Thursday, 28 April 2016

William Shakespeare - For all time

William Shakespeare detail from The Cobbe portrait
Known to be Shakespeare

"He was not of an age, but for all time."

William Shakespeare is a man for all seasons though in truth we barely know the man himself at all. Many of the images purported to be of him are not confirmed, and although we believe that he was born on the 23rd of April and also died on that date 52 years later, this too is only a best guess. It is amazing that so few details exist of a man whose words remain woven deeply within the tapestry of so many of our lives.

The Grafton Portrait,
possibly the young Shakespeare
Ralph Fiennes
how we see The Bard
Shakespeare In Love

We often quote him in our daily language, without even knowing it. Much of the art created to illustrate his characters is familar to us all. Artists continue to illustrate his words and writers to pay homage to his lines with new poems, plays and novels spun from fragments of him.

A best beloved Shakeseare painting
The ethereal Miranda from The Tempest
John William Waterhouse
A Midsummer Night's Dream
Arthur Rackham

Royal Doulton plate
Michael Fassbender and Marion Corillard in a magnificent version of MacBeth

Many are the actors who have graced the stage and screen as one of his players or paid tribute to his time in films about him.

Judi Dench, a magnificent Elizabeth I in Shakespeare In Love

So much has been written about his skill to conjure images with words that I doubt I can add anything to the tributes for him in this 400th anniversary of his death.

* copyright RSC and the BBC

There will be events throughout the year, both large and small to commemorate him and his work, some of which I am lucky enough to be attending. This special celebration, by the Royal Shakespeare Company, conceived and directed by Gregory Doran and hosted by David Tennant and Catherine Tate may remain my favourite. A wonderful cast of players took part, (with a surprise appearance from Prince Charles!) the content was inspiring, the stage imaginative and the costumes magical.

Ralph Fiennes at Shakespeare's house in Straford
* copyright RSC and the BBC

It was lovely to see that in an attempt to bring it to a wider audience than those who could be present at Stratford it was screened at cinemas around the world, shown live on the BBC and it will be available to buy on DVD shortly from the RSC Shop.
Fairy wings, glimmering
* copyright RSC and the BBC

To Be, or Not To Be
Hamlet with Judi Dench, Tim Minchin, Harriet Walker, David Tennant, Paapa Essiedu, Benedict Cumberbatch, Rory Kinnear & Sir Ian Mckellan.
* Photo by Helen Maybanks copyright RSC

It is splendid throughout with scenes from many of Shakespeare's most loved plays including Romeo and Juliet, The Tempest, A Midsummer Night's Dream, As You Like It, Twelth Night, Much Ado About Nothing and,  the Scottish Play. My own favourites are at the end when Dame Helen Mirren, David Tennant, Catherine Tate, Dame Judi Dench and David Suchet speak the parts of Prospero, Puck,  Titania and Oberon and bid us goodnight. Bravo to the whole company!

Dame Helen Mirren as Prospero
dressed all in black against a black starry stage
* copyright RSC and the BBC

Our revels now are ended.
These our actors, As I foretold you,
 were all spirits and
 Are melted into air, into thin air:

 And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp'd towers,
the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples,
 the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve

And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind.

We are such stuff As dreams are made on,
and our little life Is rounded with a sleep.

William Shakespeare From The Tempest, Act 4 Scene 1

David Tennant as Puck
* copyright RSC and the BBC

Enter PUCK.

     Now the hungry lion roars,   
          And the wolf behowls the moon;   
        Whilst the heavy ploughman snores,   
          All with weary task fordon
        Now the wasted brands do glow,   
          Whilst the screech-owl, screeching loud,   
        Puts the wretch that lies in woe   
          In remembrance of a shroud.
        Now it is the time of night           
          That the graves, all gaping wide,   
        Every one lets forth his sprite,   
          In the church-way paths to glide:
        And we fairies, that do run   
          By the triple Hecate’s team,           
        From the presence of the sun,   
          Following darkness like a dream,
    Now are frolic; not a mouse   
        Shall disturb this hallow’d house:
        I am sent with broom before,          
        To sweep the dust behind the door.

