Shakespeare at the Movies- The Harry Potter Series! Part 5

Today, we want to wish Harry Potter and J.K. Rowling a very HAPPY BIRTHDAY! They have inspired many of us in the SIA office to love reading and magic, and we look forward to celebrating today with fans everywhere! Now let’s have some cake!


While you are celebrating today, take a look at the final installment of our Shakespeare at the Movies- Harry Potter edition! This one will focus on the new characters introduced in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2. To catch up on the rest of the Harry Potter movies, read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4!



Bill Nighy (Rufus Scrimgeour)

Appeared in:

  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream (British National Theatre, 1983)
  • Hamlet (British National Theatre, 1985)
  • King Lear (National Theatre, 1986)
  • Macbeth (British National Theatre, 1987)
  • Antony and Cleopatra (British National Theatre, 1987)
  • Macbeth (Royal National Theatre, 1993)
  • Pericles (Royal National Theatre, 1994)
  • Romeo and Juliet (Royal National Theatre, 2000)
  • Hamlet (Royal National Theatre, 2000)



Guy Henry (Pius Thicknesse)

Appeared in:

  • The Two Gentlemen of Verona (Royal Shakespeare Company, 1991) as Thurio
  • Hamlet (Royal Shakespeare Company, 1992) as Osric
  • Love’s Labour’s Lost (Royal Shakespeare Company, 1993) as Longaville
  • The Merry Wives of Windsor (Royal Shakespeare Company, 1996) as Dr Caius
  • Henry VIII (Royal Shakespeare Company, 1996) as Lord Chamberlain
  • Twelfth Night (Royal Shakespeare Company, 1996) as Sir Andrew Augecheek
  • Cymbeline (Royal Shakespeare Company, 1997) as Cloten
  • Antony and Cleopatra (Royal Shakespeare Company, 1999) as Octavius Caesar
  • King John (Royal Shakespeare Company, 2001) as King John
  • Twelfth Night (Royal Shakespeare Company, 2001) as Malvolio
  • All’s Well That Ends Well (Royal Shakespeare Company, 2003) as Parolles



Ralph Ineson (Amycus Carrow)

Appeared in:

  • ShakespeaRe-Told- Macbeth (TV mini-series, 2005) as Barry



David Ryall (Elphias Doge)

Appeared in:

  • Much Ado About Nothing (TV movie, 1967) as Sexton
  • Macbeth (National Theatre, 1972)
  • Twelfth Night (Playhouse Theatre, 1991)
  • Richard II (National Theatre, 1995)
  • The Merry Wives of Windsor (National Theatre, 1995)
  • Happy Birthday Shakespeare (TV movie, 2000) as Dad
  • King Lear (Almeida Theatre, 2002)
  • Measure for Measure (National Theatre, 2002)



Rhys Ifans (Xenophilius Lovegood)

  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Open Air Theatre, 1992)
  • Richard II (Royal National Theatre, 1995)
  • The Merry Wives of Windsor (Royal National Theatre, 1995)
  • Shakespeare Shorts- Macbeth (TV Series, 1996) as Macbeth
  • Midsummer Dream (2005) as Lysander
  • Hamlet (Mold’s Theatre Clwyd)



Sophie Thompson (Mafalda Hopkirk)

Appeared in:

  • Hamlet (Renaissance Theatre Company, 1988) as Ophelia
  • As You Like It (Royal Shakespeare Company, 1989) as Rosalind
  • All’s Well That Ends Well (Royal Shakespeare Company, 1992)
  • Measure for Measure (Shakespeare’s Globe, 2004) as Isabella



Kate Fleetwood (Mary Cattermole)

Appeared in:

  • Twelfth Night (Oxford Stage Company, 1996) as Viola
  • Romeo and Juliet (Greenwich Theatre, 1998)
  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Old Vic Theatre, 2003) as Helena
  • Love’s Labour’s Lost (National Theatre, 2003) as Rosaline
  • Othello (Theatre Royal, 2003) as Desdemona
  • Pericles (Royal Shakespeare Company, 2006) as Thaisa
  • The Winter’s Tale (Royal Shakespeare Company, 2006) as Hermione
  • Macbeth (Chichester Festival Theatre, 2007) as Lady Macbeth
  • Twelfth Night (Chichester Festival Theatre, 2007) as Olivia



