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

Friday, March 25, 2016

Baltimore Shakespeare Factory Winter's Tale in OP


FINALLY we can see a Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale in Original Pronunciation!

The fearless Baltimore Shakespeare Factory is making Shakespeare history again with their second Original Pronunciation play.

What is Original Pronunciation?

Original Pronunciation, or OP, is the real accent Shakespeare and his actors would have spoken the plays back 400 years ago.

It is an Early Modern English accent that sounds like Irish almost, and the Shakespeare plays and movies we are seeing now are spoken with the WRONG accent!

Isn’t that amazing? If Shakespeare came back to life and heard how actors today speak his lines, actors like Kenneth Branagh and Benedict Cumberbatch, he would be very very confused!

Here is a 10 minute video that perfectly explains and demonstrates how OP sounds and why OP is so important:

Last year, the Baltimore Shakespeare Factory peformed and OP version of The Merchant of Venice.

It was the first time in 400 years that Merchant was performed in the right accent. I saw that incredible production and here is my glowing review — here.

Here is a link for tickets:

I hope you can see this rare and incredible production of one of Shakespeare’s most magical plays. The show is only running for 12 performances — running from 1 April to 24 April -- so please don't miss it!


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Monday, March 21, 2016

Shakespeare's Globe The Tempest

I just watched the DVD for Shakespeare’s Globe 2013 production of The Tempest last night.

What a remarkable production!

It is one of my very favorite Shakespeare plays, and this is a very entertaining production. It is definitely the funniest!

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

Director Jeremy Herrin assembled some wonderful actors together and brought the play to life in a fresh new way. His artistic choices as far as music and costume, which have a great rustic and rawness to them, are excellent.

The entire ensemble is great, but I should point out some of the chief roles:

Jessie Buckley, Roger Allam and Joshua James

Roger Allam, to me, is one of Britain’s greatest national treasures, and he is perfect as Prospero. He strikes a wonderful balance between the lonely sorcerer, the stern but loving father, and the man who seeks vengeance upon those who stranded him on this island.

Jessie Buckley and Roger Allam

Jessie Buckley as Miranda is delightful as she grows up way too fast after the shipwreck and falls in love. She also strikes a great balance between naive and young, and smart and good. She is also the most easily excited Miranda I’ve ever seen, and I love the way she leaps into Ferdinand’s arms. Hilarious!

Colin Morgan

Colin Morgan as Ariel is a revelation. He is very strong and athletic, and makes the most of the stage, by climbing, swinging and coming in and out of scene. But he is also very serene and obediant in a way that I have never seen before. And Mr. Morgan has an excellent singing voice.

James Garnon, Sam Cox and Trevor Fox

For Shakespearean comedy, I don’t think there are very many actors who can match Sam Cox as Stephano or Trevor Fox as Trinculo. They are worth their weight in gold, and they steal every moment they are in. I especially love how Mr. Cox strikes poses like when he “meows” to Caliban. He is an absolute master of discovering hidden nuggets of humour in Shakespeare.

But the performance that surprised me the most was James Garnon as Caliban. I pity any actor who plays Caliban. It is a tough role, one of the most challenging in Shakespeare’s plays.

But Mr. Garnon takes on the challenge, and delivers an unforgettable performance. His Caliban is at turns scary, funny, unsettling, endearing, and very very compelling.

It makes you wonder, did Shakespeare write the entire play just for Caliban?

Even if Shakespeare did not, Mr. Garnon plays Caliban as it he is the star of a play all about him.

I found an interesting interview Mr. Garnon did — here.

As a veteran actor at The Globe, he finds that acting on that stage is very different, especially as far as the audience is concerned:

Mr. Garnon “explains that plays at The Globe are a shared game: soliloquies are not asides but a chat with the audience. The work is a two-way conversation from which the actor is continuously learning – each day’s performance affecting the next.”

With all due sincerity, I applaud him and congratulate him on discovering one of the great secrets of Shakespeare’s plays. I have written very often about how Shakespeare did not write soliloquies but rather colloquies, conversations with the audience.

I am so pleased that he is making an effort to bridge the divide between the actors and the audience. 

In all fairness, many of the Globe actors, especially Sam Cox and Trevor Fox, and many more including Mark Rylance, have and do involve the audience in the play. Mr. Garnon is not the only one who understands this. 

But with all due respect, there can be so much more of it, so much more back and forth between the stage and the crowd, than these great actors have attempted before.

I hope you buy this DVD and see this wonderful production for yourself. And while you are at it, there are many more great productions available on DVD in the Globe shop. So I hope you buy some more!

Here is the link to the Globe:


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Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Ralph Fiennes as Richard III

Very exciting news — Ralph Fiennes is going to play Richard III!

He will begin rehearsals in April, and the production will open at the Almeida Theatre this June

Directed by Rupert Goold, the cast also will include Vanessa Redgrave as Queen Margaret — which is a reunion for her and Ralph, since she played Volumnia in his Coriolanus film.

