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Shakespeare the Conservative?

Writing at Salon, Colin MacDonald urges us to dispense with the “myth” of the conservative Shakespeare, the Shakespeare who endorsed the divine right of kings and genuflected to his royal patrons. To MacDonald, a poet who has Lear say, “Unaccommodated man is no more but such a poor, bare, . . . . Continue Reading »

Shakespeare, Four Centuries On

This Saturday, April 23rd, marks an important anniversary: four hundred years since the death of William Shakespeare. Or, at least, four centuries on from the traditional date of Shakespeare's death, dated backwards from his funeral on April 25th, 1616. Similarly, Shakespeare's birthday is not . . . . Continue Reading »

To Render the Deeds of Mercy

A version of the following talk was given at the Shelbourne Easter Seminar on March 29, 2015. Shakespeare had a Catholic imagination. He loved to write about monastic and religious characters; he had a keen sense of sacramentality in symbol; and his work seemed to reflect the themes of Catholic . . . . Continue Reading »

Shakespeare Through Anecdotes

Did you hear the one where . . . ?

Paul Menzer has heard it. He’s heard the one with the drunk Richard III, the one with the fat Ghost of Hamlet’s Father stuck in the trapdoor, the one with the father–daughter pair playing Romeo and ­Juliet, the one where Othello’s makeup rubs off on Desdemona’s face to give her a beard. In fact, he’s probably heard several variations on any given Shakespearean anecdote, a handful verifiable, but most patently recycled, exaggerated, or apocryphal—yet in a different sense, in Menzer’s paradoxical view, no less true. Continue Reading »

Hamlet the Confessor

Two millennia ago, a Jewish rabbi declared that he had the authority to forgive sins or “send away mistakes” and transferred that authority to his closest followers. An early follower, Tertullian, called the action of repentance and forgiveness a “plank” for a “shipwrecked man.” The . . . . Continue Reading »

Falstaff the Prophet

His face boasts a geological set of wrinkles, which fold seismically with each witticism or bold-faced lie he speaks. His body is impossible, too fat for any man to still be alive, yet there he is. Somehow both old as the hills and joyful as the sun, his greatest lie is the one he seems (almost) to . . . . Continue Reading »

Brush Up Your Shakespeare

Last year I posted in this space a reading plan of my own devising for working through all of Shakespeare's works. I made some work for myself when I created this plan, because I settled on reading plays Monday through Friday, and sonnets and other poems on weekends. Thus it needs annual . . . . Continue Reading »

Keep It Shakespeare, Stupid

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival is launching a three-year project to commission 36 pairs of playwrights and dramaturges to translate the works of Shakespeare into English. Yes, English. John McWhorter in the Wall Street Journal expresses support for this plan, saying, “Much of Shakespeare goes . . . . Continue Reading »

Weird Lessons from Macbeth

Justin Kurzel’s new film adaptation of Macbeth benefits from gorgeous cinematography and a highly effective—even overpowering—soundtrack. The scenery and costumes are luscious without seeming showy, and the whole production moves along at a neat clip, clocking in at just over one hundred . . . . Continue Reading »

The Bard's Religion

A Will to Believe: Shakespeare and Religion  by david scott kastan oxford university press, 155 pages, $40.00If Zeno were to write Shakespeare criticism, he might sound a little like David Scott Kastan. The George M. Bodman Professor of English at Yale University’s meticulous, short book on . . . . Continue Reading »

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