“Where am I going to get a human skull?” On being awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, musical legend Bob Dylan turns to William Shakespeare and Hamlet for some characteristically shrewd comparisons

Speech by Bob Dylan given by Azita Raji, US Ambassador to Sweden, at the Nobel Banquet on 10 December 2016.

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Good evening, everyone. I extend my warmest greetings to the members of the Swedish Academy and to all of the other distinguished guests in attendance tonight.

I’m sorry I can’t be with you in person, but please know that I am most definitely with you in spirit and honored to be receiving such a prestigious prize. Being awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature is something I never could have imagined or seen coming. From an early age, I’ve been familiar with and reading and absorbing the works of those who were deemed worthy of such a distinction: Kipling, Shaw, Thomas Mann, Pearl Buck, Albert Camus, Hemingway.

These giants of literature whose works are taught in the schoolroom, housed in libraries around the world and spoken of in reverent tones have always made a deep impression. That I now join the names on such a list is truly beyond words.

I don’t know if these men and women ever thought of the Nobel honor for themselves, but I suppose that anyone writing a book, or a poem, or a play anywhere in the world might harbor that secret dream deep down inside. It’s probably buried so deep that they don’t even know it’s there.

If someone had ever told me that I had the slightest chance of winning the Nobel Prize, I would have to think that I’d have about the same odds as standing on the moon. In fact, during the year I was born and for a few years after, there wasn’t anyone in the world who was considered good enough to win this Nobel Prize. So, I recognize that I am in very rare company, to say the least.

I was out on the road when I received this surprising news, and it took me more than a few minutes to properly process it. I began to think about William Shakespeare, the great literary figure. I would reckon he thought of himself as a dramatist. The thought that he was writing literature couldn’t have entered his head. His words were written for the stage. Meant to be spoken not read.

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When he was writing Hamlet, I’m sure he was thinking about a lot of different things: “Who’re the right actors for these roles?” “How should this be staged?” “Do I really want to set this in Denmark?”

His creative vision and ambitions were no doubt at the forefront of his mind, but there were also more mundane matters to consider and deal with. “Is the financing in place?” “Are there enough good seats for my patrons?” “Where am I going to get a human skull?” I would bet that the farthest thing from Shakespeare’s mind was the question “Is this literature?”

When I started writing songs as a teenager, and even as I started to achieve some renown for my abilities, my aspirations for these songs only went so far. I thought they could be heard in coffee houses or bars, maybe later in places like Carnegie Hall, the London Palladium.

If I was really dreaming big, maybe I could imagine getting to make a record and then hearing my songs on the radio. That was really the big prize in my mind. Making records and hearing your songs on the radio meant that you were reaching a big audience and that you might get to keep doing what you had set out to do.

Well, I’ve been doing what I set out to do for a long time, now. I’ve made dozens of records and played thousands of concerts all around the world. But it’s my songs that are at the vital center of almost everything I do. They seemed to have found a place in the lives of many people throughout many different cultures and I’m grateful for that.

Bob Dylan's speech was delivered by Azita Raji, US Ambassador to Sweden

Bob Dylan’s speech was delivered by Azita Raji, US Ambassador to Sweden

But there’s one thing I must say. As a performer I’ve played for 50,000 people and I’ve played for 50 people and I can tell you that it is harder to play for 50 people. 50,000 people have a singular persona, not so with 50. Each person has an individual, separate identity, a world unto themselves. They can perceive things more clearly. Your honesty and how it relates to the depth of your talent is tried. The fact that the Nobel committee is so small is not lost on me.

But, like Shakespeare, I too am often occupied with the pursuit of my creative endeavors and dealing with all aspects of life’s mundane matters. “Who are the best musicians for these songs?” “Am I recording in the right studio?” “Is this song in the right key?” Some things never change, even in 400 years.

Not once have I ever had the time to ask myself, “Are my songs literature?”

So, I do thank the Swedish Academy, both for taking the time to consider that very question, and, ultimately, for providing such a wonderful answer.

My best wishes to you all,

Bob Dylan

© The Nobel Foundation 2016.
General permission is granted for immediate publication in editorial contexts, in print or online, in any language within two weeks of December 10, 2016. Thereafter, any publication requires the consent of the Nobel Foundation. On all publications in full or in major parts the above copyright notice must be applied.

