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

Most Popular Posts:

1. Shakespeare's Shylock Solved 2. Shakespeare's Othello Finally Identified 3. Shakespeare In Love Sequel Solved 4. The Real Romeo and Juliet 5. Shakespeare's Malvolio Solved 6. Shakespeare's Real Petruchio

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Shakespeare's Globe Henry IV on DVD

I just watched Shakespeare's Globe Theatre's productions of Henry IV, Parts 1 and 2 on DVD.

After having watched some of the plays from Shakespeare's Globe On Screen, including Henry V (which I reviewed) I decided to buy some of them and order the Henry IV plays, too.

They are simply brilliant. I can not recommend them highly enough.

Roger Allam as Falstaff and Jamie Parker as Prince Hal

You can order these plays on DVD here, from the Shakespeare Globe store:

Or here from

I doubt I will ever see a more perfect production of either play, nor do I expect that I will see a more perfect performance of Falstaff. In my humble opinion, these productions and that performance set the standard by which all others should be judged.

Overall, the productions are very entertaining, the funniest I have seen yet, and after watching each 3-hour production, I wanted even more!

What I really appreciate about these productions is that as much as Falstaff and Hal are the stars of the plays, there is so much thought and hard work put into each and every character, and each actor's performance.

It is as if the director Dominic Dromgoole and these wildly talented actors wrung every last drop of entertainment out of each character. There are so many funny, or sad, or dramatic moments and they are all brought to life with so much care and effort.

I enjoy seeing Shakespeare on stage, and I always enjoy watching film versions of the plays, but one of the pitfalls of seeing film versions is that they cut so much out, and the make the films vehicles for the stars who play the leading roles. 

But that is not what Shakespeare wrote, and his actors were all stars in their own right, and each of these star actors were given lots of material to work with. To cut any or much of that out, is to gut the play, and take the heart right out of it.

Also, there is so much humor throughout the plays that is hardly ever realized elsewhere. I have seen these plays now 4 times, twice on stage, the Hollow Crown versions, and now these on DVD. 

By far these Globe productions are the fullest and funniest, and most rewarding of them all.

Roger Allam is a national treasure. His Falstaff is a revelation. I have never seen an actor discover as many dimensions in the character as Mr. Allam has. He nails the humour quickly, and his mastery of the language is marvellous. I loved the look he gave to the audience after he spoke the word "pusillanimity." Priceless.

But what surprised me the most was the fact that he found a child-like innocence in the character that I have never seen before. It comes out most prominently when he has Doll Tearsheet on his lap in Part 2.

Also what is remarkable is that his Falstaff never descends into a caricaturish cartoon of the man. He also never lets the character go too much in one direction. He is neither too funny, nor too devious, nor too melancholy, nor too arrogant. 

He seems like a real flesh-and-blood man -- and his behaviour and characteristics are all well balanced. Until the end of Part 2, of course, when he is gut-wrenchingly banished by Prince Hal. That is arguably the worst moment in his life, and it all the more painful to watch since we have come to love Falstaff, despite his misbehavior.

Jamie Parker is marvellous as Prince Hal. He gives a faultless, seemingly perfect performance.

There were times when I was watching him, that his performance slipped out of the theatre and became how I imagine the real historical man must have been like. Mr. Parker makes Hal very real and he also discovers many dimensions to the character.

Perhaps what surprised me the most about his performance is that for the first time I could believe that Prince Hal would hang around Falstaff at all, and really enjoy his company. Usually, it is a given, but here in these productions there is a real rapport and love between them.

But what Mr. Parker also found, that I never sensed before, was a certain self-loathing for having associated with Falstaff. In previous productions, Prince Hal banishes Falstaff for being Falstaff. 

But here, for the first time that I have seen, Hal's banishment comes from his own low self-esteem, for having been so base a man as to spend countless hours in brothels and taverns with such riffraff.

The rest of the cast is excellent, and there are so many fine moments and performances. Trust me, they are all fantastic, and they make the characters come to life in ways that you have probably never seen before.

I hope you order these DVDs and enjoy them as much as I did.


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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Shakespeare's Globe Tempest ON SCREEN

Don't miss the Shakespeare's Globe Theatre's production of The Tempest will be On Screens in cinemas in the UK and the USA very soon.

Here is a link for more information and tickets in the UK:

Here is a link for more information and tickets in the USA:

Starring Roger Allam, who was just brilliant as Falstaff in the Globe's Henry IV, parts 1 and 2 (for which he won the Olivier award for best actor), this is the latest production filmed for cinema and exhibited in the UK, USA and Canada.

Here is a brief video from the play:


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Monday, October 20, 2014

Christopher Moore's Serpent of Venice Shakespeare Mash-Up

I just read a very funny book, which I recommend.

Christopher Moore's The Serpent of Venice is a very funny, bawdy, tongue-planted-firmly-and-permanently-in-cheek mash-up of Shakespeare's Othello, The Merchant of Venice and Edgar Allan Poe's The Cask of Amontillado.

