Shakespeare Solved ®

Shakespeare Solved ® is a forthcoming series of novels that covers the Bard's entire life and work.

These novels solve the mysteries surrounding Shakespeare by transporting us back in time, to walk in his shoes, and see his world through his eyes.

Only when we see Shakespeare in his original historical context can we understand what his plays and poems really mean.

This blog explains some of my ideas and discoveries, to prepare for this series of novels.

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Articles Written For:

The University of Oxford's Bodleian Library & The Royal Shakespeare Company

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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Rocky Horror Picture Show & Shakespeare

I have been spending some quality time with my nephew and niece recently, who have only recently discovered The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

I watched it with them on Blu-ray and there is a feature that includes all of the Call Back Lines you yell out at the screen.

It's been many years since I watched the movie and it was a lot of fun to share my stories and experiences with them.

I saw the film 27 times in the movie theaters when I was about 13 years old. I went to see it on Friday at midnight week after week.

Yes, I bought a box of rice at the local store and would throw it at the other people in the theater when the wedding scene played. I never brought a newspaper, or a bottle of water to spray when it rained on Brad and Janet.

Within two or three showings, I had memorized most every Call Back Line there was, and would yell it along with everyone else.

It's all about the audience

I delighted in the act of yelling back at the screen. It was an act of disobedience that was welcome and encouraged in the same movie theater where I would be thrown out if I yelled during any other movie.

What an amazing experience it was to find a film that wanted you to misbehave.

It was thrilling to be part of a crowd that didn't just sit and watch the movie, but in fact would become part of the experience.

And boy was the film bawdy! I had never seen anything like it, and I have never seen anything since that is so insanely over the top. It is so wrong it's right.

I have thought about Rocky Horror often as I wrote my versions of Hamlet, Richard III and The Merchant of Venice.

The movie is entertaining, but strange and peculiar. The audience participation, however, makes the film what it is, and is the reason it has endured for so long.

Shakespeare's plays must have been entertaining, but I am convinced that the audience was part of the show and it was their behavior that made people come to see the plays. You might know what the play was about, but you could never anticipate how the audience would react.

I think there must have been patrons who came to more than one performance of Romeo and Juliet, A Comedy of Errors, and especially something like The Merchant of Venice to see the play again, but more importantly to see the audience explode with laughter, cry at the death scenes, yell with disgust, and otherwise heckle the actors.

No two performances would have been the same.

How would an audience react to Falstaff? I can easily imagine that Richard Burbage as Falstaff would have improvised with every performance, mugging to the audience and  milking any laugh he could get.

Richard III? They would have laughed and admired this charismatic and bawdy villain, until he started to murder more and more, until at last they would have cheered his defeat.

Shylock? That's a whole different story. He would have been reviled and hated, until the audience got a chance to see that he's the only sympathetic character on the stage.

Each performance would have been an adventure, and quite unlike any other entertainment to be found in London, or England for that matter.

Who knows, maybe there were even some in Shakespeare's audience who developed Call Back Lines -- yelling the same lines over and over again?

What if some in Shakespeare's audience dressed up as the characters in the plays, in the same way that people dress up as Dr. Frank N Furter or Magenta or Little Nell?

It seems rather hard to ignore that the bawdy and politically incorrect humor in Rocky Horror, a British stage play turned film, has some origins in Shakespeare.

What do you think?