Go here to see this speech on the official Nobel Prize website.

Destination Shakespeare is the debut volume of poetry from globe-trotting Stratford-upon-Avon Bard scholar Paul Edmondson

Shakespeare Magazine Editor Pat Reid writes:

If you’re in need of a last-minute Christmas gift for the Shakespeare fan in your life – even if it’s yourself – then I think I may have the answer:

Destination Shakespeare, a slim volume of poems by Paul Edmondson.

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Poems on the subject of Shakespeare – as opposed to poems by Shakespeare – can be problematic. From slavish imitations to politically-motivated ‘responses’, they rarely do the man justice.

I think the difference with Edmondson’s collection is that he’s a Shakespearean to the bone – a well-known scholar, author and representative of Stratford-upon-Avon’s Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.

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He’s unashamedly on a quest to connect with Shakespeare’s spirit  (he also has a big thing for Keats). For the reader, it’s refreshing to delve into poems that engage with William – without being dragged over a whole series of the author’s Oedipal obstacles in the process.

As with most poetry, I found the best approach to Destination Shakespeare was to read it out loud. It’s an enjoyable and easy read, but with enough rhythmic twists and linguistic tricks to keep you on your toes.

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Subtitled ‘Shakespeare On The Road’, ten of the poems take the form of a travelogue, covering Edmondson’s journeys to various Shakespeare festivals in the USA and Canada: New Orleans, Utah, Harlem, Nashville and Stratford, Ontario.

Inescapably, there are echoes of Jack Kerouac’s On The Road, and this seems a fitting tribute to a legendary American wordsmith.

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‘Six Songs For Shakespeare’ roam from Pontefract Castle to Elsinore and Venice (see if you can guess which Shakespeare plays they reference).

Grouped under ‘Journeying With Shakespeare’, other poems are dedicated to Edmondson’s fellow Shakespeare scholars Michael Dobson and the venerable Sir Stanley Wells.

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As an Anglican priest, Edmondson also interweaves his Christian faith into his travels with Shakespeare. But he’s certainly never preachy, and the sensual delight he evidently takes in people, nature and Shakespearean revelry borders on the pagan. As they say, it’s a broad church.

The book also features a generous foreword from poet Wendy Cope.

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Destination Shakespeare
is available now from Misfit Press priced just £6. You can order your copy here.

Indiana’s University of Notre Dame staged a record-breaking summer 2016 production of Shakespeare’s The Tempest – featuring a real-life aerialist as Ariel and a world-class juggler as Trinculo

Photographs by Matt Cashore for Notre Dame Magazine.

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The summer production of The Tempest at the University of Notre Dame’s professional theatre broke all records for the Festival’s 17-year history

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It was directed by West Hyler, who served as Staging Director for Cirque-du-Soleil’s first-ever Broadway production, Paramour.

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Prospero was Nick Sandys, Artistic Director for Chicago’s prestigious Remy Bumppo Theatre Company.

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The wind illusions were created by Daniel Wurtzel, known as an ‘air designer’, for his work on the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, the Jimmy Kimmel show, and for the flying effects in Finding Neverland on Broadway.

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Other notable actors in the production included Tony Award-winner and Broadway veteran John Herrera as Alonso, Alan Sader as Gonzalo (Alan is the instantly recognized ‘white-bearded guy’ from the Child Fund International commercials, and has been lovingly satirized on Saturday Night Live.)

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Jacob D’eustachio is one of the world’s great jugglers, and played Trinculo, and perhaps most importantly, Sarah Scanlon played Ariel on a static trapeze (A 24″ steel bar) for the entire show, coming down only in a stunning moment when ‘freed’ by Prospero.

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Go here to find out more about Shakespeare at Notre Dame.

Photo Essay: One of the stars of the acclaimed Donmar Shakespeare Trilogy, multi-talented Jade Anouka talks us through an action-packed gallery of images by photographer Helen Maybanks

Images by Helen Maybanks

Henry IV
Jade Anouka as Hotspur in Henry IV.

