Henry V

CONTEST: Win tickets to a screening of Henry V!

Our friends at Bloor Hot Docs Cinema have given us 4 pairs of tickets to the Shakespeare’s Globe presentation of Henry V on November 29, 2014!
Enter now on our Facebook and Twitter pages! Contest closes Wednesday, November 26 at noon.

Good luck!

Remembering Philip Seymour Hoffman

Known as one of the greatest contemporary actors, let’s remember Philip Seymour Hoffman and his work today. He had a great presence both on screen and on stage, appearing in productions of The Merchant of Venice, and Henry V.
In 1995, he appeared in a film version of 15 Minute Hamlet, based on the play by Tom Stoppard. The film is an interesting take on the film industry, and what it would been like had it been around in Shakespeare’s time. You can watch 15 Minute Hamlet here:

Shakespeare at the Movies- The Oscars 2014

The nominations for the 2014 Academy Awards are in, and I must say, there is some fierce competition for a statue this year!
Until the awards are actually given out on March 2, we can only speculate on the internet and join the office pool, guessing who will walk away a winner. In the meantime, we can dive into the nominees past works, and learn about the interesting and brilliant choices that this group of actors have made throughout their careers.

Seeing as we are a Shakespeare related theatre company, I have sifted though the careers of the nominees and compiled a list of some of the Shakespeare related works that they have been a part of over the years! Enjoy!

christian-bale-american-hustle

Christian Bale (Best Actor Nominee)

Appeared in:

chiwetel-ejiofor-12-years-a-slave

Chiwetel Ejiofor (Best Actor Nominee)

Appeared in:

  • Macbeth (1997 theatre production) as Malcom
  • Romeo and Juliet (2000 theatre production) as Romeo
  • Twelfth Night, or What You Will (2003 TV movie) as Orsino
  • Othello (2007 theatre production) as Othello

leonardo-dicaprio-the-wolf-of-wall-street

Leonardo DiCaprio (Best Actor Nominee)

Appeared in:

amy-adams-american-hustle

Amy Adams (Best Actress Nominee)

Appeared in:

  • Into the Woods (2012 Shakespeare in the Park Production) as Baker’s Wife

cate-blanchett-blue-jasmine

Cate Blanchett (Best Actress Nominee)

Appeared in:

  • Richard II (2009 Sydney Festival) as Richard II


*Fun Fact- This role was part of a show called The War of the Roses, which condensed all of Shakespeare’s historical plays into one 8 hour performance!

judi-dench-philomena

Judi Dench (Best Actress Nominee)

Appeared in:


*Fun Fact- Judi Dench also performed with The Royal Shakespeare Company for many years.

meryl-streep-august-osage-county

Meryl Streep (Best Actress Nominee)

Appeared in:

  • The Taming of the Shrew (1978 Shakespeare in the Park Production)  as Katherine
  • Romeo and Juliet (2012 Shakespeare in the Park Staged Reading) as Juliet

michael-fassbender-12-years-a-slave

Michael Fassbender (Best Supporting Actor Nominee)

Appearing in:

  • Macbeth (Currently in Pre-production) as Macbeth

sally-hawkins

Sally Hawkins (Best Supporting Actress Nominee)

Appeared in:

  • Much Ado About Nothing (2000 theatre production)
  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream (2000 theatre production)

lupita-nyongo-12-years-a-slave

Lupita Nyong’o (Best Supporting Actress Nominee)

Appeared in:

  • The Winter’s Tale (Yale School of Drama Production)
  • The Taming of the Shrew (Yale School of Drama Production)

Have you seen any of these movies or performances? What did you think? Leave a comment and let us know!

“This day is called the feast of Crispian”

According to Christian legend, Crispin and his brother Crispinian were Roman preachers who spent their days trying to convert the Gauls, and their nights making shoes. The Emperor at the time, Maximian, didn’t take kindly to Crispin and Crispinian’s proselytizing ways, and had them beheaded on 25 October 285 AD. The brothers’ feast day has since been bumped off the liturgical calendar due to skepticism about their actual existence, but their names live on thanks to Shakespeare (and a few historically informed specialty shoemakers).

In Act 4, scene 3 of Henry V, King Henry and his army are on the verge of battle with the French. The British are vastly outnumbered by the French army, and defeat looks inevitable. To rouse the flagging spirits of his weary troops, Henry delivers what is often referred to as the St. Crispin’s Day speech. He spurs his men on with promises of the glory they will share in, whether they win or lose, and the stories that will be told back home of the brave “band of brothers” who fought for England on St. Crispin’s Day:

This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember’d;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.