A Midsummer-Night’s Dream
 Act V. Scene II.

David Suchet & Judi Dench
Oberon & Titania
* copyright RSC and the BBC

Enter OBERON and TITANIA, with their Train
  Oberon.  Through the house give glimmering light   
          By the dead and drowsy fire;   
        Every elf and fairy sprite           
          Hop as light as bird from brier;   
        And this ditty after me   
        Sing and dance it trippingly.
  Titania.  First, rehearse your song by rote,   
        To each word a warbling note:           
        Hand in hand, with fairy grace,   
        Will we sing, and bless this place.
  Oberon.  Now, until the break of day,   
        Through this house each fairy stray.   
        To the best bride-bed will we,           
        Which by us shall blessed be;   
        And the issue there create   
        Ever shall be fortunate.   
        So shall all the couples three   
        Ever true in loving be;

With this field-dew consecrate,   
        Every fairy take his gait,   
        And each several chamber bless,   
        Through this palace, with sweet peace;           
        Ever shall in safety rest,   
        And the owner of it blest.   
            Trip away;   
            Make no stay;   
        Meet me all by break of day.

[Exeunt OBERON, TITANIA, and Train.

Oberon & Titania and a sea of fairy lights
* copyright RSC and the BBC

David Tennant and cast
* copyright RSC and the BBC

Puck.  If we shadows have offended,   
        Think but this, and all is mended,   
        That you have but slumber’d here   
        While these visions did appear.
        And this weak and idle theme,           
        No more yielding but a dream,   
        Gentles, do not reprehend:   
        If you pardon, we will mend.
        And, as I’m an honest Puck,   
        If we have unearned luck           
        Now to ’scape the serpent’s tongue,   
        We will make amends ere long;   
        Else the Puck a liar call:   
        So, good night unto you all.
        Give me your hands, if we be friends
        And Robin shall restore amends. 



Images marked by a * are copyright of the RSC and the BBC

Watch Again, Until the 23rd of May, you can watch it on the BBC iplayer,  Here:

Read more about the Royal Shakespeare Company, Here:

Read More about this tribute Here:

In the Daily Mail, Here:


  1. I don't believe how far behind I am in reading your posts! I will catch up. Loved your tribute to Shakespeare you even included one of my favorite lines "We are such stuff As dreams are made on" ... star stuff!

  2. It is surprising that we know so little about who Shakespeare actually was and yet most people have heard of him or are aware of his words - he is an enigma.
    I missed the evening on the BBC so will make a point of catching up on iplayer - thanks for the reminder.

  3. I think I have learned more about Shakespeare in the past week or so of reading posts than I ever did in school. It's amazing how little we know about the man responsible for so much that we take for granted linguistically and culturally!

  4. Dearest LeeAnn,
    Hard to believe it is already 400 years ago that he died and yet, he never ever disappeared!
    Personally I find his writings hard to read but they sure left us many things, taken into pieces from his writing, that have special meaning.

  5. Hi LeeAnn, I also thoroughly enjoyed the RSC programme on television. Thoroughly enjoyed this post! Happy week for you. Sharon x

  6. A beautiful tribute to Shakespeare LeeAnn. I can imagine your excitement to be able to take part in the special events being organised. I saw several Shakespeare plays in The Netherlands but, from what I hear, those performed by The Royal Shakespeare company are the best. Have a good time!

    Madelief x

  7. Thank you for this highly interesting post! The pictures, the quotes - all this creates a fine portrait of him. I would have liked to see Cumberbatch! In Germany they play Shakespeare quite often - in traditional or very modern versions. And of course I like Shakespeare's sonnets.

  8. What a cast! Wish this could be available here in San Diego--maybe it is, and I must do some searching. Love this post.

  9. Such a late message from me. What a great post... except that I am green with envy! However, yesterday I was lucky enough to have a chance to see the Shakespeare exhibition at the Library in Eton College- which included the first 4 folios! xx


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