“This is actually during a scene change in Henry IV. Karen Dunbar live DJs throughout the show. But she is in the next scene so I take over the decks at this point.”

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Jade as Ariel in The Tempest.

“During the song ‘Come Unto These Yellow Sands’ in The Tempest. The whole company perform the song with a mix of instruments including guitar, drums, harmonica and trumpet. Joan Armatrading composed the music for Shakespeare’s words. At this point I am rapping – our director got me to write some spoken word for the show to help bring moments up to date. As a poet, I relished the opportunity.”

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Jade as Mark Antony in Julius Caesar.

“In Julius Caesar I begin Mark Anthony’s ‘Friends, Romans, Countrymen’ speech face down with the rest of the company/Romans pointing guns to my head. From this completely vulnerable point, it is amazing how Shakespeare’s words can move the crowd to follow Anthony.”

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As Hotspur in Henry IV.

“This is Hotspur in an early scene of Henry IV. He is talking to the King, explaining that there was a misunderstanding, and at this point he is asking not to let this misunderstanding get in the way of their relationship.”

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The Earl of Douglas (Leah-Harvey) spars with Hotspur in Henry IV.

“Hotspur recruits The Earl of Douglas to his side, and in this moment they are sparring – a sort of test or initiation to make sure Douglas is up to it. He proves he is more than capable!”

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As Ariel in The Tempest.

“As Ariel, here I am performing another of my penned raps. This is in place of a rhyming couplet that Shakespeare wrote about how fast and efficiently Ariel says he and his sprites will fullfill Prospero’s tasks. I wrote a version, and it is performed just before the wedding.”

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Prince Hal (Clare Dunne) battles Hotspur in Henry IV.

“Here is an action shot in the big fight and only meeting of Prince Hal and Hotspur in the play. They are forced to fight to the death in order to win the war. It starts off as a stylised boxing match and descends into a grapple where a knife gets involved. I loved doing the stage combat! Thanks to Kombat Kate for choreographing.”

The Donmar Shakespeare Trilogy at King’s Cross Theatre runs until 17 December.

All performances of Julius Caesar and The Tempest, and all Trilogy Days are sold out. There are a limited number of tickets available for Henry IV on 13 December.

Go here for more information and tickets.

Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey, the iconic stars of Franco Zeffirelli’s classic 1968 Romeo and Juliet film, were reunited this week for one magical night of cinema history

Images by Jared Cowan

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On Tuesday 6th December at the historic Aero Theatre in Santa Monica (Los Angeles), Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey – Franco Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet – were reunited.

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Surprisingly, this was the first time they had ever done a post-screening Q&A together. People had flown in from around the US and even as far afield as Belgium to be at this very special event. Organised by Shakespeare Lives, the British Council, the BFI and the GREAT Britain campaign, it marked the end of a memorable Shakespeare Lives year.

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Both actors spoke of their delight in making the classic 1968 film with Franco Zeffirelli, and it was obvious that both actors still have a huge amount of affection for one another, as they riffed off one another’s anecdotes.

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For many years, there has been no 35mm print of this classic film – the only Shakespeare film to have received an Academy Award. The audience on Tuesday were treated to the new digital restoration which looked and sounded amazing on the big screen.

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The audience applauded scenes as if they were watching an opera and there were two standing ovations for the much-loved stars of the film, who stayed in the auditorium to sign pictures and take selfies.

Read about the BFI’s year of Shakespeare on Film.

“Could Shakespeare’s Cymbeline have been influenced by Rustaveli, the national poet of Georgia?” was the question asked in a packed lecture room at London’s Royal Asiatic Society

As the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death is celebrated around the world, Georgia has been marking the 850th anniversary of Shota Rustaveli, a medieval poet whose writing helped preserve his country’s unique language.

Over the centuries, the fiercely proud nation of Georgia has fought to maintain its independence during domination by Persians, Turks, the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union. Like England, its national symbol is the cross of its patron saint, St. George.

Tamar Beruchashvili, Ambassador of Georgia to the UK

Tamar Beruchashvili, Ambassador of Georgia to the UK

The London event was organised by the Embassy of Georgia in partnership with the British Council in Georgia, Georgian Art Palace, British-Georgian Society and Royal Asiatic Society. Launched on the night was a catalogue of Shakespeare in Georgian Theatre full of fascinating items illustrating how strongly Georgia has embraced Shakespeare over the years.