Many will be familiar with Kenneth Branagh’s rousing version of the St. Crispin’s Day speech, but here is a budding Shakespearean who could give Sir Ken a run for his money:

Ok, so he leaves out a few key lines, but what vim! What vigour!

There are many ways to celebrate St. Crispin’s Day. You could cobble some shoes, avoid angry Romans, or, maybe just pull out your copy of Henry V and channel your inner warrior king for a dramatic reading.

This has been Genie the intern, reporting for Harry, England, and St. George.

Wordy Wednesday!

This week’s Wordy Wednesday is ‘Band of Brothers’.  This famous phrase was coined by Shakespeare in 1599 and was first heard in his theatrical production of Henry V – which was one of the opening productions performed in the newly built Globe Theatre.

This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember’d;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.

Henry V [IV. iii. 2291 – 2302]

Henry V delivers this rousing speech to his men just before the Battle of Agincourt.  Along with his “Once more unto the breach, dear friends” speech [Henry V, III. i. 1092], these famous lines capture the heart of the play and Shakespeare’s vision of the warrior King.

 

The Battle of Agincourt in 1415 went down in history as one of England’s most famous victories and Henry V’s crowning glory.  The English army was outnumbered more than four to one by the French and defeat seemed almost inevitable.  However, due in no small part to the unrelenting archers with their ferocious longbows driving the enemy back, the English managed to defeat the vast French force. England’s improbable odds before the battle give Henry’s impassioned words even more resonance.  Shakespeare endows his Henry V with the powerful skill of being able to stir the hearts of his men and inspire and rouse them into fighting bravely and fearlessly for him despite the odds.  Just like Joan of Arc’s battle cry to the French soldiers who later fight the army of Henry VI (Henry V’s son) – they were determined to “fight till the last gasp”. [Henry VI P I, I. ii. 326]

 

Henry proclaims that at that moment in time, they are all equals and they will stand shoulder to shoulder and fight as brothers.  They will fight and bleed together and many of them will die together.  This blood bond ties them together as family, and on this day they do not fight as kings, lords or foot soldiers, but as men, as equals and as brothers.

 

This notion of comradeship and blood bonds during combat is transcendental.   Lord Nelson evoked this powerful wartime bond in his speech after the Battle of the Nile, referring to his Sea Captains as a ‘band of brothers’. There are copious examples throughout history of soldiers fighting and dying together as a ‘band of brothers’.  One such example is that of the 101st Airborne East Company during World War II.  This unit fought fearlessly and heroically from the Normandy invasion through to the end of the war; united by the blood spilt on the battle field and the strength of the lifelong bonds they had forged.  Their story was immortalized in the HBO series, aptly named ‘Band of Brothers’.

bandofbrothers

An evolution of this is seen in Game of Thrones through the Dothraki blood riders fighting side by side with Khal Drogo and then Daenerys’ riders.  Daenerys calls these warriors “blood of my blood” as they have pledged their lives to her and their blood is now the blood of their Khaleesi.

185px-Daenerys_1x03

I was lucky enough to see the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of Henry V twice during their two year/eight play History Cycle in 2007/2008.  It was the greatest theatrical spectacle I have ever seen, and Geoffrey Streatfeild’s Henry was passionate, rousing and utterly spellbinding.  Such is the power of Shakespeare’s stirring words in Henry V, that Streatfeild delivered his “Once more unto the breach” speech in the dressing room of the English rugby team, to rouse and inspire them before they stepped onto the field to do battle with the French team to fight for the glory of the Six Nations Championship in 2007.  An inspired England won the battle on the day; beating the highly favoured French team – (although France were ultimately victorious clinching the title against Scotland the next week).  This demonstrates the immense power and potency Shakespeare’s texts still wield today and how they have infused nearly every facet of our contemporary society.

henry v pic

By Linda Nicoll

References:

BritishBattles.com – ‘The Battle of Agincourt’, 2002 – 2013. Chalfont Web. http://www.britishbattles.com/100-years-war/agincourt.htm [Accessed 15 May 2013]

British Library – ‘Treasures in Full ~ Shakespeare in Quarto – Henry V Early Performances’. 2013 London. http://www.bl.uk/treasures/shakespeare/henry5.html [Accessed 15 May 2013]

