New York’s recent explosively controversial Shakespeare in the Park was All About Trump, but at Bristol’s Old Vic Theatre there was a rather more British take on Shakespeare’s perennially politicised play “Julius Caesar”

Julius Caesar at Bristol Old Vic - Lynn Farleigh (Calpurnia) Julian Glover (Julius Caesar) - Photo by Simon Purse
Photos by Simon Purse

Veteran actor Julian Glover’s Caesar is no Trump, but the fact that he’s beloved by the young while feared and hated by the recently-young does put one in mind of another JC – Jeremy Corbyn – and this production definitely takes its energy from today’s (30 June 2017) sense of post-election turbulence. There’s even an “Oh, Julius Caesar!” refrain from the mob in the opening scene.
These things never quite fit, of course. Arrogant and vain, Glover’s JC would never be mistaken for an allotment-tending socialist. You get the sense that his military victories and territorial conquests have made him a bit mad.

Julius Caesar at Bristol Old Vic - Afolabi Alli (Metellus) and Rudolphe Mdlongwa (Cinna) - Photo by Simon Purse
Indeed, for all his belief in his own godlike prowess, there’s a King Lear-like frailty to this Caesar. The one glimpse of his political instincts – when he singles out Cassius as dangerous – merely confirms that his radar is working but his defences are down.

Apart from Caesar, Calpurnia (Lynn Farleigh) and the Soothsayer (John Hartoch), the rest of the characters are all played by students from Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, and there’s plenty of ascending talent on display. Brutus is portrayed by Freddie Bowerman as a ramrod-straight patrician whose much-discussed honour never quite masks the suggestion that he’s acting out of vanity. As Cassius, Edward Stone is an oily George Osborne-type. A persuasive political realist, he needs Brutus on board for the conspiracy to succeed – but his deference to Brutus will prove a fatal flaw.

Julius Caesar at Bristol Old Vic - Alice Kerrigan (Cinna the Poet) with company - Photo by Simon Purse
Casca is one of Shakespeare’s most marvellously bitchy creations and, played with icy disdain by Eleanor House, gets quite a few laughs (in the early scenes, that is – Casca is also the conspirator who initiates the stabbing of Caesar). The gender-swapped casting means this Julius Caesar takes place in a world where wives like Calpurnia and Portia (Sarah Livingston) are essentially enslaved by the patriarchy, and yet it is simultaneously permissible for women to have high-flying political careers and fight in the civil war. Most significantly, Octavius becomes Octavia, played by Rosy McEwen with emotionless hauteur, reminiscent of a killer robot from the Terminator films.

Julius Caesar at Bristol Old Vic - Freddie Bowerman (Brutus) - Photo by Simon Purse
Mark Antony is played by Ross O’Donnellan as a party animal with a broad Irish accent, a fact which seemed to greatly amuse the two blokes sitting next to me. I thought it was a good choice for a character whom the conspirators underestimate until he strikes them with deadly force. The scene after Caesar’s assassination where Antony insists on shaking hands with the blood-soaked killers worked particularly well. It starts off as desperate survival technique, but it allows us to see Antony gradually get the measure of each of his opponents, and begin to realise he can beat them.

Julius Caesar at Bristol Old Vic - Ross O'Donnellan (Mark Antony) - Photo by Simon Purse
The mob scenes and battles are skilfully deployed in this lean, fast-moving production. The supporting cast all have a lot to do, playing multiple characters and at times literally running riot. The modern-day dress code of business suits and military fatigues is similar to the Ralph Fiennes Coriolanus film. But director Simon Dormandy’s Caesar has strengths of its own as it points, Soothsayer-like, to the consequences of political meltdown.

Julius Caesar ran at Bristol Old Vic from 9 June to 1 July 2017.
Go here for more on Bristol Old Vic.
Go here for more on Bristol Old Vic Theatre School.