Professor Elguja Khintibidze of Tbilisi State University presented his theory that Rustaveli’s tale The Man in the Panther’s Skin was a source for Shakespeare’s Cymbeline.

Rustaveli’s The man in the Panther Skin

Rustaveli’s The man in the Panther Skin

A chivalric romantic tale of court intrigue, The Man in the Panther’s Skin may have inspired two plays by Beaumont and Fletcher (A King and No King and Philaster) that were familiar to the Bard. Khintibidze believes that Beaumont and Fletcher followed the manuscript directly, and that Shakespeare then followed Beaumont and Fletcher.

Shakespeare would also have known of the 1590s travels of Sir Anthony Sherley, Ambassador to Shah Abass of Persia. Sherley’s expedition was itself turned into a play, and seems to have been referenced in Twelfth Night.

Dr. Graham Sheffield, Director, Arts of the British Council; Director of the British Council in Georgia Mr. Zaza Purtseladze; Ambassador of Georgia Tamar Beruchashvili

Dr. Graham Sheffield, Director, Arts of the British Council; Director of the British Council in Georgia Mr. Zaza Purtseladze; Ambassador of Georgia Tamar Beruchashvili

Professor Khintibidze pointed out a dozen plot details that were very similar between The Man in the Panther’s Skin and Cymbeline. Most sound familiar from many myths and legends (and other Shakespeare plays) but altogether the similarities seem strong.

The Shakespeare-meets-Rustaveli theme was the brainchild of former Georgian Foreign Minister Tamar Beruchashvili, now the Ambassador to the UK. The idea was supported by former British Ambassador, Alexandra Hall-Hall, a popular figure in Georgia, and by the new British Ambassador Justin McKenzie Smith.

Artwork from the event

Artwork from the event

The audience also heard an entertaining and informative lecture by Professor Donald Rayfield on the problems of translating Rustaveli (several Soviet era translators came to sticky ends), and Dr. Nikoloz Aleksidze on the “social lives of manuscripts”. Aleksidze cited a bishop who denounced the religiously ‘ecumenical’ Rustaveli as a “writer of vile poetry” who “preached profanity”, and George Bernard Shaw criticising the lack of moral social heroes in Shakespeare.

Rustaveli was first translated into English in the 1890s by Marjorie Wardrop, sister of the first British consul to independent Georgia. Wardrop’s papers form an important part of the Bodleian Library’s collection of Georgian material.

Audience at the event

Audience at the event

Since the 1980s, the Rustaveli Theatre has been internationally famed for the Shakespeare productions of Robert Sturua. However, as early as 1925 it had staged an acclaimed version of Hamlet.

Go here to find out more about the Rustaveli Theatre in Tbilisi, Georgia.

Eminent Shakespeare scholar Professor Stanley Wells receives knighthood from Prince Charles at Buckingham Palace

Stanley Wells Investiture
Picture credit: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

Stanley Wells, Honorary President of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, received his knighthood from HRH the Prince of Wales in an investiture ceremony at Buckingham Palace on Friday 18 November.

Professor Sir Stanley Wells CBE, to give him his full official title, was awarded a knighthood in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in recognition of his services to Shakespearean scholarship.

One of the world’s foremost Shakespeareans, Professor Wells’ distinguished career with the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust spans over 40 years. From 1975 he was representative trustee of the University of Birmingham, and he was a Life Trustee and Chairman from 1991 to 2011.

He is also Emeritus Professor of Shakespeare Studies of the University of Birmingham, former Vice-Chairman and now Honorary Emeritus Governor of the Royal Shakespeare Company, Trustee of the Rose theatre, and a member of the Council of Shakespeare’s Globe.

Still a prolific writer, speaker and broadcaster at the age of 86, Sir Stanley is General Editor of the Oxford and Penguin editions of Shakespeare. He has written and edited numerous books and other publications on Shakespeare’s life and works.

A leading voice of Shakespeare studies, he speaks at numerous conferences and other events, sharing his passion for Shakespeare all over the world.