Game of Thrones Wiki – ‘Bloodriders – Rakharo’. 2013 Wikia. http://gameofthrones.wikia.com/wiki/Rakharo [Accessed 15 May 2013]

IMDb – ‘Band of Brothers’. 1990 – 2013 IMDb.com. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0185906/ [Accessed 15 May 2013]

In depth Info – ‘Band of Brothers in literature and history’. Copyright 2005 – 2013. W. J. Rayment.  http://www.indepthinfo.com/band-of-brothers/ [Accessed 15 May 2013]

Open Source Shakespeare – ‘Play Search’, 2013 George Mason University. http://www.opensourceshakespeare.com/views/plays/plays.php

Royal Shakespeare Company – ‘Henry V Programme – Geoffrey Streatfeild as Henry V’. 2007, Dir. Michael Boyd – RSC Stratford upon Avon and The Roundhouse Theatre London, England.

Suite 101 – ‘Horatio Nelson and his Band of Brothers’, 1996 – 2013 Suite101. http://suite101.com/article/horatio-nelson-and-his-band-of-brothers-a221354 [Accessed 15 May 2013]

 

 

 

Wordy Wednesday – “Devil incarnate”

Medieval beliefs remained strong in Shakespeare’s era; the idea that real, literal demons haunted humanity is still believed by some today.

Lucius: O worthy Goth, this is the incarnate devil
That robb’d Andronicus of his good hand;
This is the pearl that pleased your empress’ eye,
And here’s the base fruit of his burning lust.
–(Titus Andronicus, V.i.2163-67)

Nym: They say he cried out of sack.
Hostess Quickly: Ay, that a’ did.
Bardolph: And of women.
Hostess Quickly: Nay, that a’ did not.
Boy: Yes, that a’ did; and said they were devils incarnate.
Hostess Quickly: A’ could never abide carnation; ’twas a colour he never liked.
–(Henry V, II.iii.859-65)

Shakespeare’s use of the phrase “devil incarnate” – which he never actually put in those exact words in his plays – is the same as ours today. Unlike many of his sayings or catchphrases, there’s none of the drift in meaning by which, for example, “kill with kindness” has gone from an ironic implication of deliberate cruelty to a more modern torture – making a target worry that too much niceness must conceal a sinister hidden motive. A ‘devil incarnate” is still, as it was then, the worst possible human being – an irredeemably wicked individual to be avoided at all costs.

In Shakespeare’s day, of course, the reasons for someone to be so evil were considered different than ours. We tend to write modern villains as suffering mental illness – like sociopathy, or PTSD from childhood trauma – or with clear motivations of greed, lust, or jealousy. In short, they’re broadly realistic people with a strong urge to get something and no problem hurting and killing others who get in their way. We all know milder versions of that, and we can make the leap to more serious, intense villainy.

Elizabethans and Jacobeans had a different frame of reference. They were almost all Christians, and far more literal and severe in their beliefs than almost anyone alive today. They believed quite firmly that if God could incarnate himself in a human form, surely the Devil could do the same. As such, villainy in Shakespeare is generally internal and inexplicable – they’re just born that way, with a devil in them trying to get out.

I’d actually argue that some of the worst villains in Shakespeare aren’t ‘Devils Incarnate’ in this sense. Richard III, nasty little ferret that he is, tends to have a reason for what he does – power, women, revenge, they’re not pretty but they’re fairly obvious. The real Devil works pro malo, to do evil because it’s their calling – in the above speech from Titus Andronicus, Lucius isn’t referring to the Goths as devils (they’re arguably no worse than the Romans by this point in the play) but the monstrous Aaron the Moor, who incites barbarity from all around him and, when asked if he’d like a last-minute chance to apologize, simply replies:

Tut, I have done a thousand dreadful things
As willingly as one would kill a fly,
And nothing grieves me heartily indeed
But that I cannot do ten thousand more. (V.i.2276-9)

Or we could look at King Lear‘s Edmund, who disdains any idea that he’s a victim of birth order, parentage, stars or fate, declaring that

This is the excellent foppery of the world, that, when we are
sick in fortune, often the surfeit of our own behaviour, we make
guilty of our disasters the sun, the moon, and the stars. (I.ii.441-3)

The really scary thing isn’t the person who’ll knife you for a dollar and a sandwich; it’s the person who’ll do it for no reason at all, when you least expect it, that should keep you up at night. Shakespeare got that, and that’s why the villains that stay with us are those, like Iago in Othello, who responds to the question of why he destroys others with an arrogant “Demand me nothing: what you know, you know” (V.ii.301) that echoes his ominous early admission that “I am not what I am”. (I.i.65) Someone entirely unpredictably evil, just for the sheer joy of it, with no reward other than having hurt someone else – truly that’s as close as we get to the Devil incarnate.