Goat’s Dung, Mummified Flesh and Vomiting… This is what passed for state-of-the-art health care in Shakespeare’s day. The authors of new book ‘Maladies & Medicine: Exploring Health & Healing 1540-1740′ reveal six stomach-emptying (sometimes quite literally so) cures from early modern England

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By Jennifer Evans and Sara Read

In William Shakespeare’s time, the concept of the four humours dominated ideas about the body. The humours were fluids: blood, choler, melancholy, and phlegm, which needed to be kept in equilibrium in order for the body to stay healthy. Illness was usually, although not always, understood as an accumulation of excess or a corruption of one of these fluids.

For the most part, medical treatments were gentle ones designed to restore balance by drawing out ill humours and purging the body of excess. Remedies might also balance out the body by counteracting the effects of diseases. For example, cooling drinks might reduce the heat of the body caused by fever. Shakespeare’s own son-in-law, Dr John Hall, husband of his elder daughter Susanna, practised these mainly conservative cures in the first instance for many illnesses. So, in one case he prescribed a double-folded linen cloth filled with butter to be placed on the side of an elderly lady with stomach ache.

Not all remedies were pleasant though, particularly not when viewed from our modern perspective. Practitioners could resort to drastic means of purging the body, or could prescribe medicines that contained unappetising ingredients. Here are six remedies you would probably want to avoid today…

Blisters

Many practitioners thought that raising blisters on the skin was a good way of drawing out unwanted humours and therefore disease. An anonymous treatise from a 1577 book recommended the notoriously dangerous green flies known as cantharides (actually not flies at all, but small iridescent beetles) which, we’re told, were easily available from the local apothecary shop. These w‪ere placed in a mortar with vinegar and some breadcrumbs to make a paste, which was applied to ‘the sore place, that is, where the most grief is’ for around seven hours. Once dry, it had to be teased off with the tip of a knife. After the skin blistered it had to be burst and, as the author explained, ‘with your finger thrust out the water softly’. The problem with blisters was that while the ‘the pain of the disease is gone’, the patient then had to heal from the new sore.

Bloodletting

Imagine if you felt poorly and your doctor prescribed cutting open a vein in your arm or ankle, with a lance and no anaesthetic, to remove some of your ‘excess’ blood. The amount of blood removed was dependent on the condition. Because blood was considered to be a ‘hot’ humour, phlebotomy was often used to take heat from the body in the case of fevers. It wasn’t recommended to be used on children, fortunately, since all their blood was needed to help them grow. Doctors didn’t let blood willy-nilly. As one sixteenth-century physician (who published a book as ‘A. T’ in 1596) instructed, before letting blood you must consider ‘the age of the patient, the complexion, the time of the year, the region, the custom, the strength, and the vehemence of the disease’. Not all bloodletting was done by cutting into the body. As many people know, an alternative was to apply leeches to the skin.

Induced Vomiting

Most people today hate being sick, as they did in the past. One early doctor, Philip Barrough described in his 1583 medical guide how unpleasant feelings of nausea came from ‘a naughty and wicked motion of the expulsive virtue of the stomach’. But this innate urge to eject things was put to good use in early modern times, when emetic medicines that caused patients to be sick were a routine cure. Vomiting was also used to ward off ill health. John Clarke, an apothecary, took ‘a vomit’ once every month or six weeks as a preventative against all manner of infirmities. He wrote that if everyone did the same then it would save 20,000 pounds of tobacco which was currently being used by people as a medicine. Clarke described how to make a posset that would bring up a great quantity of phlegm and other corrupt humours, leaving you feeling clear headed and very well.

Mummified Flesh

In Shakespeare’s time, remedies composed of multiple ingredients could also include some rather unappealing components. A text published a few decades later (in the 1650s) claimed that many
medicaments are taken out of a Live Man, or from a dead man. From a live man, we have Hairs, Nails, Spittle, Ear-wax, Milk, Seed, Blood, Menstrual Blood, Secondines, Urine, Dung, Lice, Wormes, Stones of Bladder & Kidneyes, &c. From a dead man, Skin, Fat, Scul, Brain, Teeth, Bones Mummy

Preserved human flesh (mummy) was found in several medicines including an unguent to staunch blood recommended in a 1605 medical text by Christoph Wirsung, a German physician. Dead men’s flesh didn’t always have to be put into a medicine. Many people waited at the gallows in the hope that they could have their boils and swellings stroked with the hanged man’s hand, which was thought to have healing properties.