Rade Serbedzija (Gregorovitch)

Appeared in:

  • Predstava ‘Hamleta’ u Mrdusi Donjoj (1974) as Joco/ Hamlet



Jamie Campbell Bower (Gellert Grindelwald)

Appeared in:

  • Anonymous (2011) as Young Earl of Oxford



Michael Byrne (Gellert Grindelwald)

Appeared in:

  • Much Ado About Nothing (TV movie, 1967) as Claudio
  • The Merchant of Venice (Northcott Theatre, 1967)
  • Julius Caesar (Riverside Studios Theatre, 1980)
  • The Two Gentlemen of Verona (TV movie, 1983) as Antonio
  • Richard III (TV movie, 1983) as Duke of Buckingham
  • The First Part of King Henry VI (TV movie, 1983) as Duke of Alencon
  • The Second Part of King Henry VI (TV movie, 1983) as John Hume/ Lieutenant
  • The Third Part of King Henry VI (TV movie, 1983) as Marquess of Montague



Ciarán Hinds (Aberforth Dumbledore)

Appeared in:

  • Troilus and Cressida (Royal Shakespeare Company, 1990) as Achilles
  • Two Shakespearean Actors (Royal Shakespeare Company, 1990) as Dion Boucicault
  • Richard III (Royal Shakespeare Company, 1992) as Richard III
  • Macbeth (Royal National Theatre, 1993)
  • King Lear (Royal National Theatre, 1997)
  • Othello (Royal National Theatre, 1997)
  • Hamlet (National Theatre, 2015) as Claudius

Celebrating Birthdays in Elizabethan England

On April 23, it will be the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth, and will be celebrated all over the world! The question I had when I found out was the following: How would Shakespeare have celebrated his birthday when he was alive? Turns out most people didn’t celebrate their birthday in Shakespeare’s day, especially the poor, and there’s no indication that even monarchs celebrated their birthdays. There are very few records of birthdays being celebrated. Everyone had a saint associated with their birthday, and sometimes people would pay respects to that saint on their birthday.

When I researched birthdays in Elizabethan England, I found one mention of an Elizabethan birthday party, that of thirteen-year-old Mall Sidney, who, when she grew up, became a famous writer known as Lady Mary Wroth, Duchess of Pembroke. Lady Mary was the first woman to write a sustained work of prose fiction that came from a high-ranking family. There are records of her birthday being celebrated, however, no one knows for sure how Birthdays were celebrated in Elizabethan England.

In Shakespeare’s work, there are very few mentions of birthdays. Anthony and Cleopatra casually mentions that fact that it’s Cleopatra’s birthday, and they celebrate with a night of drinking, despite Cleopatra’s assumption that she’d be holding her birthday poor, meaning that she doesn’t expect anything at all. In Julius Caesar, there’s a casual reference to it being Cassius’ birthday shortly before he dies, although this is mentioned out of the blue.

What I never expected was how contemporary the popular beliefs regarding birthdays are. Since there is no clear answer in terms of how birthdays were celebrated in Shakespeare’s day, no one really knows how to celebrate theirs in a genuinely Shakespearean style!

How do you plan to mark the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth? Feel free to share your way of celebrating Shakespeare’s birthday in the comment section!

A birthday sonnet for Shakespeare!

shakespeare's birthday pic

It’s William Shakespeare’s 449th birthday today!  Since records state that he was baptised on April 26th, the widely-accepted date of his birth is April 23rd, 1564. To join in the festivities, I’ve -attempted- to compose a sonnet for him:

A toast to Will, the Bard of Avon, true
He turns four hundred forty-nine today.
Of speech and song his words still ring in cue,
Resounding deep in script and stage to stay.
His language is a twisting, turning ink
Medicine for human heart and mind.
It shapes and gives a necessary link
For fervent souls who seek and wish to find:
A love both sick and beautiful to face, 
A humour, bawdy and yet full of wit.
A sadness of a heavy, drawn out case
All spun into a Globe so brightly lit.
Plays are things, an entertaining sell,
But Shakespeare gives us more than what is well.      