Wordy Wednesday!

“Fight till the last gasp” ~ This phrase, commonly used today, was coined by Shakespeare in the history play Henry VI Part I.

Reignier:                                     

My lord, where are you? what devise you on?                                                        Shall we give over Orleans, or no?

Joan la Pucelle:                     

Why, no, I say, distrustful recreants!
Fight till the last gasp; I will be your guard.

Charles, King of France:     

What she says I’ll confirm: we’ll fight it out.

Joan la Pucelle:                      

Assign’d am I to be the English scourge.     (1)                                                                                                                        

In Henry VI Part I – Act One Scene Two, Joan la Pucelle (Joan of Arc) rouses the French Army Commanders into action and promises to show unwavering courage and commitment in the battlefield against the English and demands the same from them.

joan of arc

                                                                   (2)

Through Joan Shakespeare invokes the never yielding spirit of a true warrior to keep fighting – even if it is with their last dying breath, and in so doing, coined the now widely used phrase: fight till the last gasp.

Last Gasp:

Idiom – The moment before death; also, the end (3)

Origin – 1350-1400; Middle English gaspen,  equivalent to Old Norse geispa  (4)

Today, the ‘fight till the last gasp’ analogy is commonly used in the sporting arena, where sports men and women do battle to the bitter end, never yielding until the final whistle is blown or the chequered flag is waved.  Instead of  “the vasty fields of France” (5), it is now on the rugby field where you would see France and England battle it out for the spoils of victory in the Rugby Union Six Nations Championship every year.

The unyielding, never say die attitude and strength of will of Shakespeare’s Joan la Pucelle is evoked poignantly in the final lines of Alfred Tennyson’s epic poem Ulysses.  This transcendental notion, whether used literally or figuratively, of never giving up and fighting until the end for what you believe in has been a mainstay of our theatrical and cinematic culture.  Most recently, Dame Judi Dench as M in the new James Bond film Skyfall, during a government enquiry into the current effectiveness of the British Secret Service, delivers a powerful rendering of Tennyson’s immortal lines:

We are not now that strength which in old days

Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;

One equal temper of heroic hearts,

Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will

To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.   (6)

As the head of MI6, Dench’s character is alluding to the fact that England’s enemy is no longer visible – no longer a nation that can be fought on a battlefield, but one that lingers in the shadows, and that her department will strive to defend and protect the people in this ever-changing world. (7)  Or as Bond himself refers to it earlier in the film, using another Shakespearean phrase – this “brave new world”. (8)

By Linda Nicoll

Sources:

1.         Henry VI Part I [I. ii. 323-328]

2.         Diomedia: Copyright ©1999-2013 Diosphere Ltd t/a DIOMEDIA [http://www.diomedia.com/public/15413/25/en/imageSearch.html;jsessionid=0964C69CB491FD7FCBC6CB8958011560.worker2] Accessed 15/01/2013

3.         Ammer, C (1997) The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, Boston, MA.

4.         Dictionary.com: Copyright © 2013 Dictionary.com, LLC [http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/last+gasp] Accessed 15/01/2013

5.        Henry V [Prologue. 13]

6.        Tennyson, A. T., & Day, A. (1991). Alfred Lord Tennyson: Selected Poems. Penguin Classics. London

7.         Skyfall ~ James Bond. Dir. Sam Mendes. MGM. 2012

8.         The Tempest [V. i. 2235]

What if Shakespeare…were an ARTIST?

Image

Dost thou love pictures? We will fetch thee straight Adonis painted by a running brook, and Cytherea all in sedges hid (1). A thousand moral paintings I can show that shall demonstrate these quick blows of Fortune’s more pregnantly than words (2).

O proper stuff! This is the very painting of your fear (3). A Death’s-head or a memento mori (4). Have I frightened thee (5)?