Speaking about the award, Professor Wells says: “It was a truly special day and I was very honoured and proud to have received this award from Prince Charles. I feel most fortunate in having been able to spend so much of my life in the company of Shakespeare and of those who admire and enjoy his works.

“Throughout my career as teacher and scholar I have enjoyed and benefitted enormously from collaborating with fellow scholars from all over the world.”

Go here to read our 2015 interview with Stanley Wells.

The latest book from Stanley Wells: Shakespeare On Page And Stage.

Find out about the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.

A new psychological survey by dating site eHarmony has identified Shakespeare’s most compatible couple – and you’ll never guess who it is!

All due apologies to Juliet, but a new psychological study suggests that her star-crossed lover Romeo would have lived happily ever after with Fairy Queen Titania from A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is one of the most compelling romances of all time. But detailed psychological profiling shows that finding love with Titania – rather than Juliet – could have prevented Romeo from meeting his untimely end.

Romeo

Romeo

Titania

Titania

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of Baz Luhrmann’s beloved film Romeo + Juliet, relationship site eHarmony.co.uk teamed up with Shakespeare expert David Lawrence, Associate Director of the Pop-Up Globe, to determine the romantic compatibility of 20 of the Bard’s legendary leads.

Which Shakespeare character would YOU be most compatible with? Take this Quiz to find out!

Each Shakespearean character was scored according to eHarmony’s 29 Dimensions of Compatibility – such as emotional temperament, social style, values and beliefs – to assess their mutual suitability.

The eHarmony research found that while Romeo (who scored third in the compatibility league, overall) might have been burning with desire for charismatic Juliet, he was actually better suited to Titania, whose more mature character (combined with her agreeable nature and their shared need for affection) might have helped challenge his self-destructive tendencies.

Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet, 1996

Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet, 1996

Juliet’s top-rated partner was Ferdinand, the noble – and far less neurotic – prince from The Tempest. Ferdinand’s earnest, good heart works as a better foil for Juliet’s more complex, determined nature, rather than Romeo’s stubborn temperament

The most compatible couple in the study overall were Titania and Macbeth, as despite his dangerous character defects, they would have understood one another’s anxieties and need for both empathy and space.

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Meanwhile, the second best combination were Lady Macbeth and Bassanio (The Merchant of Venice), with eHarmony’s psychological analysis showing their shared interest in manipulating others would complement their wishes for a balance between future planning and spontaneity in a relationship.

Macbeth and Lady Macbeth

Macbeth and Lady Macbeth

Another of Shakespeare’s own couples fared better though, as the Macbeths surprisingly ranked among the top five. While at first glance they may seem another doomed couple, they would undoubtedly understand each other’s needs and desires well, if only they hadn’t led each other down a murderous path.

At the other end of the scale, out of all the possible matches in the Shakespearean couple canon, Hamlet and Desdemona would be the least-compatible couple. eHarmony’s compatibility algorithms found that their Hamlet’s cold and aggressive nature would be too much for kind-hearted Desdemona. In fact, Hamlet appears three times among the five least compatible couples for this reason.

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Director and Shakespeare scholar David Lawrence commented on the findings: “What is so interesting about some of these results is the way they illuminate how good Shakespeare is at polarities within relationships. I think Titania and Romeo would be very well-suited in that she relishes uncomplicated adoration, and he would probably find his in-love-with-the-idea-of-being-in-love tendencies better spent a partner who is content to be adored. Equally, Juliet would benefit from being with someone who is mature enough to accept that she has complicated thoughts and ideas and passions of her own.”

Desdemona and Othello

Desdemona and Othello

Rachael Lloyd, eHarmony.co.uk expert, said: “While Shakespeare’s lovers such as Romeo and Juliet are typically alluring, and fascinating to observe, it doesn’t mean they are well suited. eHarmony’s psychological and scientific research indicates that while physical attraction is very important, it’s that crucial blend of attraction and compatibility that determines whether a relationship is happy and endures long term.”

Romeo and Juliet, 1996

Romeo and Juliet, 1996

NOW TRY THE QUIZ! Whether you’re a hopeless romantic like Romeo or more of a calculating Lady Macbeth type, you can find out which Shakespearean character you’d be best matched with. Try the Quiz HERE.

