He promis’d her marriage…


It was this time of year (and this approximate date) that Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway.

Not this one, obviously. There aren't any verified pictures of Shakespeare's Anne...

Not this one, obviously. There aren’t any verified pictures of Shakespeare’s Anne…

Like everything else connected to Shakespeare, the documentary records are incomplete and a somewhat hazy, and a number of myths and legends have built up around the known events. It’s almost as good as a play! Continue reading


He talks at random II


A new (well, not new exactly…) copy of the First Folio has been found in France! The full story is here. I must admit I was surprised at the number of copies still in existence – and intrigued at the thought of using the marginalia to stage a performance of Henry IV…

A miracle in nature


I went to see the Play that Goes Wrong last night, which was brilliant, but got me to thinking about how much it owed to the long tradition of theatre. So much of its humour relies upon its audience knowing what should happen, so that we would find it funny when things didn’t go as expected.

And this is a completely different situation from the one in which Shakespeare found himself. Although there had been some tradition of dramatics (the Mystery Plays were certainly around in the 1300s), the first theatre was only built in London in 1576 – less than 20 years before Shakespeare started writing. His work was basically cutting-edge.

And how different the world would have been, if Shakespeare had been born a hundred years earlier, or a hundred years later. Would there have been someone else to carve out his place as the national poet “not of an age, but for all time”?

O, let me teach you how to knit again


If you know me, you’ll know I like to knit*. Knitting is awesome – you can make something three-dimensional, shaped, and stretchy in two perpendicular planes using just yarn and some sticks. It’s been around for ages, developing from Roman/Egyptian techniques for making socks, and because it is relatively straightforward to learn (and requires little in the way of equipment) it was a popular activity. All of which meant that by Shakespeare’s time, the activity – and the language- were already in common usage.

Continue reading

Take it to the fire


Since my local display is currently prevent me from catching up with Doctor Who*, I thought you might like to know that Shakespeare only mentions fireworks twice in his entire oeuvre – once in Henry VIII “those remnants of fool and feather that they got in France with all their honourable points of ignorance pertaining thereunto- as fights and fireworks” and once in Love’s Labours Lost “the King would have me present the Princess, sweet chuck, with some delightful ostentation, or show, or pageant, or antic, or firework”.

There’s a touching glance to the power of fireworks in Romeo and Juliet “These violent delights have violent ends and in their triumph die, like fire and powder, which, as they kiss, consume.”

This is perhaps a surprising omission given fireworks had been around for at least 100 years (they were definitely used at the wedding of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York), and that Elizabeth I apparently created the position of “Fire Master of England.” Not to mention that the Gunpowder Plot actually happened while Shakespeare was still living in London!

I’m several episodes behind. No spoilers please!