What’s here? the portrait of (6) a virtuous gentlewoman, mild and beautiful (7). Here in her hairs the painter plays the spider and hath woven a golden mesh to entrap the hearts of me (8). Good my lord, forbear: The ruddiness upon her lip is wet; You’ll mar it if you kiss it, stain your own with oily painting (9).

For your many courtesies I thank you: I must discontinue your company (10). Inspiration of celestial grace (11) has struck (12); I wish (13) to create (14).

1)    The  Taming of the Shrew, Prologue, 193-6

2)     Timon of Athens, I.i, 110-12

3)     Macbeth, III.iv, 1347-8

4)     Henry IV, Part II, III.iii, 2036

5)     Henry IV, Part II, III,I, 1710

6)     The Merchant of Venice, II.ix, 1184

7)     The Two Gentlemen of Verona, IV.iv, 221

8)     The Merchant of Venice, III.ii, 1489-1492

9)     The Winter’s Tale, V.iii, 3384-7

10)  Much Ado About Nothing, V.i, 2262-3

11)  Henry VI, Part I, V.iv, 2711

12)  Henry V, IV.viii, 2735

13)  All’s Well That Ends Well, I.i, 180

14)  Henry VI, Part III, IV.iii, 2207

Shakespeare re-arranged by Lisa

Image: ClipArt ETC – Kantner Book of Objects 114

What if Shakespeare…were a SPORTS COMMENTATOR?

 

Image

A happy evening [1] and ye’re welcome all [2]. We first address toward you [3] that stay’d at home [4], and they that watch [5] from yonder [6] elsewhere / from me far off [7], a hundred thousand welcomes [8]. This great sport [9] is now the two hours’ traffic of our stage [10]. And mark thee [11] well worth watching [12].

And all that are assembled in this place [13] that wait [14] with bated breath [15], lend me your ears [16]. Hark! hark! what shout is that [17] among the crowd? [18] And, hark! they shout for joy [19]. Thus we are agreed [20] what sport tonight [21] you shall see [22].

Be the players ready? [23] Ajax is ready [24] And look you [25] Percy is already in the field [26]. With roaring voices [27] the shouting plebeians [28] bid the players make haste [29]. Hark, they roar! [30] loud shouts and salutations from their mouths [31]. Alas, what joy! [32] There are the players [33]. Aeneas is a-field [34.] At last, though long [35] now I see [36] Anthony is come into the field [37]. Then shall we have a match [38].

Ajax goes up and down the field [39]. On there, pass along! [40] He scores, he scores [41] This cheers my heart [42]. He knows the game [43] excellent well [44]. Hark, the game is roused! [45] Shouts and claps out-voice the deep mouth’d sea [46].

And then begin again and stop again [47]. The match [48] is tied [49]. Methought that Gloucester stumbled [50]. They stumble that run fast [51]. Let’s see the penalty, [52] who takes it? [53] The thrice-victorious Lord of Falconbridge [54]. No no, it cannot be! [55] he hath miss’d [56]. The people in the street cry [57] you base football player [58].

And then the people fell a-shouting [59]. But where’s the great Alcides of the field, / Valiant Lord Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury [61]. He has been yonder [61] on the bench [62]. And in all this time [63] why he, of all the rest, hath never moved [64]. With open outcry [65] the crowd [66] call him forth [67], a most gallant fellow [68] to win this easy match [69]. Here he comes [70] once more unto the breach [71]. Hark! do you not hear the / people cry [72] roaring louder than / the sea or weather [73].

It grows very late [74], the sport is at the best [75] when none can call [76] – who loses and who wins; who’s in, who’s out [77]. My heart leaps [78] breathless and faint [79], I cannot bring / my tongue to such a pace [80]. But look thee here [81] brave Talbot [82] how he outruns the wind and with what care / he cranks and crosses with a thousand doubles [83.]

The game is up! [84] Victorious Talbot [85] now hath won the day [86]. Didst thou not hear their shouts? [87] The ways of glory [88] would scarce make that be believed [89]. Renowned Talbot [90] he hath done well in people’s eyes, / hearing applause and universal shout, / giddy in spirit, still gazing in a doubt / whether these pearls of praise be his or no [91].

The games are done [92] This had been cheerful after victory [93]. O my soul’s joy! [94] I saw not better sport these seven years’ day [95]. A thousand thanks and [96] fare thee well [97]. In celebration of this day [98] applause and loving shout [99] shall be heard [100] through the streets [101]. Why, then, good night indeed [102].

