Dominic Dromgoole served as the artistic director of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre for over a decade, but his most ambitious idea took place outside of the Globe’s confines. For the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth, Dromgoole and the Globe undertook a wildly ambitious endeavor: they undertook a two year, 190,000 mile, 197 country tour traveling production of the Bard’s most acclaimed play, Hamlet. Droomgoole recounts this theatrical odyssey in his brilliant new book, Hamlet: Globe to Globe, available now from Grove Press.

100 Days of Trump Day 99: The History Plays

Welcome Back to 100 Days of Trump where I try to explain WTF happened in 2016 in 100 recommendations and today lets talk William Shakespeare. Also Sargon of Akkad.  Specifically the History Plays, his interpetations of the War of the Roses, which include

Richard II

Henry IV Part 1

Henry IV Part 2

Henry V

Henry VII Part 1, 2 and 3 (aka the weakest plays of the lot)

Richard III

 Actually I’m in this position where I wrote an actual full on paper on the political messages in these plays, so summing it up this briefly is a little difficult, but primarily they plays are about political power and its relationship to language, mostly how language can be used to get people to act against their own interests.  For example you might be familiar with this speech from Henry V

One of the greatest inspirational speeches of all time right? Great war speech?  Sargon of Akkad was praising this as a true sign of english culture in the youtube comments there (You can find me quoting actual Shakespeare at him and pointing out he obviously hasn’t read the plays)  Here is the thing though, if you look at that speech in the context of all the plays you’d realize that…Henry the V is totally bullshitting.  After all, this is a war which the very opening of the play makes a joke about how fucking pointless it is and how illogical the entire justification it is.  I mean listen to the bullshit justification for war here, it makes WMDS in Iraq seem sane. 

   Yes, it being that needlessly confusing is suppose to be a joke.       

     Also literally the first scene in the play are a punch of people saying “hey look, it would be great if we had an invasion to help unify England after a civil war?”  Henry V (Prince Hal to his Friends) is getting a punch of tavern boys and farmers to come to France to die in the mud and the only person who materially benefits is himself, they get glory and honor, but as Falstaff notes in Henry IV part I (which Sargon also hasn’t read) you can’t eat honor. Btw the one guy who says “Never have in the world have there been more loyal nobles than in England” this comes after literally three plays of nobles betraying their kings.  

     The plays are about how we understand our reality through fiction, which in is here personified in language.  Again, Henry V opens with the narrator telling us how the imagined Battle of Aginicourt that Shakespeare is depicting is going to become more famous than the historical battle.  He who masters fiction can make that fiction reality.  If you want to talk Alternate Facts,  Prince Hal makes an Alternate Reality, and unlike Trump, everybody else wants to live in it with him.

  For example, you all know the story of Henry V, the young and foolish Prince Hal who drinks and parties but when he becomes king he becomes the responsible and dutiful king Henry?  Except in his first scene, Hal turns to the audience and says directly to them “I’m faking, I am pretending to be young and foolish but it is just to make my look good later, everything I do is being done for my own benefit, and despite being a totally selfish bastard, everybody who I take advantage of will love me for it.  Including you audience.”  And three plays later when he is making the St. Crispian Day speech, guess what?  Almost everybody in the audience is cheering.  That is the power of language, creating a reality we wish to live in, and then making it reality.  

Richard II is a master of language but his flowery ornate formal speech of the court prevails him nothing when confronted with the sword of Henry IV the usurper.  But when Richard II is forced to abdicate the crown, he makes a speech in which he effectively strips the crown of its power, making it only a hat. 

Henry IV keeps his throne but lacking the mastery of language, he has to fight for it every day of his life.  Later RIchard III can use language to disguise his true twisted nature (Seriously I can and have written whole essays comparing Richard III to Henry V)

Henry V’s ability is to use people’s sentimentality and trap them in a web of word, so that they die for his causes, and…

Look just watch the damn plays, its bloody Shakespeare.  And remember, when a man tells you to obey him out of honor, ask yourself what is Honor anyways?

Also Sargon knows about as much about Shakespeare as he knows about the Akkadian Empire

A rehearsal at Stratford for Othello in 1961, with John Gielgud as Othello, Peggy Ashcroft as Desdemona, Ian Bannen as Iago, and director Franco Zeffirelli. And a description what happened at rehearsals…

“Because Othello’s age is indeterminant, actors can plausible attempt the role well into middle age. John Gielgud was 57 years old when he was persuaded to take the part at Stratford. It was a famous calamity. Gielgud was visually overwhelmed by Zeffirelli’s rich scenery and couldn’t find the part’s strain of bestial horror. The poetry was extraordinary but the animal was not there.

"Peggy Ashcroft, as Desdemona, felt Gielgud wasn’t able to project jealously authentically because it wasn’t in his nature. She gave him a note: ‘You must have felt jealous of someone or something in your life.’ 'Well,’ said Gielgud, 'I did cry once when Larry Olivier had his big success as Hamlet.’” (From “The Spectator.”)

The most unrealistic part of beauty and the beast is when belle is reading shakespeare to beast and she’s sitting down and reading it out in a soft sighing way and beast is like “ahhh so nice” everyone knows that a real lit nerd would read shakespeare by standing on a chair while screaming and crying, where is my scene where belle teaches beast how to read shakespeare but she’s yelling and beast is roaring and she’s like “GATHER STRENGTH FROM THE BUTTOCKS, CLENCH AND FEEL THE RHYTHMS IN YOUR H E A R T YOU HAVE TO SACRIFICE YOUR SOUL TO THE BARD” and beast fucking trashes the room and breaks a chair and she grabs his snarling face like “YES, YES YOU FEEL IT” and all the servants are watching in confusion while they’re screaming verses at each other saying “I guess it’s love??”

Zodiac signs as Shakespeare quotes
  • Aries: Cowards die many times before their deaths, the valiant never taste of death but once.
  • Taurus: Doubt thou the stars are fire, doubt that the sun doth move. Doubt truth to be a liar, but never doubt I love.
  • Gemini: What's in a name? A rose by any name would smell as sweet.
  • Cancer: Talking isn't doing. It is a kind of good deed to say well, and yet words are not deeds.
  • Leo: But if it be a sin to covet honour, I am the most offending soul alive.
  • Virgo: The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.
  • Libra: Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind, and therefore is winged Cupid painted blind.
  • Scorpio: These violent delights have violent ends, and in their triumph die- like fire and powder- which, as they kiss, consume.
  • Sagittarius: Give me my robe, put on my crown, I have immortal longings in me.
  • Capricorn: It is not in the stars to hold our destiny, but in ourselves.
  • Aquarius: The lunatic, the lover, and the poet, are of imagination all compact.
  • Pisces: I love you with so much of my heart, that none is left to protest.