Breast Milk

In early modern notions of the body, breast milk was created from menstrual blood, which was diverted after the birth of the child to the breasts where it was ‘concocted’ into milk. It was thought to have healing properties. William Copland’s Treasurie of Health suggested that ‘The yolke of an egge, mingled w[ith] Rose water, bran, & womans milk’ was a good medicine to assuage pain and to drive unhealthy humours out of the body. While Thomas Vicary’s English-mans Treasure recommended a mixture of wormwood, plantain, rose water, breast milk and egg white to heal bloodshot eyes.

Animal Dung

It wasn’t just parts of the human body and its products that were used in medicines. Plasters sometimes contained rather pungent components. Dung, usually from a cow, formed the main component of several plasters recommended to ease swelling. Andrew Boorde’s Breuiary of Health, for example, suggested a remedy made of goat dung and honey. Christoph Wirsung’s medical text suggested a plaster of bayberries mixed with goat’s dung to ease the dropsy, a disease characterised by watery swelling of the stomach.

Jennifer Evans is Senior Lecturer in History at the University of Hertfordshire
Sara Read is Lecturer in English at Loughborough University

Their new book Maladies and Medicines: Exploring Health and Healing, 1540-1740 is out now, published by Pen and Sword Books.

Vsit the authors’ blog: earlymodernmedicine.com

We caught up with theatre maker Ed Viney at Bristol Shakespeare Festival where he was directing the new comedy play “Shakespeare’s Worst”

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Which play or area of Shakespeare are you working on right now – and what are you getting from it?
“Currently working on Shakespeare’s Worst which is a play by Mike Reiss, former writer/producer on The Simpsons, and Nick Newlin, Shakespearean scholar. It’s about a group of actors staging The Two Gentlemen of Verona, arguably Shakespeare’s worst play. It’s a play on a play and all the things you’d like to say when sat in a theatre watching a really awful production of Shakespeare. It’s very liberating!”

What have you learned about Shakespeare that would have surprised your younger self?
“It’s deceptively simple when you say it aloud.”

Which Shakespeare character most resembles you?

“Benedick.” (Much Ado About Nothing)

If I ask you to give me a Shakespeare quotation, which is the first one that comes to your mind?
“Simply the thing I am shall make me live.” (Parolles in All’s Well That Ends Well)

What’s your favourite Shakespeare-related fact?

“Shakespeare wrote for actors.”

You have the power to cast anyone in the world (actor or otherwise) to play any Shakespearean character. Who do you choose – and which role do they play?

“Robert Downey Jnr as Lady Macbeth.”

Shakespeare’s Worst has now ended, but Bristol Shakespeare Festival continues until 29 July.

Go to the Festival website for more details.

The lively, eclectic and much-loved Bristol Shakespeare Festival runs throughout July. Shakespeare Magazine’s Editor Pat Reid has previewed the Festival (and interviewed Festival Manager Jacqui Ham) for The Bristol Magazine

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Image: The Handlebards

Pat Reid writes:
Shakespeare Magazine is based in the city of Bristol, in the South West of England. We’re 70 miles from Stratford-upon-Avon (with which we share the River Avon) and 120 miles from London. But we’re very lucky to have a Shakespeare tradition all of our own. You may have heard of the historic Bristol Old Vic Theatre, along with its prestigious Theatre School. We also have a modern Shakespeare Tradition pioneered by the Tobacco Factory Theatres. And we have no less than four pubs named after Shakespeare!

But perhaps the most exciting event of all for a Bristol-based Shakespeare fan like myself is the annual Bristol Shakespeare Festival. This year the Festival is bigger than ever, with an impressive array of touring companies and one-off events taking over the city during the whole of July. I’m delighted to have once again been asked to preview Bristol Shakespeare Festival for The Bristol Magazine. I hope that it will encourage Bristolians to come out and enjoy a Shakespeare show. And I hope that visitors from further afield will also come and experience what Bristol has to offer. I can certainly promise that it will be “gert lush”, as we say in Bristol!