For nearly three decades, actor-director Kenneth Branagh has been bringing the Bard to the big screen. Kelli Marshall asks: has he earned the title of Shakespearean Auteur?

Auteurs are filmmakers whose personal influence and artistic control are so great that, despite the collaborative process of moviemaking, we recognize them as the authors of their films. Auteurs you may have heard of include Charlie Chaplin, John Ford, Alfred Hitchcock, Steven Spielberg, Spike Lee and Quentin Tarantino.

Henry V

Henry V

What about filmmakers who consistently work within the realm of Shakespeare? Can we consider, for example, Laurence Olivier, Orson Welles, Akira Kurosawa, Julie Taymor and Kenneth Branagh masters of Shakespeare onscreen?

A recent issue of Shakespeare Quarterly takes on the first four directors, so let’s consider Kenneth Branagh – who has brought to screen, in some form or another, nearly 20 percent of Shakespeare’s works.

Much Ado About Nothing

Much Ado About Nothing

Branagh has directed film adaptations of Henry V (1989), Much Ado about Nothing (1993), Hamlet (1996), Love’s Labour’s Lost (2000) and As You Like It (2006). His 1995 film In The Bleak Midwinter (US title: A Midwinter’s Tale) features a struggling actor who strives to put on a production of Hamlet in a village church. Most recently, rumors have circulated that Martin Scorsese will produce a sort of documentary with Branagh as Macbeth.

Hamlet

Hamlet

Even Branagh’s non-Shakespearean ventures feature Shakespearean themes. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1994) contains Hamlet’s existential ideas, a Titus Andronicus-like house of spare body parts, and echoes of Caliban as Robert De Niro’s monster laments onscreen: “Yes, I speak, and read, and think, and know the ways of man”.

Love’s Labour’s Lost

Love’s Labour’s Lost

Additionally, Branagh’s Hollywood blockbusters like Thor (2011) and Cinderella (2014) consist of, respectively, a flawed hero who must earn the right to be king and a fairy-tale world that Branagh has, in interviews, likened to The Winter’s Tale. Finally, also reaffirming Branagh’s association with cinematic Shakespeare are his turn as Iago in Oliver Parker’s Othello (1995) and as Laurence Olivier in My Week with Marilyn (2011).

As You Like It

As You Like It

Another reason we can consider Branagh an auteur of Shakespeare onscreen is his loyalty to British Shakespeare actors and production team. This deliberate choice contributes not only to Branagh’s style, but also to the films’ seeming credibility. In other words, trained British actors “doing Shakespeare” are theoretically more palatable for many audiences than someone like Al Pacino, for example, whose American accent was ridiculed in his Richard III-based documentary, Looking for Richard (1996).

Othello

Othello

Like John Ford, Spike Lee, and Quentin Tarantino, Kenneth Branagh recycles collaborators. He consistentely employs Tim Harvey (production designer), Patrick Doyle (composer) and Roger Lanser (cinematographer) as well as core cast members like Brian Blessed, Derek Jacobi, Richard Clifford and Richard Briers. Indeed, when these names appear onscreen, we know we’re getting a Branagh film.

That said, Branagh also stocks his films with multinational and multiracial casts. He knows that, in order for his Shakespeare adaptations to succeed in the US, American stars like Denzel Washington, Michael Keaton, Keanu Reeves, Kevin Kline and Bryce Dallas Howard can help boost those box-office receipts.

In The Bleak Midwinter

In The Bleak Midwinter

Speaking of casting, Kenneth Branagh also repeatedly casts himself in his own adaptations. Like Spike Lee and Woody Allen, this makes him a director/auteur who unquestionably stamps his own personality onto his body of work. Aside from As You Like It, in which he appears only via voiceover, each of Branagh’s Shakespeare films stars Kenneth Branagh.

Moreover, as Jessica Maerz reminds readers in Locating Shakespeare in the Twenty-First Century, virtually all of Branagh’s Shakespeare film adaptations are based on previous theatrical productions in which he starred at the Royal Shakespeare Company and Renaissance Theatre Company. Again, this decision lends a sense of credibility to Branagh’s filmic work.

