The Birth of Elizabethan Theater: Simon Shama’s Shakespeare BBC 2

With the Olympic games ramping up in London, the Brits are also promoting their cultural achievements; including William Shakespeare. The RSC is producing the World Shakespeare Festival. As part of the festival, the Globe is staging 37 of Shakespeare’s plays performed by theatre companies from around the world, in just six weeks. And BBC 2 is running a series called “Simon Schama’s Shakespeare,” which is quite good.

Schama argues that it is impossible to understand how Shakespeare came to belong ‘to all time’ without understanding just how much he was of his time. The series does a good job of placing the author — whoever it might be — within the historical context of England’s transformation from a Medieval to Renaissance state. The most recent episode ( see link below) focuses on the birth of Elizabethan theater amidst the tempestuous years, 1580 – 1600.

In 1564, the year traditionalists  claim Shakespeare was born, London did not have a single theater. In fact no public theater had existed anywhere in Europe since the days of the Roman Empire. Yet a mere thirty years later London could boast numerous public theaters with attendance over 50,000 people a week.  The forces that brought about this surge not only in public theater but also in the human imagination are a big part of the story surrounding authorship.  The more we know about the flowering of Elizabethan theatre, the more able we are to understand the mysteries of the Bard.

You can find out more about the BBC 2 Series at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00qqm7l
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I Am Shakespeare

Nick Hern Publishers has just released a new book from Mark Rylance , entitled “I Am Shakespeare.” Mark is a two-time Tony Award winner, a former Artistic Director of the Globe Theater, and the Head of the Shakespeare Authorship Trust.

Per the publisher, the book is:

A fascinating, witty and characteristically exuberant dramatic exploration of the Shakespeare authorship debate.

Is it possible that the son of an illiterate tradesman, from a small market town in Warwickshire, could have written the greatest dramatic works the world has ever seen? It’s a question that has puzzled scholars, theatre practitioners and theatregoers for many years. The philosopher, Francis Bacon; the Earl of Oxford, Edward de Vere; and Mary Sidney, Countess of Pembroke: all of them have been put forward as the real author of the plays. But why would they hide behind an anonymous actor? Who was the real Bard of Stratford? Why should we care?

Mark Rylance is one of a number of leading actors who seriously question the idea that William Shakespeare was the man behind the thirty-seven plays that have moved, inspired and amazed generations.

First performed at Chichester Festival Theatre in 2007, Rylance’s provocative play introduces us to four candidates and their respective claims – whilst asking fundamental questions about what makes a genius, and why it all matters anyway.

You can purchase a copy directly from the publisher’s website at Nick Hern Books.

Archeologists Unearth Pre-Globe Theater

The remains of the Curtain Theater have been stumbled upon during a regeneration project of office nearby the site of the Globe theater.

Archaeologists in London have discovered the remains of an early playhouse used by William Shakespeare’s company where Romeo and Juliet and Henry V were first performed.

For more information, see the link at the Independent UK.