Happy Birthday, Will!

(Sonnet and image edit by Vineeta)

Happy Birthday, Shakespeare!

We may never know for sure if today is really Shakespeare’s birthday – but why let that stop us from celebrating?

Delicious-looking Bard-themed cake!*

We here at Shakespeare in Action wish the Bard a very happy 447th! This year we’ve been invited to participate in the Happy Birthday Shakespeare blog project, which is exactly what it sounds like – bloggers all over the world joining together to wish Will a happy one. Click here to find out more about this project and read the other blog posts! It is being run by the great people at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.

We thought we’d honour the Bard by writing a little bit about why we love his plays, how we first encountered his language, and just what makes him so special to us.

Laboni Islam, Education & Outreach Coordinator:

I met Shakespeare in middle school, where some students put on a performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  It was an acrobatic adaptation – the fairies sprung and flung off trampolines and vaulted over things.

In high school, I did what most students do, tracked the patterns of light and dark in Romeo and Juliet, deconstructed Macbeth’s ambition,  contemplated poor Yorick’s skull – imbued each word, phrase, and passage with such meaning, knowing that a third of my final grade rest on how well I accomplished the task.

Then when I was on the flip side and teaching, we had an annual Shakespeare production.  I worked with some amazing Grade 6, 7, and 8 students on four shows – The Tempest, Macbeth, As You Like It, and Henry IV I & II (abridged, of course – that was an ambitous year).  There were many memorable moments, one of the funniest when, in the final fight, in the final scene, in the final performance of Macbeth, Macbeth’s exhausted sword split in half.  Young Siward, slain and dead upon the ground, was generous enough to toss the stunned Macbeth his sword.  Such fun!

And so it has continued.

I return to Shakespeare’s work time and time again because he was so perceptive – he paid attention to people.  He understood a range of human motivations, actions, and experiences.  He packaged it all into compelling stories and astute metaphors: hope, a lover’s staff; glory, a circle in the water; our life, a mingled yarn; the world, a stage.  He [gave] to airy nothing / A local habitation and a name.

Kathleen Keenan, Senior Administrative & Production Intern:

I can’t remember how or when I first encountered Shakespeare, but I know when I first started to really understand Shakespeare: grade 11 English class. We read Macbeth, and thanks to a great teacher I fell in love with this tale of witches, magic, murder and mayhem. (The previous year I had absolutely hated reading Romeo and Juliet.) Part of the reason our class loved this play so much was due to our teacher’s belief that Shakespeare should be read aloud and acted out in the classroom. We filmed our own version of the famous opening scene where Macbeth encounters the witches, and put together the soundtrack, costumes, and set design ourselves. We also spent a lot of time reading scenes from the play aloud and puzzling over what the words meant.

It’s now a few years later, and after several university courses in Shakespeare, a couple of fantastic play-going experiences (from the Stratford, Ontario Shakespeare Festival to student theatre at Queen’s University), and even the opportunity to teach a Shakespeare for Kids workshop, I still think the best thing about Shakespeare is how alive and fun his language can be. Shakespearean language is meant to be experienced, whether onstage, in film or just with a group of friends reading aloud.

And now, having seen Shakespeare in Action’s production of Romeo and Juliet more than a few times, I finally get the appeal of that particular play! And so I wish the Bard a very happy birthday – he’s enriched countless lives and given us plays to read, study and perform for many years to come.

Patricia Sarantakos, Creative Environment Intern:

Happy Birthday Shakespeare! Oh how you have touched my life! So, why do I love Shakespeare so much? My love for Shakespeare started in Grade 12, when my class had to read King Lear. At first I dreaded reading Shakespeare because I did not understand what he was trying to say! But my teacher got us excited about reading King Lear and broke every sentence down for us, making it understandable for the class. From that moment on, I began to love Shakespeare. What I love about his work is that it allows you to use your imagination and create your own interpretation of his stories.  You can relate his stories to everyday life, even today. His words are beautiful- if only we could all describe our love for someone the way Shakespeare did!