My Week With Marilyn

My Week With Marilyn

As a Shakespeare film director, Branagh mostly eschews early modern settings and costumes, a decision that reinforces his desire to bring Shakespeare to the masses. Kenneth Branagh’s Henry V, Much Ado About Nothing, and Hamlet offer audiences a vague notion of the past, and the Shepperton soundstage for Love’s Labour’s Lost has been described as being “decked out with walls, willows and punts to make a kind of ‘movie Oxbridge’.”

Only with As You Like It does Branagh give viewers a specific historical time and place: the film’s title card begins with: “In the latter part of the 19th century, Japan opened up for trade with the West”. For Branagh then, moving around Shakespeare physically and temporally makes it seem as though he, as the Washington Post once noted, is finally “blowing away the forbidding academic dust”.

Director Branagh with the stars of Thor

Director Branagh with the stars of Thor

Finally, Kenneth Branagh’s Shakespeare film adaptations (and many of his non-Shakespeare films) include rich mise-en-scenes and sweeping cinematography, both of which serve to illuminate Shakespeare’s poetry and prose.

Recall the lushness of color, texture, food, and costume within Branagh’s Much Ado and As You Like It, both visually romantic films. Even his Hamlet – with its wintry setting, the never-ending streams of gilded mirrors, and the hardened stone walls of Blenheim Palace – appear visually luxurious on a 30-foot screen, not to mention in 70mm (as it premiered).

Likewise, Branagh’s cinematographic choices – specifically sequence shots, or scenes that unfold in one long take, and Steadicam tracking shots that encircle characters – work with the flow of Shakespeare’s language. Perhaps the most memorable example of both of these stylistic choices is his four-minute tracking shot in Henry V, in which Branagh’s Prince Hal carries his dead luggage boy (Christian Bale) across the solider-strewn battlefield as ‘Non Nobis’ somberly plays on the soundtrack.

Cinderella

Cinderella

Like other filmmakers who’ve been labelled auteurs, Kenneth Branagh is drawn to distinct stories, themes and motifs. He commits to a core cast and crew (that often includes himself). He also refuses to set Shakespeare contemporaneously and possesses a passionate desire to bring Shakespeare’s language to the masses.

Finally, he boasts a signature directorial style and production aesthetic. But through it all, Kenneth Branagh almost always helps to shine a light on Shakespeare – and really, isn’t that what a master of Shakespeare onscreen should do?

Hail to the Bard! The shiny new-look Shakespeare Magazine 11 is adorned with a simply stunning cover image of rising young stars Lily James and Richard Madden in Kenneth Branagh’s Romeo and Juliet

It’s here! Please, read, enjoy and share far & wide the completely free delight that is Shakespeare Magazine 11!

Issue 11 Cover

The shiny new-look Shakespeare Magazine 11 is adorned with a simply stunning cover image of rising young stars Lily James and Richard Madden in Kenneth Branagh’s Romeo and Juliet.

Head straight to page 6 to discover what our reviewer thought of the production. (Clue: she loved it)

Also in Issue 11, SK Moore tells us about his compelling new graphic novel of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, while broadcaster Samira Ahmed turns her magnificently mercurial mind to the subject of Shakespeare.

We have words with Pub Landlord comedian Al Murray about his recent brush with the Bard (and Judi Dench) at RSC Shakespeare Live.

And our Editor gorges himself on a 3-DVD box set of 1960s television Shakespeare classic The Wars of the Roses.

Check out our chat with the great Don Warrington, star of Talawa Theatre’s earth-shaking King Lear at Manchester’s Royal Exchange – youthful co-star Alfred Enoch joins in too.

Following up last issue’s cheeky Shakespeare/Star Wars feature we’ve dared to imagine what Tom Hiddleston’s Hamlet would look like. (Looks pretty darn cool, actually)

We also take the opportunity to explore the life of Elizabeth Siddal, the model for Millais’ classic Victorian painting of Shakespeare’s Ophelia.

And last but very much not least, Bristol’s Insane Root Theatre take us very deep into a cave in order to scare the living daylights out of us with their Macbeth!

And remember, you can read all 11 issues of Shakespeare Magazine completely free here.