Robert Viking O'Brien on Shakespeare, Movies, and Books
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Design for a Post-Apocalyptic Shakespeare Theater
In the post-apocalyptic world of Emily St. John Mandel's Station Eleven, a Shakespeare troupe wanders around Lake Michigan. If they were wandering northern California instead, they could stop in Oakland and use shipping containers to set up a permanent theater.
Here's a video about the perfect design, by Angus Vail:
For a description of the project, click here. For a TED talk by Vail, click here.
Though Hamlet's "To be or not to be" speech is his fourth soliloquy, many websites call it his third. They're skipping the twenty-line speech that follows his interview with the Ghost, which in my view is a particularly bad mistake since Hamlet's monomaniacal vow there is at the heart of his tragedy.
The internet's cosmic sinkhole of misinformation will never be filled, but it's worth throwing some dirt in when we can, so here's an accurate list of Hamlet's soliloquies, with a short description of where they occur and what they say, along with a few observations.
The recent discovery of what may be Britain's largest Neolithic monument made me think about how strange it is that Shakespeare never mentions Stonehenge. After all, the place is near his hometown, and we know that he read Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae, which includes a description of how Merlin set up the stones as a monument to fallen Celtic warriors (157-160). We might expect Shakespeare to allude to that story somewhere in Cymbeline or King Lear since Geoffrey is his main source for both plays.
The idea that Celtic Britons, instead of people who lived thousands of years earlier, built Stonehenge has persisted. Many people still think, in the words of Spinal Tap, that the monument was built by "a strange race of people, the Druids" (and other Celts).
This was the educated view at the beginning of the nineteenth century, when William Charles Macready used a Stonehenge-inspired set for his groundbreaking King Lear (St. Clare Byrne 189). Others di…
Directors usually handle Shakespearean soliloquies in three ways: (1) they have actors speak directly to the audience, as they would have on the Elizabethan stage; (2) they have actors speak to the air, as if yammering on cellphones; or (3) they use a voice-over, as if we were wire-tapping the characters' brains. Each strategy has its advantages. Speaking directly to the audience works well for villains, who share their nasty schemes, preparing us to watch with horror as they dupe unknowing victims. The technique also allows for dark comedy: for example, Ian McKellan's Richard III and Harry J. Lennix's Aaron (in Julie Taymor's Titus) act as satanic stand-up comedians, terrifying us and making us laugh with the same speech. Having actors talk to themselves produces a different effect, allowing us to pretend we're hearing a character's inward thoughts. This works in both comedies and tragedies. In a comedy, we laugh—or chuckle inwardly—when we hear Emma Thompson'…