I now work for a company whose focus is to make Shakespeare more understandable and enjoyable for students. I love seeing kids get excited about Shakespeare!  We’ve laughed and cried with Shakespeare and will continue to dig through his stories for years to come!

Jaclyn Scobie Scoger, Senior Administrative & Production Intern:

It’s one thing to read Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets.  I first studied Shakespeare in High School for the required plays, but I never truly experienced Shakespeare until I was bringing alive his scripts onstage.  That is when I truly felt the beauty of his words and poetry.  It is like silk to speak those words.  I did not understand the meaning of a seemingly foreign language when reading it in school, and without a connection to reading it and understanding, I did not feel the spark of passion inside myself toward it.

That all changed for me when I first spoke and brought to life the words written in front of me, without a script in hand, but free to be that character.  I owned those words.  And instead of seeming like a foreign language, and forcing myself to interpret and understand, I experienced his lines.  I felt his lines.  And to speak those melodic words…It opened a world to me that I continue to crave and search for opportunities to live again.  It didn’t resonate from reading it, and it didn’t fully resonate with me to hear it performed by others.

All this to say:  There is nothing like experiencing Shakespeare’s works for yourself.  Pick up a play or sonnet and read it out, feel his words, for yourself.  Look into the depth of the lines and what his words mean to you.  It changed my life as an actor.

The Shakespeare in Action team obviously loves Shakespeare; he’s the inspiration behind our company, after all. But what’s great about the Bard is that each of us loves him for a different reason. He means so many things to so many people. Once again, happiest of birthdays, Shakespeare!

* Photo credit here.


By: Kathleen

Shakespeare’s Birthday: A Tale of Mystery and Intrigue

All right, dear readers, settle in for a quick history lesson. Got a mug of hot chocolate and a blanket? I’ll wait…

Yes, I did say in my last post that Shakespeare’s 447th birthday is this week. But I didn’t give you a specific day, did I? And that’s because scholars just don’t know when William Shakespeare was really born! It might seem weird to us that things like actual days of birth went unrecorded back then. The information could have been lost (the Elizabethans were notoriously spotty record keepers and were just starting to collect all this data right around the time of the Bard’s birth) or just never registered with the authorities.

The original man of mystery?

In any case, scholars guess that Shakespeare’s birthday was April 23rd. Most babies at that time were baptized very quickly – just a few days after their birth. The Elizabethans celebrated all kinds of Saint’s Days, which were days honouring various saints (as you might have guessed), and babies were usually baptized on the first Saint’s Day after their birth.

We definitely know that Shakespeare was baptized on the 26th because, according to this nifty online resource, the baptismal records of the local Stratford church show the following name on April 26th, 1564:

Gulielmus filius Johannes Shakespeare

That’s Latin for “William, son of John Shakespeare.” The 26th is not a Saint’s Day, but since we know for sure that Shakespeare was baptized on that day, we can count backwards and guess when he was born. Many scholars and historians in the past chose the 23rd of April because Shakespeare also died on that day, 52 years later in 1616. You have to admit, the symmetry is appealing. But really we have no idea what day was Shakespeare’s real birthday. We can only guess. Scholars around the world generally agree on the 23rd, and it is celebrated accordingly.

Whew – are you still with me after all that birthday information? There are plenty of websites where you can read all about the controversy surrounding Shakespeare’s life. There’s also a great, funny and easy-to-read book on the subject by Bill Bryson.

The truth is, as Bryson writes, we just don’t know much about Shakespeare at all. He wrote some of the world’s most famous, memorable, funny, moving, and innovative plays, but he left few marks of his own personality or life upon the world. We hardly know where he lived, what he thought, how he wrote or even how much time he spent with his family. That’s not necessarily unusual, since we don’t know a whole lot about other, similar figures from the same time period – as I mentioned, record keeping was spotty at best and downright nonexistent at worst. But it sure would be nice to know more about the man who gave us Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Macbeth, and all those other wonderful characters, wouldn’t it?

Nevertheless, just because we don’t know the man’s real birthday doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate! So come back on Saturday the 23rd for a special birthday post!


By: Kathleen