Read the full article in The Bristol Magazine here.

“Shakespeare loves women of colour…” We find out what Dr Farah Karim-Cooper of Shakespeare’s Globe has been working on – and learn about Shakespeare’s “alternative discourse of beauty”

Farah 2
Photos by Bronwen Sharp

Which play or area of Shakespeare are you working on right now – and what are you getting from it?
I’m editing a book called Titus Andronicus: The State of Play, published by Arden – it’s a collection of essays examining what scholars are saying in 2017 about this important play. I have also just started researching a book about Shakespeare, Death and Spectatorship. I have not got an angle other than my interest in what happens to and within the spectator when they see someone die/killed. Either on stage or in reality.”

What have you learned about Shakespeare that would have surprised your younger self?
I have learned that he loves women of colour… which appeals to a Pakistani-American lady like myself! His dark lady sonnets (I’m oversimplifying) reveal an excitement at alternative beauty, the arguments for darker beauty in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Love’s Labour’s Lost suggest that he was engaging in what the terrific scholar Kim F. Hall has described as an alternative discourse of beauty – beauty that is brown, black or just not white. P.S. read Hall’s classic Things Of Darkness: Economies of Race and Gender in Early Modern England.”

Which Shakespeare character most resembles you?
Um… see my answer to Question 2! But seriously, I am not sure. I think I have a lot of Shrew‘s Katherina in me – feisty and with very high standards!”

Farah 1
If I ask you to give me a Shakespeare quotation, which is the first one that comes to mind?
‘Meantime we shall express our darker purpose.’ – King Lear.”

What’s your favourite Shakespeare-related fact, myth, story or anecdote?
I think my favourite Shakespeare-related fact/anecdote/myth is the one about the dismantling of The Theatre in order to move the timbers across the river and build the Globe. There’s a lot of myth surrounding that story, which makes little sense given there is a great deal of surviving record about it, but I like how the story has been compressed from a couple of major events – i.e. dismantling one playhouse and building another more glorious – taking place over months to something that happened overnight.

“I love the idea of this fantasy – that one morning, the Globe magically appeared on Bankside and that Shakespeare might have played a part in this. It is a wonderful story, as myth-laden as it is. I think an excellent research project would be to build an oak-framed theatre and see how long it takes to dismantle it! I know Peter McCurdy (of McCurdy & Co who built the Globe and Sam Wanamaker Playhouse) would like to try this!”

You have the power to cast anyone in the world (actor or otherwise) to play any Shakespearean character. Who do you choose – and which role do they play?
I want to see Adrian Lester play Hamlet. He’s one of my favourite Shakespearean actors and Hamlet is my favourite role. It would be unbelievable.”

Dr Farah Karim-Cooper is Head of Higher Education and Research, Globe Education.
Read our interview with Farah in Shakespeare Magazine 10

NEW: The Shakespeare Magazine JOBS PAGE is a regularly-updated list of job vacancies (including auditions, academic roles and courses) connected to Shakespeare and related fields

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OPPORTUNITIES BELOW POSTED 04 August 2017

LOCATION: Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
JOB: The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust seeks a Learning Sales Administrator
CLOSING DATE: Not known
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LOCATION: Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
JOB: The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust seeks a Group Sales Administrator
CLOSING DATE: 06 August 2017
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LOCATION: Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
JOB: The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust seeks an Operations and Marketing Administrator
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LOCATION: Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
JOB: The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust seeks a Retail Sales Assistant
CLOSING DATE: 06 August 2017
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LOCATION: Various, UK
OPPORTUNITY: 2018 auditions/backstage interviews for National Youth Theatre now open 
DETAILS: For ages 14-25
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JOBS or COURSES BELOW POSTED 07 July 2017

LOCATION: Bristol, UK
COURSE: One-week course on Acting in Shakespeare Plays
DETAILS: At Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, the course runs from Monday 24 July to Friday 28 July. Cost: £450
Go here for more information and to apply for a place on this course.