Shakespeare – re-arranged by Linda Nicoll

1.        Two Gentlemen of Verona [V. i. 2056]

2.       Coriolanus [II. i. 1113]

3.       King Lear [I. i. 204]

4.       Pericles [II. iv. 553]

5.       Rape of Lucrece [1626]

6.       Henry VI P I [III. ii. 1466]

7.       Sonnet 61 [13-14]

8.       Coriolanus [II, i. 1114]

9.       Henry VIII [I. i. 88]

10.     Romeo and Juliet [Prologue 1, 12]

11.     Henry IV P I [II. iv. 1196]

12.     Cymbeline [II. iv. 1257]

13.     The Comedy of Errors [V. i. 1841]

14.     Two Gentlemen of Verona [IV. ii. 1770]

15.     The Merchant of Venice [I. iii. 451]

16.     Julius Caesar [III. Ii. 1617]

17.     Troilus and Cressida [V. ix. 3619]

18.     Henry VIII [IV. i. 2481]

19.     Julius Caesar [V. iii. 2528]

20.     Anthony and Cleopatra II. vi. 1283

21.     Anthony and Cleopatra [I. ii. 57]

22.     All’s Well That Ends Well [III. Vi. 1824]

23.     Hamlet III. [I. i. 1986-87]

24.     Troilus and Cressida [III. iii. 1901]

25.     All’s Well That Ends Well [V. iii. 3032]

26.     Henry IV PI [IV. ii. 2443-44]

27.     King Lear [II. iii. 1265]

28.     Anthony and Cleopatra [IV. xii. 2942]

29.     Hamlet [III. ii. 1925]

30.     The Tempest [IV. i. 2008]

31.     Henry IV P I [III. ii. 1876]

32.     Henry VI P I [IV. iii. 2967]

33.     Hamlet [II. ii. 1452]

34.     Troilus and Cressida [V. iii. 3354]

35.     Taming of the Shrew [V. ii. 2489]

36.     All’s Well That Ends Well [I. iii. 492]

37.     Anthony and Cleopatra [IV. vi. 2713]

38.     All’s Well That Ends Well [V. iii. 2708]

39.     Troilus and Cressida [[III. iii. 2129]

40.     Anthony and Cleopatra [III. i. 1589]

41.     All’s Well That Ends Well [IV. iii. 2307]

42.     Henry VI P III [V. iv. 2870]

43.     Henry VI P III [III. ii. 1484]

44.     Hamlet [II. ii. 1279]

45.     Cymbeline [III. iii 1708]

46.     Henry V [V. Chorus, 2849]

47.     Richard III [III. v 2071]

48.     The Comedy of Errors [III. ii. 854]

49.     Sonnet 137 [8]

50.     Richard III [I. iv. 851]

51.     Romeo and Juliet [II. iii. 156]

52.     Love’s Labour’s Lost I. i. 126]

53.     Coriolanus [IV. vii. 3252]

54.     Henry VI P I [IV. vii. 2324]

55.     All’s Well That Ends Well [II. i. 601]

56.     Cymbeline [I. i. 20]

57.     Romeo and Juliet [V. iii. 3164]

58.     King Lear [I. iv. 615]

59.     Julius Caesar [I. ii. 315]

60.     Henry VI P I [IV. vii. 2317-18]

61.     Twelfth Night [II. v. 1043-44]

62.     Timon of Athens [IV. iii. 1702]

63.     As You Like It [IV. i.1877]

64.     Two Gentlemen of Verona [I. ii. 177]

65.     Romeo and Juliet [V. iii. 3166]

66.     Henry VIII [IV. i. 2481]

67.     Henry IV P I [V. ii. 1517]

68.     All’s Well That Ends Well [III. v. 1701]

69.     King John [III. I 1264]

70.     Coriolanus [II. iii. 1462]

71.     Henry V [III. i. 1092]

72.     Troilus and Cressida [I. ii. 372-73]

73.     The Winter’s Tale [III. iii 1596-97]

74.     Romeo and Juliet [III. iii. 2045]

75.     Romeo and Juliet [I. v. 748]

76.     Macbeth [V. i. 2162]

77.     King Lear [V. iii. 3138]

78.     Pericles [V. iii. 2573]

79.     Henry IV P I [I. iii. 357]

80.     Coriolanus [II. iii. 1476-77]

81.     The Winter’s Tale [III. iii. 1606]

82.     Henry VI P I [II. i. 694-95]

83.     Venus and Adonis [703-4]

84.     Cymbeline [III. iii 1708]

85.     Henry VI P I [II. iii. 900]

86.     Henry VI P III [IV. iv. 2257]

87.     Julius Caesar [V. iii. 2594]

88.     Henry VIII [III. ii. 2349]

89.     All’s Well That Ends Well [IV. i. 1959]

90.     Henry VI P I [IV. iii. 2039]

91.     The Merchant of Venice [III. ii. 1512-15]

92.     Julius Caesar [I. ii. 269]

93.     Henry IV P II [IV. ii. 2535]

94.     Othello [II. i. 975]

95.     Henry VI P II [II. i. 728]

96.     Henry V [IV. iv. 2429]

97.     All’s Well That Ends Well [II. i. 745]

98.     Henry VIII [IV. i. 2389]

99.     Richard III [III. vii. 2240]