I have often wondered how the boys of Monty Python would lampoon and have fun with Shakespeare. Well, I don't have to wonder anymore. Christopher Moore lives and breathes the madcap Pythonesque air, and just about every page is filled with laugh out loud jokes.

Where else can you find Othello, Desdemona, and Iago in the same story as Shylock, Portia, Bassanio and Antonio?

Don't ask me to explain the plot of the book, but trust me when I say that the (anti-)hero of the story is the unlikeliest character you can imagine, a mischievous, puckish, irreverant fool by the name of Pocket of Dog-Snogging.

What is very ironic is that while Mr. Moore is simply and effortlessly having a laugh with Shakespeare, he actually captures some of the humourous (especially the bawdy humour) spirit of Shakespeare better than most scholars and theatre companies.

For example, I love the fact that he correctly understands that when Shylock wants to cut a pound of Antonio's flesh, Shylock is thinking of a particular part of his anatomy -- found between Antonio's thighs.

He also, which comes a pleasant surprise, understands correctly that Portia is not fair and wise, but actually a brat, and based on her attitude towards the black Prince of Morocco, a racist. 

In my version of Merchant, I discovered that Portia is also a glutton, since her name is from the Latin "porcius" or "porcus" which means "pig."

I recommend this book, especially to anyone out there who likes a good joke. 

If you are easily offended, if salty language upsets you, and you loathe coarse politically incorrect  humor -- then you should definitely read it twice!


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Friday, October 17, 2014

Shakespeare's Globe Taming of the Shrew Review

I just saw Shakespeare's Globe Theatre's production of Taming of the Shrew On Screen.

It was brilliant!

It is one of the very best productions of any Shakespeare play I have ever seen, and you can not miss it.

There are still some dates for it in cinemas in the United States, so please hurry:

Unfortunately it is not being shown in Canada at the moment, nor in the UK, but there are other productions coming soon, like Macbeth, Tempest, and Midsummer:

I am not a professional theatre critic but I would like to share some of my thoughts about this spectacular production.

I have to confess that I am very fond of this play. It was my father's favorite play of Shakespeare's, primarily because of the highly politically incorrect and unconventional nature of the romance between Katherine and Petruchio. Also, it made him laugh and laugh.

Well, this production will have you out of your seat, and rolling on the floor laughing.

I can find no fault in the production. It was funny, and touching, and full of brilliant stage-craft.

Samantha Spiro is a force of nature. The energy she brings to the role is astonishing, and completely unique. Her Katherine is just inspired. But more importantly than playing Katherine as a shrew, she also easily finds how to portray a woman whom Petruchio would really fall in love with, fight with and fight for. 

The moment when she first meets him is incredible. The look on her face is priceless. I'm not spoiling the moment, I just want you to look really closely at her as she sees him -- and her shrewishness implodes, it short circuits.

And when Simon Paisley Day as Petruchio sees her for the first time, his defenses fall, and he exposes himself as perhaps a decent man, buried deep within a scheming opportunist.

I have always considered Petruchio almost impossible to perform right. An actress can get away with performing Katherine as a loud, brash witch, but to play Petruchio is a much harder task. Why put up with her? Why bother?

Well, because he is in love, and to perform the act of falling in love is just about impossible.

But Mr. Day does it. He shows the vulnerability underneath the exterior, and he does it almost effortlessly.

One of the wisest lessons my father ever shared with me is that in order to tame the Shrew, you must first love the Shrew.

Well, Mr. Day acts as if he is smitten with her, and would do anything to win her forever. And for her part, Ms. Spiro acts like a woman worth taming and loving.

The chemistry between Ms. Spiro and Mr. Day is priceless. They were truly born to perform this play together, and every moment is electric and funny.

As much as the story centers on Katherine and Petruchio, I find that when Shakespeare is done very well, there are no stars, every last character is important and given opportunities to shine.

So, as much as I enjoy and applaud Ms. Spiro and Mr. Day, the others in the cast were fantastic, and made the most of their roles.

In fact, without trying to outdo each other, each actor stole the show in turn. It was hilarious how one actor could completely own a moment, and then hand it over to another in order for them to own their moment too, and so on.

I applaud the director, Toby Frow, for this superb production.  Not only did he, in my humble opinion, find probably ever last bit of comedy in the text of the play, but he added to it, and these additional moments of humour are perfect, such as the gag with the bucket.

If you enjoy Shakespeare, you can not miss this production.

If you miss it in the cinemas, you can still buy it online at the Globe shop, here:

Or on Amazon, here:


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Friday, October 10, 2014

Shakespeare's Globe Taming of the Shrew ON SCREEN

Shakespeare's Globe Theatre's production of Taming of the Shrew will be shown in cinemas from Tuesday 14 October in the USA and from Saturday 20 December in Canada.

Don't miss this chance to see this production, with Samantha Spiro as Katherine and Simon Paisley Day as Petruchio.

I've read so much about it, and it sounds very funny. I can't wait to see it myself.