JOBS BELOW POSTED 02 July 2017

LOCATION: Terra Alta, West Virginia, USA
JOB: Writer/Scholar seeks experienced Editor for short (1-2 pages) Shakespeare articles for website, aimed at middle school students.
Prefer 20+ years experience teaching English Literature. International contributors are welcomed. Will be happy to discuss rates.
CLOSING DATE: This position is open until filled.
For more information and to apply for this job: Please contact Donald via email: donaldstump85@yahoo.com

LOCATION: London, UK
JOB: Bridge Theatre seeks an Assistant Director to work with Nicholas Hytner on Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar
CLOSING DATE: 10 am Monday 3 July 2017
Go here for more information and to apply for this job.

JOBS BELOW POSTED 25 June 2017

LOCATION: Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
JOB: The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust seeks an Assistant Retail Manager – Birthplace Gift and Book Shop
CLOSING DATE: 07 July 2017
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LOCATION: Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
JOB: The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust seeks a Retail and Reception Assistant
CLOSING DATE: 07 July 2017
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LOCATION: Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
JOB: The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust seeks Education Assistants – Make a Scene
CLOSING DATE: 02 July 2017
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LOCATION: Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
JOB: The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust seeks a Supporter Relations Officer
CLOSING DATE: 30 June 2017
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LOCATION: Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
JOB: The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust seeks a Development Coordinator
CLOSING DATE: 30 June 2017
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LOCATION: Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
JOB: The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust seeks a Catering and Hospitality Assistant
CLOSING DATE: 25 June 2017
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LOCATION: Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
JOB: The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust seeks a Catering Assistant
CLOSING DATE: 25 June 2017
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JOBS BELOW POSTED 20 June 2017

LOCATION: London, UK
JOB: Shakespeare’s Globe seeks a Building Operations Manager
CLOSING DATE: 5 July 2017
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LOCATION: London, UK
JOB: Shakespeare’s Globe seeks an Assistant Front of House Volunteer Manager
CLOSING DATE: 3 July 2017
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LOCATION: London, UK
JOB: Shakespeare’s Globe seeks a Globe Education Coordinator, Learning Projects
CLOSING DATE: 3 July 2017
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LOCATION: Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
JOB: The Royal Shakespeare Company seeks a Head of Application Delivery
CLOSING DATE: 2 July 2017
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LOCATION: London, UK
JOB: Shakespeare’s Globe seeks a Globe education Coordinator, Higher Education
CLOSING DATE: 26 June 2017
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LOCATION: London, UK
JOB: Shakespeare’s Globe seeks a Theatre Assistant
CLOSING DATE: 25 June 2017
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LOCATION: London, UK
JOB: Shakespeare’s Globe seeks a Post-doctoral Research Fellow, Globe Education: Read Not Dead
CLOSING DATE: 21 June 2017
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LOCATION: Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
JOB: The Royal Shakespeare Company seeks an Assistant to the Director of Commercial Services & Director of Sales and Marketing
CLOSING DATE: 21 June 2017
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JOBS BELOW POSTED 16 June 2017

LOCATION: Ashland, Oregon, USA
JOB: Oregon Shakespeare Festival seeks a Human Resources Director
CLOSING DATE: Not Known
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LOCATION: Ashland, Oregon, USA
JOB: Oregon Shakespeare Festival seeks a Concessions Lead
CLOSING DATE: Application deadline is 12 July 2017
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LOCATION: San Francisco, California, USA
JOB: San Francisco Shakespeare Festival seeks an Education Director
CLOSING DATE: This position will be filled as soon as possible, ideally by 5 July 2017
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LOCATION: Ashland, Oregon, USA
JOB: Oregon Shakespeare Festival seeks a Scenic Artist
CLOSING DATE: 18 June
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LOCATION: Ashland, Oregon, USA
JOB: Oregon Shakespeare Festival seeks a Wig and Hair Technician
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LOCATION: Ashland, Oregon, USA
JOB: Oregon Shakespeare Festival seeks a Wig Master
CLOSING DATE: This position is open until filled.
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LOCATION: Ashland, Oregon, USA
JOB: Oregon Shakespeare Festival seeks a Company Manager
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A powerful short film from Fractured Shakespeare, Was it Rape Then? makes unsettling use of Shakespeare’s words. Co-creator Charissa J Adams takes us behind the text

Was it Rape Then? from Lady Brain by Casey Gates on Vimeo.

