anonymous asked:

Hi there! This might sound a little silly but you sound very well informed on the matter I was just wondering what your opinion was on the easiest and best ways to experience Shakespeare's plays? I dont really have access to theatre productions and stuff but I'm interested and I wondered for example about whether there are any tv shows/movies online that present it well and stay very true to the originals? Or would reading the scripts be best?


This is not silly at all, and actually accessible shakespeare is something very important to me, so I’ll do my best to give you some options.

For the sake of simplicity, I’m going to assume you’re comfortable with torrenting things because that is the absolute easiest way for me to handle this, but if you’re not – send me a message off anon and I can upload things to google drive or find some other good way of getting you anything you can’t find streaming for free online and don’t feel like/aren’t able to buy.

First I’d like to start by saying: there’s no wrong way to enjoy Shakespeare. If Baz Lurhmann's Romeo and Juliet is the best thing you’ve ever seen, or if you adore Kenneth Branagh, or if The Lion King is your favorite adaptation of Hamlet, there’s no “right” Shakespeare. Some people prefer 100% faithful productions, but for some people, three hours of Kenneth Branagh reciting every line the bard penned for Hamlet is exhausting, boring, or impossible. And there’s nothing wrong with that! The most important thing about Shakespeare is to enjoy him, whether that means reading the plays in the middle of the night with 8 colored highlighters, or watching Heath Ledger dance down the bleachers in 10 Things I Hate About You (better known to Shakespeare as The Taming of the Shrew). That being said, here is my as-comprehensive-as-possible-for-a-blogger-who-just-woke-up guide to Shakespeare.

Watch it:

Shakespeare is, above all, meant to be watched. I wrote a whole paper about the importance of physical action in Shakespeare, and I firmly believe as a dramatic artist that it is necessary to watch Shakespeare. So, here are some options for watching him.

  • Kenneth Branagh is not my cup of tea, but you can’t deny that the man understands Shakespeare. He has made films of quite a hefty percentage of Shakespeare’s well known plays, and most people adore them. I’ve heard especially good things about his Othello and his Much Ado About Nothing, and anything with his name attached should be a piece of cake to find steaming online, whether for free or on Amazon instant video if you feel like shelling out a few dollars. His Hamlet is done with a completely unabridged text, and I expect many of this others are too. 
  • The BBC has some amazing films of Shakespeare plays that they’ve released, especially recently, and all of these are of incredible quality and handle the script really well. In fact, their Hamlet (with David Tennant in the title role) is one of my favorite productions of Hamlet ever. Just last year they released The Hollow Crown, which was the biggest of Shakespeare’s history plays (Richard II, Henry IV parts 1 and 2, and Henry V) with great great actors like Ben Whishaw, Jeremy Irons, Tom Hiddleston, Patrick Stewart, Michelle Dockery, and Rory Kinnear. These, too, are pretty easy to find online, and are stunning. The BBC also did a series awhile back called Shakespeare Re-Told with some fairly outrageous but fun looking modern adaptations of Shakespeare plays, and while I can’t attest to the quality of these as I’ve never seen them, the casting looks great (Billie Piper, James McAvoy, and Imelda Staunton among them) 
  • A number of bigger theatres will actually film and release their productions. The National Theatre in London has a program called NTLive, where they release filmed productions of some of their plays. I saw their Othello when I was in London with Rory Kinnear as Iago and enjoyed it. If you look around, I’m sure you can find a handful of other one’s they’ve done (as well as some great non-Shakespeare productions)

Watch adaptations:

Even when the stories don’t include the bard’s on words, watching modern adaptations is a great way to get the story without the fuss of the seemingly-unapproachable Early Modern English that Shakespeare writes in. There are a ton of these, but some personal favorites are

  • 10 Things I Hate About You, or, The Taming of the Shrew in high school with Heath Ledger and baby Joseph Gordon-Levitt 
  • She’s the Man, or, Amanda Bynes stars in Twelfth Night and also shoves a tampon up her nose
  • The Lion King, or, Hamlet with impossibly hot animated lions
  • West Side Story, or, Romeo and Juliet plus 1950s gangs and race relations

Listen to it:

One of the best decisions I ever made was to download a torrent of The Complete Arkangel Shakespeare. It’s a huge huge file and it took my computer almost a week to do it, but that’s fully dramatized unabridged audio recordings of 38 Shakespeare plays. Which is, really, pretty incredible. Each play is fully cast from a pool of actors shared across plays, and it’s basically the complete auditory experience of going to a Shakespeare play, just minus the visual. As sometimes Shakespeare’s language can be dense, hearing actors who really understand what they’re saying handle the language makes it much much easier to know what they’re saying. I find it helpful to listen to the plays as I read them, adding an extra layer of both comprehension and entertainment. And David Tennant plays Mercutio! 

Read them: 

There’s nothing wrong with reading Shakespeare. It shouldn’t be your stopping point – you shouldn’t read them and, upon hating them, decide you hate Shakespeare. Shakespeare wouldn’t have wanted it that way. But, if you enjoy reading them? Read all of them! It’s by far the most accessible way of tackling Shakespeare, as they’re all public domain and thus free online, and there are half a dozen published copies with good footnotes that will help you slog through some of the language. I love the Folger’s Shakespeare Library editions of the text for their notes and critical material, but you can also get a plain old copy of the text free online with just a simple google search (project Gutenberg, I think, has all of the, though I tend to get mine here

See them:

I know you said you don’t have access to theatre productions, and obviously I’m not going to tell you to fly yourself to the Globe and see them anyway, but what I will say is: keep an eye out. Colleges and Universities do Shakespeare a lot and even if it’s not an incredible production, the experience of seeing Shakespeare live is unbeatable. Shakespeare in the Park-type productions tend to be free or cheap depending on where you are. Check out and see if theaters in your area have student/artist/unemployed discounts on tickets, or if they do discounted preview showings, find small indie or community theaters with cheaper tickets or, if locations is your issue, take every chance you get while traveling to see if there’s an opportunity. I’m not going to act like you can’t truly love Shakespeare if you see him live, because that’s not true, there are a million and one ways to love Shakespeare and each one is as valid and important as the next, but seeing his work live truly is a treat.

Most importantly:

Don’t take him too seriously. There’s plenty of bloodshed and betrayal and tragedy but at the end of the day, Shakespeare wasn’t trying to be a Great and Noble Artist, he was trying to make money by entertaining a crowd. Look up a list of Shakespeare’s 10 best dick jokes and laugh your way through the plays as you read them. Find the joy in the comic relief characters, and don’t be afraid to have fun. 


Shakespeare’s strong-willed women

From the ruthlessness and ambition of Lady Macbeth and Margaret of Anjou to the confidence and wit of Rosalind, Viola and Portia it is often said that Shakespeare gave his best lines to women - and at a time when the roles were actually played by boys.

Dr Chris Laoutaris re-acquaints us with some of these compelling female characters and introduces a few of the powerful women who lived in Shakespeare’s time and could have influenced their creation. Read on


characters like Daddy!

Strike Back (2010) - Between the Sheets (2003) - The Impressionists (2006) - Macbeth (Shakespeare Re-Told - 2005) - Marielloyd - (2007) - Into The Storm (2014)