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Monday, May 14, 2012

Shakespeare's Plays Old-fashioned, Dull and Coarse?

Hi everybody,

I wanted to share with you a funny thing. I have been re-reading the brilliant book Shakespeare: For All Time by Stanley Wells, and there are some fascinating quotes about how Shakespeare's plays were updated, and changed in the late 1600's -- only 60 years after Shakespeare died:

"... the plays had come to seem old-fashioned."

"Those who went to the theatre hoping for music, dancing, and spectacular stage effects were liable to find him dull."

"... his language seemed dated."

John Dryden wrote in 1679 that "... the tongue in general is so much refined since Shakespeare's time that many of his words and more of his phrases are scarce intelligible, and of those which we understand, some are ungrammatical, others coarse, and his whole style is so pestered with figurative expressions that it is as affected as it is obscure."

I added emphasis to the key words here to make the point -- only 60 years after Shakespeare had died, even the audiences in London (!) didn't understand him!



Today, almost 400 years after his death, I think you would agree with me that so much time has passed that it is all but impossible to understand how his plays were performed on stage for the first time, and for their original audiences.

I wanted to try at least. I wanted to try and go back to that time 400 years ago.

His plays were very popular. His audience must have thought the plays were fresh, in fashion, and all the rage -- and the coarser the better!

It is with this approach that I wrote my adaptations of Hamlet, Richard III, and The Merchant of Venice.

Cheers,

David