How did the idea arise for using Shakespeare in this film?
“The idea originated with Shakespeare. For as long as I can remember, I have loved Shakespeare. Not just the plays and stories, but the words and metaphors he uses to express the human condition. A few years ago, the idea emerged to take Shakespeare’s words out of context and use them to express a new character’s thoughts and emotions. I then started playing around with pairing famous lines from different plays together to find new meaning. Last November, I set about forming a monologue on a subject which has resonated with me for a long time. This text was the result. From that monologue, this short film was made.”

Jessica Marie Garcia

Jessica Marie Garcia

The script includes lines from The Taming of the Shrew, Much Ado About Nothing, The Tempest, Macbeth, Henry V and Coriolanus. But the title doesn’t seem to allude to Shakespeare? What was your thinking behind that choice?
“The title and first section of text comes from Double Falsehood, which is most likely not Shakespeare’s words, but the passage was just too rich to ignore. And since it speaks to doubt in consent, the doubt surrounding the text’s origins seemed strangely appropriate. I could not ignore its usefulness, and it played such a crucial role in inspiring the creation of the piece, that it felt appropriate to leave it in.”

Karen Pittman

Karen Pittman

Double Falsehood is very rarely cited – what led to your interest in it? Was there a particular edition you used? And would you recommend it as a stand alone work?
“As I was creating this piece, I began searching any of Shakespeare’s text which dealt with consent and/or rape. This monologue of Henriquez is what surfaced. It is quite an interesting piece of text when you think about the time in which it was written. Consent is something we are much more aware of now, especially in the last five or ten years. However, here we have this man arguing with himself over whether or not he raped this woman.

Charissa J. Adams

Charissa J. Adams

“He uses the excuse that we often still hear men use today: ‘Twas but the coyness of a modest bride, Not the resentment of a ravish’d maid’. Essentially saying she was just shy and she didn’t say ‘No’. This is the very reason More Than “No” was started. Consent is more than not hearing ‘No’. It is a freely given, not under the influence of drugs or alcohol, not under-age, and an undeniable ‘Yes’, given verbally or non-verbally.

“In the end, he concludes: ‘While they, who have, like me, The loose escapes of youthful nature known, Must wink at mine, indulgent to their own’. Saying any other man would have done the same or ‘Boys will be boys’. This is the epitome of rape culture, which is exactly what we are trying to confront with Was it Rape Then?.

Sujana Chand

Sujana Chand

“As for the edition, I use the Shakespeare app produced by PlayShakespeare.com for a lot of my research. It is so easy to use! They site the year as 1728. That is all the information I could find about which edition they use.

“I would not recommend it as a stand alone piece. I think it is flawed in several ways – in the characters and especially the ending which seems to wrap up too quickly without fully dealing with each of the character’s arcs. I think that The Comedy of Errors and The Two Gentlemen of Verona are superior plays with similar themes.”

We met with scholar, author and poet Paul Edmondson for a delightful catch-up chat in Stratford-upon-Avon during the recent celebrations for Shakespeare’s birthday

Paul Edmondson

Paul Edmondson

 
Which play or area of Shakespeare are you working on right now? And what are you getting from it?
“This week I’ve spent a lot of time in New Place garden with the sculptor Greg Wyatt who’s produced those lovely sculptures inspired by Shakespeare’s plays which are installed there. I’ve spent a lot of time – and I’m doing it again this evening with a special group of VIPs – looking at Greg’s sculptures with Greg. It’s about me talking about how he made the sculptures, but then reflecting on them as responses to Shakespeare’s works. So, this week I’ve been very much in my head with The Tempest, Julius Caesar, King Lear, The Winter’s Tale, Henry IV Parts One and Two, Macbeth, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Hamlet! Those are the eight sculptures.