100.   King John [I. i. 28]

101.   Anthony and Cleopatra [I. i. 64]

102.   Anthony and Cleopatra [III. x. 2099]

What if Shakespeare…were a TEACHER?

What would Shakespeare’s classroom have been like? Your biggest disappointment might have been that most of this master of all English’s lessons would not have been in English at all. However much Shakespeare’s characters might beg to hear or speak “no Latin[, as] a strange tongue makes [a] cause more strange, suspicious” to the hearer (1), in Shakespeare’s Elizabethan reality the Church, State, and Universities judged your education and intellectual worth by your ability to read, write, and quote from Latin. Rome was, after all, the “most high and palmy state” (2) on which English society based its ideals of honor and virtue; English monarchs including the Tudors (and thus Elizabeth) traced their ancestors – by way of King Arthur – to Brutus, a direct descendant of Aeneas, “one of the flowers of Troy” (3), who founded Rome after that city’s fall.

Whatever the language, however, Shakespeare would have been able to teach most any subject – as the times demanded. Elizabethan schools had an intense curriculum, “the sweets of sweet philosophy” (4) at the time including studies of Scripture and religion, rhetoric, mathematics, music, composition, elocution, and the histories of Britain, Europe and the ancient world.  As if that wasn’t enough, school was taught six and a half days a week, with less than two months off each year, going from six or seven in the morning until right before dusk – no wonder that, in Shakespeare’s description of when “a school breaks up,” each student “hurries toward his home and sporting-place” (5) for the only free time he has in his day. I say ‘he’ because almost all such students were boys, of course – women were, at the time, preferably kept as a “poor unlearned virgin […] embowell’d of [schools’] doctrine” (6) or “an unlesson’d girl, unschool’d, unpractised” in the ways of the world but “not bred so dull but she can learn” (7) what she needs to entertain and please a husband.

To teach, Shakespeare would have had to constantly read and study, to become, “neglecting all worldly ends, all dedicated to closeness and the bettering of [his] mind” (8). To effectively guide his pupils, his learning and love of knowledge would have, together, to “beget a generation of still-breeding thoughts, and these same thoughts people this little world” within the schoolhouse (9). Shakespeare was well aware that a conscientious “schoolmaster made [students] more profit than other princesses can that have more time for vainer hours and tutors not so careful” (10). No wasting time for him, but activity and energy towards the learning that had elevated him from glovemaker’s son to renowned playwright – or, in this thought experiment, teacher. Shakespeare would hate when “poor fools believe false teachers” (11) and love to observe that a “gentleman is learn’d, and a most rare speaker[:] his training such, that he may furnish and instruct great teachers, and never seek for aid out of himself” (12). All Shakespeare’s plays reward self-reliance and the personal pursuit of excellence, and his students would have benefited from that attention.

Still, if the little people in his classroom misbehaved, they would have to watch out, as Shakespeare thought that “to teach a teacher ill beseemeth” (13). Problem students would have learned that they were dealing with no “rare parrot-teacher” (14) trying only to have them squawk out passages after him. William would never have been one to spare the rod, even if a pupil “had rather see the swords, and hear a drum, than look upon his school-master” (15). Shakespeare, in his plays, staunchly supported just punishment, and  thought that keeping discipline required one to “show great mercy […] after the
taste of much correction” (16).

