“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

It’s a dream date for lovers of Shakespeare’s words – David and Ben Crystal talking about The Oxford Illustrated Shakespeare Dictionary

The Crystals
Salisbury Arts Centre, 31 May 2015.

“Never has there been such a pretty book as this one,” declares David Crystal, with a proud and delighted smile at the cover of The Oxford Illustrated Shakespeare Dictionary on the projector screen behind him. He and his son Ben are at Salisbury Arts Centre as part of the Ageas Salisbury International Arts Festival, to talk to a packed audience about Shakespeare’s world and words.

‘Talk’ is the wrong word for this event: the father and son team deliver something closer to a comedy double act, bringing their subject alive with jovial camaraderie and unshakeable delight in all things Shakespeare. Ben bounds onto the stage as if taking a curtain call, dressed in jeans with a fob watch on a chain hanging from one pocket. David combines a tweed jacket with the kindly, slightly eccentric manner of Professor Dumbledore, and enunciates words like “in-carn-a-dine” as if they were magic spells.

David Crystal has written or edited over 100 books on language and linguistics, four of which he co-wrote with actor and producer Ben. Published this year, The Oxford Illustrated Shakespeare Dictionary combines David’s passion for words with Ben’s knowledge of – and love of experimenting with – Shakespeare. The dictionary is aimed at students of Shakespeare of all nationalities and ages from 11 up, and covers the 12 most studied of Shakespeare’s plays, according to a poll of school teachers from around the world.

Ben Crystal by Piper Williams

Ben Crystal by Piper Williams

There are approximately one million different words in the complete works of Shakespeare (though none beginning with the letter ‘X’). But, David asserts, only around five per cent are significantly different to those we use today. The dictionary guides students through this five per cent, drawing particular attention to ‘false friends’ like ‘rehearse’ or ‘impress,’ which did not mean the same thing for Shakespeare as they do today.

Despite the book’s title, David considers it closer to an encyclopaedia than a dictionary. “Words by themselves aren’t the whole story,” he says. “More important than that is an introduction to Shakespeare’s world.”
Kate Bellamy’s bold illustrations certainly help provide this for the reader – the double page featuring 11 historically accurate illustrations of different kinds of sword is a particular highlight.

The authors hope their style will help students feel comfortable asking questions like ‘What is an arras actually like?’ or ‘Why is Hamlet surprised to find Polonius in Gertrude’s closet?’ The answer to the latter was news to me – a closet was a small antechamber off the main bedroom, containing very little besides, frequently, a large tapestry (aka arras). In Gertrude’s case, the tapestry might have covered a passage to her husband’s chamber, so Hamlet would expect to see no one but Claudius in this intimate space.

O I S D

Ben is passionate about “the idea we’re allowed to be rough with Shakespeare, to grab him by the… doublet and hose and, well, shake him about a bit.” Shaking things about is exactly what this talk does: the pair intersperse discussions of pedagogy and neologisms with a game of charades, David attempting to mime things like ‘soliloquy’ and ‘Father Chaucer,’ and Ben explaining them to the audience.

The Crystals’ engaging blend of comedy and academia has the audience laughing and enthusiastically asking questions. As their talk draws to a close Salisbury Arts Centre is buzzing with Shakespeare’s words.

Oxford Illustrated Shakespeare Dictionary is in bookshops now. Or order it here.

Ben and David will be exploring Original Pronunciation (including an OP performance of Henry V) at Shakespeare’s Globe on 16 and 26 July

Go here to read a full interview with Ben Crystal in Shakespeare Magazine 06.

Globe’s Read Not Dead presents staged reading of Ben Jonson’s Every Man in his Humour at Sam Wanamaker Playhouse

Benjamin_Jonson_by_Abraham_van_Blyenberch_retouched

Since 1995, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre have been presenting productions with less than 12 hours of rehearsal time through their Read not Dead programme. And at 4pm on Sunday 29 June they will be performing Every Man in his Humour in their recently-opened indoor theatre the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse.

Written by Shakespeare’s famous contemporary, friend and rival Ben Jonson, the play was first staged in 1598 by Shakespeare’s own company The Lord Chamberlain’s Men. And according to the published folio, Shakespeare himself took on the acting role of Old Kno’well.

In Sunday’s performance, distinguished Shakespeare authority Professor Stanley Wells will step into Shakespeare’s shoes by playing Old Kno’well. Joining him on stage will be a cast of experienced actors from stage and screen, including Blackadder comedy hero Tim McInnerny, along with Alan Cox and David Oakes.

Having received their scripts in the morning, the cast will take to the stage at 4pm to perform Jonson’s legendary comedy of misperceptions and deceit. “These are not polished productions, but live experiments,” says a spokeswoman from Shakespeare’s Globe. “There is a shared spirit of adventure and excitement for actors and audiences.”

Go here for tickets and more information.

Every Man in his Humour by Ben Jonson

Sunday 29 June, 4pm

Sam Wanamaker Theatre,
Shakespeare’s Globe,
21 New Globe Walk,
Bankside,
London SE1 9DT

 

Globe’s Read Not Dead revives Nathan Field comedy Amends For Ladies at Sam Wanamaker Playhouse

Sunday 18 May sees the pioneering Read Not Dead project from Shakespeare’s Globe make its debut in the newly opened Sam Wanamaker Playhouse.

Amends For Ladies by Nathan Field is a satirical and witty city comedy in which a maid, wife and widow have their virtue questioned by the men who claim to love them.

Bringing the text back to life with Read Not Dead.

Bringing the text back to life with Read Not Dead.

 

The Read Not Dead concept is brilliantly simple. Actors are given a script on a Sunday morning and work with a director to get the play up on its feet – with entrances and exits, token costume, props and music if needed. They present it, script-in-hand, to an audience at 4pm that very same day.

Read Not Dead was launched in 1995 and brings actors, audiences and scholars together to explore and celebrate the plays performed on London stages between 1567-1642. About 400 plays of the period have survived in print – Read Not Dead has staged over 200 of them to date, and all are recorded for archive.

Amends For ladies by Nathan Field
Sunday 18 May, 4pm-7pm
Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, Shakespeare’s Globe,
21 New Globe Walk, Bankside, London SE1 9DT

For more information on this event and for further upcoming
Read Not Dead presentations, go here.

 

Free talk! Professor Tiffany Stern explores the meaning of Time in the age of Shakespeare

“The two hours’ traffic of our stage…”

Shakespearean time traveller Professor Tiffany Stern.

Shakespearean time traveller Professor Tiffany Stern.

What does Shakespeare mean when the Prologue to Romeo and Juliet announces that the performance will last two hours? Join Professor Tiffany Stern at London’s new Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, as she asks how time was understood in an age of sandglasses, sundials and inaccurate clockwork. Considering the sound and the look of the instruments of time, this event will ask about Shakespeare’s works ranging from the practical to the editorial and to the analytical.

How long did Shakespeare’s plays take to perform? Why are Shakespearean characters associated with ways of measuring time? And what did terms like an hour, a minute, or a second actually convey to a Shakespearean audience?

Tiffany Stern is Professor of Early Modern Drama at the University of Oxford. Her books include Rehearsal from Shakespeare to Sheridan (2000), Making Shakespeare (2004), Shakespeare in Parts (2007) and Documents of Performance in Early Modern England (2009).

The two hours’ traffic of our stage: Time for Shakespeare – with Professor Tiffany Stern

Wednesday 21 May, 6pm-7.15pm Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, Shakespeare’s Globe, London

The talk is FREE to attend, but please register online here.