Gaze in wonder at visionary poet and artist William Blake’s spellbinding paintings inspired by the works of William Shakespeare

This week we’ve been celebrating the 28 November birthday of William Blake (1757-1827). Although perhaps best known for his poems and for writing the words to the hymn ‘Jerusalem’, Blake was also a visionary painter, one whose was often Shakespeare-inspired.
Here is Blake’s ‘Pity’ (1795), inspired by the evocative but mysterious line from Shakespeare’s Macbeth: “And pity, like a naked new-born babe, Striding the blast…”
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Blake also illustrated more conventional scenes from Shakespeare – although often with a supernatural dimension. Here’s his version of Hamlet encountering his father’s Ghost (1806).
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Brutus and the ghost of Julius Caesar is another haunting Shakespearean scene from Blake (1806).
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And here we have Richard III on the night before the Battle of Bosworth, assailed by the ghosts of his victims (circa 1806).
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Blake also painted Oberon, Titania, Puck and the other fairies from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream in this beautiful and dreamlike tableau from 1786.
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And Blake even turned his supremely versatile hand to a portrait of Shakespeare himself (circa 1800).
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William Blake was a poet, painter, printer, visionary, mystic – and Shakespearean. Portrait by Thomas Phillips (1807).
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Thank you to Shakespeare’s Birthplace Trust Education for showing us the link between two great English literary Williams – William Blake and William Shakespeare.

Find out about the William Blake Exhibition at the Ashmolean, Oxford.
Find out about the William Blake Exhibition at Tate Britain.
Fnd out about Shakespeare’s Birthplace Trust Education.

Free online course explores the world of Shakespeare’s controversial monarch Richard III

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Starting on 30 June, Leicester University is once again offering its free course on England in the time of Richard III.

Hosted by FutureLearn, the course is completely free and available to anyone. Covering the king made infamous by Shakespeare, the course will also explore mediaeval warfare, life as a peasant, and the food and culture of the era.

Richard’s life spanned a time of the social changes in labour and literacy, as well as political turmoil.

And FutureLearn say this course is not just for history buffs. “Anyone interested in mediaeval England or the recent discovery of Richard III will find something to fuel their interest here. No prior knowledge or expertise are needed.”

The course lasts six weeks, with about three hours of work per week. FutureLearners will engage with articles, videos, and each other in discussions to cover the material.

FutureLearn is owned by The Open University, and works with some of the world’s leading universities to create and offer these massive open online courses (MOOCs). Other courses they offer cover topics ranging from public speaking and study skills to the science of cancer and heart health.

Go here for more details, and to join the course.

Richard III star David Hywel Baynes leads Iris Theatre Masterclass in London

David Hywel Baynes as Richard III.

David Hywel Baynes as Richard III.

Known for its dynamic, whole body approach to classical texts, Iris Theatre is launching a season of acting masterclasses based at its home, St Paul’s Church in London’s Covent Garden. Each class will focus on a particular part of theatre and performance with the emphasis on practical exploration rather than academic analysis.

Open to actors of all backgrounds, the masterclasses aim to give every participant a deeper understanding and a greater degree of ownership of verse drama. The classes promise a unique opportunity for participants to increase confidence and broaden the range of their classical repertoire.

Masterclass: Richard III – Vengeance & Blood

Sunday 8 June, 5.30pm to 8.30pm

This special one-off masterclass will be co-led by Iris Theatre’s Artistic Director Daniel Winder and actor David Hywel Baynes, who plays the title role in this summer’s production of Richard III. In this intensive masterclass David and Daniel will work through the themes and underlying ideas of the play, illuminating its greatest moments and most signifcant icongraphy.

Daniel will also help to place the play within the wider context of the history cycle, while David will reveal his personal approach to the challenge of playing one of Shakespeare’s most physically demanding parts.

“This Masterclass is happening right in the middle of the rehearsal period of our summer production,” says an Iris Theatre spokesperson, “so join us for the chance to gain a unique insight into the practical challenges of staging Shakespeare.”

For more information, and to book tickets, go here.

Win! Tickets for Richard III in Covent Garden!

Iris Theatre returns for a sixth year of its celebrated summer season in the gardens of St Paul’s Church in London’s historic Covent Garden. This year they’re presenting a new outdoor production of Shakespeare’s Richard III which runs from 25 June until 25 July.

And excitingly, Shakespeare Magazine has FIVE pairs of tickets to give away.

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Four winners will each get pairs of tickets for performances between Wednesday 25 June and Saturday 28 June.

And one overall winning pair will get to join Iris Theatre for press night on Monday 30 June, including interval wine and nibbles with the Iris team, and a signed programme!

To be in with a chance of winning, simply send an email to shakespearemag@outlook.com with RICHARD in the subject line.

Very best of luck!

More on Iris Theatre and Richard III here.