There is so much Shakespeare excitement this year, since it is the 400th anniversary of his death in 1616 — but this is perhaps the most thrilling event of the year.

It is surprising that he has not done the role already, since he has excelled at playing some of the greatest villains, like Coriolanus, Voldemort in Harry Potter, and Amon Goeth in Schindler’s List

as Coriolanus

He is also very well known for his heroic roles, like Prospero, the Count de Almássy in English Patient, and M in the last two James Bond films.

But we have never really seen him do comedy.

I think he has a wonderful opportunity with Richard III. His performance could be groundbreaking, and he could revolutionize how we understand Shakespeare’s great (and misunderstood) villain.

I saw Mark Rylance’s incredible performance as the crookback, and I wrote a review — here.

What was remarkable about his performance was the amount of comedy he brought to the role. It was the funniest Richard III I have ever seen, and the reviews at the time praised him for just how funny he was.

But that production didn’t go far enough. It was not as funny as it could have been. 

There is a great deal of humour in the play that has yet to be fully exploited on stage and screen, and this is the opportunity of a lifetime for an actor as great as Ralph Fiennes.

We misunderstand the play. We think it is a history play and/or a tragedy, played solemnly and soberly. 

Why don't we see it as a comedy? Because we don’t think of how the play was originally performed circa 1593. 

When Shakespeare originally wrote the play, the Richard character was based on the villainous Vice character in the morality plays of the period. 

Other Vice characters in Shakespeare include Edmund in King Lear (who is quite a dark villain), Iago (who is actually quite funny and bawdy) and Falstaff (who is known for his clownishness).

The point is that we have lost touch with the comedy inside this Richard as Vice character. When we see Richard performed today, he is too often a mustache-twirling villain, a straightforward bad guy. He is too much like Edmund in Lear.

What if Richard is more like Falstaff?

What if Richard is more humourous? What if he laughs more?

In today’s popular culture, we have Batman’s nemesis, The Joker. He is a great Vice character — he laughs and kills gleefully. 

We also have Hannibal Lecter, who is funny, ironic and literally and figuratively savours killing people.

What if Shakespeare’s Richard III character is more like them?

When we read the play closely, Richard is far funnier than any other character in the play. 

As he murders them off, and plots his path to seize the throne, the other characters stand around like deer in the headlights, ready to be run over.

For such an accomplished actor like Ralph Fiennes, I hope that he takes a chance and blazes a new trail with this role. It would be a truly historical event.


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Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Simon Russell Beale and Shakespeare

Simon Russell Beale is one of the greatest actors in the history of Shakespeare.

I have read about many of the productions he has done, since I have unfortunately seen too few of his stage performances. Where are the DVDs of his Iago, his Timon?

But what I have seen, including his marvelous and award-winning Falstaff in the Hollow Crown series, is extraordinary.

I found some pictures of his career, and I thought it would be fun to share them with you.

His first stage performance was as Hippolyta in Midsummer, at primary school. Sadly I could not find a picture of that.

But I did find a picture of him as Desdemona in a later school production.

as Desdemona in 1975

as Thersites in Troilus and Cressida, 1990
Royal Shakeseare Company

as Richard III, 1992
Royal Shakespeare Company

as Edgar with David Bradley as Gloucester in King Lear, 1993
Royal Shakespeare Company

as Edgar

as Ariel with Alec MacCowan as Prospero, The Tempest, 1993
Royal Shakespeare Company
As Iago, with David Harewood as Othello, 1998
National Theatre

as Hamlet, 2000
National Theatre

as Malvolio in Twelfth Night, 2003
Donmar Warehouse
as Benedick, with Zoe Wanamaker as Beatrice, in Much Ado, 2007
National Theatre
as Leontes in The Winter's Tale, 2009
Old Vic
as Leontes

as Timon of Athens, 2012
National Theatre

as Falstaff in The Hollow Crown

as Falstaff

as King Lear, 2014
National Theatre
as King Lear

And there is some recent exciting news, that he will return to the stage, and return to the Royal Shakespeare Company for a new production of The Tempest, directed by his longtime collaborator Sam Mendes.

as Prospero in the forthcoming Tempest

He will play Prospero, and from what I have read (article here) it sounds like there will be some 3D special effects.

I hope you enjoy this pictorial celebration of his career in Shakespeare.

I think he was born to perform Shakespeare’s plays. He started on stage with Shakespeare and I hope and fully expect that he will continue to perform the Bard’s plays for many more years to come.

I have often thought about him, and what part I would want him to play in my Shakespeare Solved series.

The one historical figure I would love to see him play is William Cecil, Lord Burghley.

William Cecil

William Cecil is one of the most important men in world history, and his long and close partnership with Queen Elizabeth I is a fascinating story that has never really been told.

Shakespeare based his Polonius character on Cecil. If Shakespeare was a good judge of character, then we should conclude that Cecil was also one of the most villainous men in history.

I think that Simon Russell Beale would be perfect to play this complicated and paradoxical historical figure.


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