“One of the great things about them is that they work on you like a Shakespeare play, each sculpture, because they draw you in and the more you look at them, the more you notice – details, a face emerging, a hand. They’re a great highlight for visitors. In fact, only two days ago when I was there I saw a young father with his five-month-old son, reading him the script  – all of them have got quotations from the relevant plays – from Julius Caesar, as if somehow this was having a positive impact on this five-month-old son. I took his photograph and asked if I could use it and he said yes, feel free to use it. It was most touching, because when I look at people interacting with these sculptures inspired by the plays, I know of no other sculpture like them in the world.

“I mean, I can think of sculptures inspired by individual characters and Shakespeare himself, but not in a response to an entire play – it’s more like a painting. People reach out and touch them, and Greg said this is the highest compliment a sculptor can have, that you somehow want to become the work and reach out and touch it. This five-month-old baby was doing precisely that – it was reaching out to want to touch Julius Caesar!”

What have you learned about Shakespeare that would have surprised your younger self?
“This isn’t recently, but I think I would have been surprised about how many books he used to write the plays. I’d have been delighted to know that as a younger self – the bookishness of Shakespeare’s intellect, his sense of study before putting quill to paper. Each play was a significant research project, he wasn’t just dashing these off. Although, of course, they were written at different speeds for different occasions. So, I think that would have been something I’ve learnt since my younger self that I would have been pleased to have known.”

Which Shakespeare character most resembles you?
“Robin Goodfellow in a Midsummer Night’s Dream. I’m not going to expand on that one!”

If I asked you to give mne a Shakespeare quotation, which is the first one that comes to your mind?
“‘If this be magic, let it be an art lawful as eating’ which is The Winter’s Tale as Hermione’s sculpture is coming to take her long lost husband by the hand. That’s in my head because of the sculpture in New Place. I remember the novelist Salley Vickers said to me that was her favourite line in Shakespeare and that’s resonated with me.”

What is your favourite Shakespeare myth?
“My favourite Shakespeare myth is the deer poaching story from nearby Charlecote. I think there’s more than a grain of truth in that myth. It rings true to me, but it does have the status of myth.”

You have the power to cast anyone (actor or otherwise) to play any Shakespearean character. Who do you choose – and which role do they play?
“I would like to see Sir Stanley Wells play Hamlet. Although he wouldn’t want to do this, in my imagination that would embody Stanley’s pre-eminence in Shakespeare studies. Hamlet is the greatest role in Shakespeare, therefore let’s have the greatest Shakespearean of our own times play him. If I was thinking about an actor, I’d like to Shakespeare himself perform Hamlet. Can you imagine? Apparently, he never did because it was written for Richard Burbage, but it would be great to Shakespeare himself play a role in one of his plays. You’ve got those two outlandish bookends, as it were, but I would also like to see Kenneth Branagh play all the other parts he is qualified to play, but hasn’t!”

Paul will be appearing at the Stratford-upon-Avon Poetry Festival, which runs from 18-25 June. Go here for information and tickets.

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We were intrigued to learn that Zaporizhzhia, the sixth-largest city in Ukraine, is home to the exciting academic and cultural venture that is the Ukrainian Shakespeare Centre

Assistant Professor Darya Lazarenko writes:

When this idea first came up, everybody laughed at us – what would Shakespeare have to do with a totally unknown-to-the-world industrial city in the south of Ukraine? We agreed, and jokingly spoke about establishing a Shakespeare Museum. Why not, after all? To paraphrase the words of Ben Jonson, “he was not of an age, but for all time” – and all countries (and cities, at that)! We kept calm and carried on. And so, in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine in 2009 the Ukrainian Shakespeare Centre was established by Professor Nataliya Torkut, a Ukrainian Shakespeare and Renaissance scholar, and a team of devoted ‘Ariels’.

Ukrainian Shakespeare Centre

Ukrainian Shakespeare Centre

 
Today the USC is one of the leading Ukrainian academic institutions in the domain of Shakespeare studies, and though we are still sometimes looked at as ‘upstart crows’, we do not mind – we feel proud, in fact. Our aim is to help Ukrainian scholars, teachers, students, readers and theatre-goers believe they all can be upstart crows too.