Perhaps some foolhardy students would have tried to declare themselves “no breeching scholar in the schools,” that they’d “not be tied to hours nor ‘pointed times, but learn [their] lessons as [they] please [themselves]” (17). Shakespeare would merely reflect on the price paid in his day by he without education: “he hath never fed of the dainties that are bred in a book; he hath not eat paper, as it were; he hath not drunk ink: his intellect is not replenished; he is only an animal, only sensible in the duller parts” (18). He would raise his pupils as best he could towards “Study[, which] is like the heaven’s glorious
sun that will not be deep-searched with saucy looks” (19) and so improve their lot in life by giving them real goals to strive for without easy shortcuts.

This hard work would not, however, have made Shakespeare arrogant or proud; he would acknowledge that in the general estimation, teachers were “so poor a pinion off [power’s] wing” (20) as to be non-entities outside the classroom. Furthermore, despite his own encyclopedic knowledge, Shakespeare was never entirely comfortable with purely intellectual academics; you can sense that for him, they “jes[t] at scars that never felt a wound” (21). Never one to go against the will of the natural order, he would have acknowledged that “Nature teaches beasts to know their friends” (22) without any teacher’s help. He would have further realized that reading and writing without any practical purpose was “but an adjunct to oneself” (23), needing direction or motivation from some other part of one’s life that had more to do with the broader world outside – politics, say, or employment. Or perhaps even (as in many of his plays featuring young scholars) love.

Shakespeare would have acknowledged that education could in some cases even harm students by boring or overindulging them – any student could become “a blunt fellow”, even one that was “quick mettle when he went to school” (24) before being bored stiff by unsuitable lessons. Furthermore, in almost all of Shakespeare’s works, inherent, instinctive knowledge is both valuable and beyond teaching. His plays revolve around the idea that speech and consideration must, at times, give way to activity and daring, and that for “wilful men the injuries that they themselves procure must be their schoolmasters” (25) in facing life’s challenges. He believed that the youths of his time, in particular, often held “a heart unfortified, a mind impatient, an understanding simple and unschooled” (26) and a personality “never school’d and yet learned” (27). In Shakespeare’s view, these qualities – which existed before one had “corrupted the youth of the realm in erecting a grammar school” (28) – allowed the aggressive and, admittedly, often foolhardy juveniles to use their energy and impetuosity to overcome older adversaries’ advantages of age and experience and power. There would have been no fears that Shakespeare would refuse to countenance the beautiful world outside; his pupils would have needed to stay grounded, which he would have known, aware that the broader human context made up “the glass, the school, the book, where subjects’ eyes do learn, do read, do look” (29) for the answers no textbook can entirely provide.

Ultimately, Shakespeare the teacher might have summed up his project as does the benevolent Archbishop Cranmer in Shakespeare the playwright’s Henry VI, Part II:
My good lords, hitherto, in all the progress
Both of my life and office, I have labour’d,
And with no little study, that my teaching
And the strong course of my authority
Might go one way, and safely; and the end
Was ever, to do well. (30)

No teacher, in Shakespeare’s day or afterwards, through all the advances that bring us to appreciating his work from so far after his death, could reasonably ask for more.

Quotations:
(1) Queen Katherine, Henry VIII
(2) Horatio, Hamlet
(3) Pandarus, Troilus and Cressida
(4) Tranio, The Taming Of The Shrew
(5) Lord Hastings, Henry IV, Part II
(6) Countess, All’s Well That Ends Well
(7) Portia, The Merchant of Venice
(8) Prospero, The Tempest
(9) Richard II, Richard II
(10)  Prospero, The Tempest
(11)  Imogen, Cymbeline
(12)  Henry VIII, Henry VIII
(13)  Princess of France, Love’s Labour’s Lost
(14)  Benedick, Much Ado About Nothing
(15)  Volumnia, Coriolanus
(16)  Sir Thomas Grey, Henry V
(17)  Bianca, The Taming of the Shrew
(18)  Sir Nathaniel, Love’s Labour’s Lost
(19)  Biron, Love’s Labour’s Lost
(20)  Dolabella, Antony and Cleopatra
(21)  Romeo, Romeo and Juliet
(22)  Sicinius Velutus, Coriolanus
(23)  Biron, Love’s Labour’s Lost
(24)  Brutus, Julius Caesar
(25)  Regan, King Lear
(26)  Claudius, Hamlet
(27)  Oliver, As You Like It
(28)  Dick Cade, Henry VI, Part I
(29)  Shakespeare, The Rape of Lucrece
(30)  Archbishop Cranmer, Henry VI, Part II