Here is a link for more information and showtimes:

, it is no longer shown in UK cinemas, but there are still Macbeth, Tempest and Midsummer right now. Here's a link for those showtimes:


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Monday, October 6, 2014

Shakespeare's Globe Henry V Review

I went to see Shakespeare's Globe Theatre's production of Henry V On Screen.

It's fantastic!

It's the best production of Henry V I have ever seen, and I doubt it can be surpassed.

It is being shown in cinemas in the United States and Canada, and there are some upcoming dates for Henry V -- so don't miss it!

Here is a link for more information and tickets:

I am not a professional theatre critic, but I would like to share some of my thoughts with you.

Simply put, you will probably never see as satisfying, as funny, as complete a production as this one.

I could be wrong, but it seemed like the production didn't cut anything from the original text -- and yet it still managed to run just under three hours.

By including much of what Shakespeare originally wrote and intended to be performed, the play as a whole comes to life like never before.

What is really missing most from other productions -- even great film versions like Laurence Olivier, Kenneth Branagh, and Tom Hiddleston -- are all the minor characters, and the little moments.

I have seen Henry V three times in film, and 4 times on stage, but this is the first production that allows us to see all the great moments with characters like Fluellen, Pistol, and the French courtiers.

Sam Cox and Brendan O'Hea

In fact, Brendan O'Hea as Fluellen and Sam Cox as Pistol are so funny and they steal so many scenes, that they just about steal the whole show.

There have so many funny moments, and gags that you almost forget that the play is about King Henry's war with France.

I have never particularly found the scene with Princess Katherine learning English words with her maid very funny. Until now. 

It's hilarious, and I really applaud Olivia Ross and Lisa Stevenson for bringing it to life.

Jamie Parker as Henry V is just superb. 

Jamie Parker

He makes a very convincing hero, strong in battle, wise in his handling of the traitors, Scroop, Grey and Cambridge. 

Perhaps my favorite moment is when he reads the record of the dead French and English soldiers. His amazement, his joy, and his sadness was very moving, and revealed an all too human dimension to Henry that most other actors miss.

His later scene with Katherine was the funniest I have ever seen. They found so many funny moments that other versions just never discovered. 

Olivia Ross as Katherine and Lisa Stevenson as Alice

The comedy in the play is just perfect. The director Dominic Dromgoole and the actors obviously have worked very hard to explore the language and the interplay between the characters to deliver such a funny and satisfying entertainment. The play has an enormous energy, and I didn't even notice as three hours flew by.

When I read the play some years ago, it was hard for me to understand the comedy in the play. So, watching this, I was overwhelmed and delighted with how very funny the play can be, and should be.

After all, without the comedy, the drama suffers. Every other version of the play I have seen emphasizes the drama, and cuts out most all of the humour, which is a terrible mistake.

Also, when I read the play, it was clear to me that Shakespeare was not writing a vehicle just for one actor. He was writing for an ensemble of the most talented actors of the time, and he gave them all very significant roles to play. 

In fact, it seems in the text that Henry himself is arguably the least important figure in the play. It is the commoners, like Mistress Quickly, Bardolph, Pistol who are the stars.

Lisa Stevenson as Mistress Quickly and Sam Cox as Pisol

This makes sense, since Shakespeare wrote the play at at time when English soldiers were marching off to war with Ireland. In a way, Shakespeare was trying to inspire his fellow countrymen, and prepare them for whatever wonderful victories they might enjoy, or tragic losses they might suffer.

So, while Shakespeare was trying to write a play to celebrate the history of Henry V, he always had the audience at the front of his mind.

Therefore the members of Shakespeare's audience must have looked a lot like the characters on stage like Nym and Bardolph and Mistress Quickly. He is holding up a mirror to this audience, so they can see themselves in the play, in the war, with a heroic King.

If there is anything wrong with this production, it is that they missed the opportunity to involve the audience more.

For example, there is a good moment when Henry V speaks "Unce more unto the breach, dear friends" to the audience, as if they are his fellow soldiers, his friends. It's a great electric moment, between the actors and the audience.

There needed to be more of those kinds of moments.

Perhaps the greatest missed opportunity for this kind of electric moment is in the French camp the night before the Battle of Agincourt, when the French Dauphin and Orleans, the Constable and others talk about the coming fight.

It is a short scene, and there is even another even shorter scene in the French camp not long after that one.

In this production, these two scenes are well acted. But they seem rather out of place, and a little boring.

But perhaps the reason Shakespeare wrote them was not so the audience could eavesdrop on the French. 

Shakespeare may have written these scenes so the audience could hiss and boo the French -- and perhaps even throw some food at them!

When Lord Rambures says that the Dauphin "longs to eat the English" and the Duke of Orleans says that "We shall each have a hundred Englishmen" the audience in Shakespeare's time would probably have cursed and yelled and nearly cause a riot to get on stage and beat up the actors playing these Frenchmen.

So, if there is one thing missing in this production, it was the opportunity for the French to insult the audience and the audience to insult the French -- which arguably would have been the most electric moment for Shakespeare's audience.

Do yourself a favor and don't miss this production. You can see it on cinema screens, and if you miss that, you can always order the DVD here: 


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