The Centre organized and successfully carried out five International Shakespeare conferences (in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2014 and 2016). In cooperation with the Union of Ukrainian Women in the USA, we established an Annual competition of Shakespeare research papers for young Ukrainian scholars, named after Vitaliy Keis. We all very much enjoy reading those ambitious, daring and sometimes even touchingly iconoclastic works that are sent to us for review. We believe this initiative will help us fight the “copy and paste” syndrome that has befallen the young generation.

Professor Nataliya Torkut

Professor Nataliya Torkut

 
In 2009 the Centre launched the website The Ukrainian Shakespeare Portal, which is the first attempt of multimedia representation of Ukrainian Shakespeareana. The portal is regularly updated – it contains a large selection of articles on Shakespeare-related issues (written in Ukrainian, Russian and English), Ukrainian translations of the Bard’s drama and poetry, and an extensive database concerning the Ukrainian reception of Shakespeare’s legacy. Going online for us is one of the ways to prove Shakespeare is not just modern and relevant, but is at the very edge cutting edge today.

To foster Shakespeare scholarship in Ukraine, the Centre has established the annual scholarly journal Shakespeare Discourse (three issues have been published so far). This journal has gained recognition not only in Ukraine but also abroad. Its regular contributors are Shakespeare researchers from the USA, Canada, the UK, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Germany and the Netherlands.

Shakespeare Tragedies Kyiv
We have already started a process of collecting a special Shakespeare library which is unique for Ukraine. Thanks to donations made by Helmut Bonheim, Sophie Pashe, Stanley Wells, Balz Engler, Paul Franssen, Daniel Doerksen, Mary Elisabeth Smith, Michael Dobson and others, this library will allow us to provide critical works on Shakespeare to our colleagues all over Ukraine.

Another aim of the Centre – probably, the most significant one in the long-term perspective – is spreading Shakespeare’s word among young people in our country and making the Bard’s heritage a core element of the Ukrainian school literary curriculum. The members of the Centre conducted several seminars on teaching Shakespeare at school, established the annual competition for school teachers ‘The Best Shakespeare Lesson’ (since 2013), and offer scholarly and methodological support of Shakespeare-related projects at school. In 2014 we launched the email subscription Shakescribe.ua which contains curious facts about the Bard, his writings, life and times.

Professor Kateryna Vasylyna

Professor Kateryna Vasylyna

 
Youngsters are the most challenging and at the same time the most gratifying audience. They often come to us with a conviction that Shakespeare is just a monument on a high pedestal – celebrated, even worshipped, but – alas! – boring. Our aim here is to let the kids see the truth about Shakespeare – his plays are anything but boring! We do it by encouraging them to play along – become Shakespeare scholars themselves and discover, for example, why Malvolio’s stockings were actually yellow and why he so much favoured the notorious cross garters.

They become philosophers when dwelling on the mysterious words of Ben Jonson: “Thou are a monument without a tomb” and work on their eloquence while defending Shakespeare-the-glover’s-son against the anti-Stratfordian claims. By finding out that Shakespeare married young and that he turned out to be a very successful businessman they establish a close ‘supertemporal’ connection with him – he seems to them younger and less of a monument. We hope that in such a way we will kindle the light of curiosity that will in the future make them devour hundreds and thousands of books – not only Shakespeare, but other writers too. We hope that reading will help them change the world and make it a better place for all of us to live in – without war and hatred.

Shakespeare figures Torkut 2
Even more projects we see in our mind’s eye. And this, probably, is one of the best things about our Centre – it gives hope, it inspires and makes you believe in miracles – with all the slings and arrows still flying around in these turbulent times. If you would like to join our company of dreamers, “lunatics, lovers and poets”, you are very welcome! We are looking forward to hearing your ideas and suggestions, words of encouragement or criticism, anything from love letters to translations and lesson plans – at lrs_info@meta.ua

For more information, visit the Ukrainian Shakespeare Centre website.