

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The figure of the child stands at both ends of human experience in Shakespeare’s plays. The span between our ‘mewling and puking’ infancy and our ‘second childishness’ of old age runs to little more than a dozen lines in Jacques’s famous ‘seven ages of man’ speech in As You Like It, before we slip into ‘mere oblivion, / Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.’ In the intervening years, our identity as children might shift as we undergo rites of passage into adulthood, as our relationships with our own parents evolve or as we become parents ourselves. But the child – the archetype of our essential nature – waits patiently for our return. Even Lear, the grand patriarch who disowns the truth-speaking child of his heart, must be racked on the fiery wheel of experience before he can become the ‘child-changed father’ Cordelia recognises in the end.

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Ben Jonson famously derided Shakespeare’s grasp of ‘small Latin and less Greek’, and vocal sceptics in our own time refuse to believe that a grammar-school education was sufficient to enable the man from Stratford to write the plays attributed to ‘Shakespeare’ ...

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In 2017, Oskar Eustis directed the Public Theater production of Julius Caesar – a play that pivots on the assassination of a political leader – in Central Park with a lead actor who bore an unmistakable likeness to the forty-fifth president of the United States. The conservative backlash was swift and powerful ...

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'It is arguably the most famous play on the planet’, writes Jonathan Croall in his introduction to this absorbing study of how the play and its eponym have gripped the imagination across the ages – and, as far as this book is concerned, particularly across the last seventy years. Whether for actor or director, Hamlet has always been ‘a supreme challenge’, making huge demands on those bringing it to theatrical life.

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Twelfth Night (Melbourne Theatre Company) ★★★★

Tim Byrne
Monday, 19 November 2018

Twelfth Night was probably composed in 1601, and certainly no later than 1602. Hamlet has a more doubtful provenance, possibly written before 1601 but also certainly no later than 1602. It is not inconceivable that Shakespeare worked on them simultaneously, or back to back ...

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The search for Shakespeare’s library (the books ostensibly owned by Shakespeare but dispersed without a trace after his death) is driven largely by the hope that marginalia, notes, and drafts might provide unfettered access to authorial intention. Inevitably, the missing library turns out to be ...

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There have been more than 600 publications on Hamlet in the last five years alone. Uniquely amongst Shakespeare’s plays, Hamlet even has an entire journal devoted to it: Hamlet Studies. Offering something new in these circumstances takes courage. Drawing inspiration from Margreta de Grazia’s liberation of Hamlet from ...

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Lisa Gorton reviews 'Dunbar' by Edward St Aubyn

Lisa Gorton
Wednesday, 20 December 2017

‘Leir the sonne of Baldud, was admitted ruler over the Britaines, in the year of the world 3105’ (Holinshed’s Chronicles, 1577). Shakespeare’s play King Lear is set in the long ago, the age of ballads and folktales. ‘Amongst those things that nature gave ...’ goes the ballad ...

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Sir Philip Sidney in the 1580s proclaimed the superiority of the creative maker of ‘poesy’ over the moralising philosopher and historian – ‘the historian wanting the precept, is so tied, not to what should be, but to what is; to the particular truth of things, and not to the general reason of things; that his example draweth no ...

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