Flourish! A New Tradition is Born! #ShakespeareDay

We have a very small Shakespeare channel on our Slack group at work. Yes, I started it 🙂

This morning I posted, “Happy Shakespeare Day!”

Almost immediately a co-worker responded, “Flourish!”

And I thought, “You know, she probably means the stage direction, like ‘enter with a flourish'” or fanfare.

But then I thought, “Flourish also means thrive, too. That sounds like a wish to me, like ‘May you and your family prosper and be well on this illustrious day!'” And yes I said, “be well and prosper” in deliberate homage to the Vulcan “live long and prosper” because that crossed my mind at the time.

I wrote to her and she laughed, confirming that the stage direction was what she had in mind.

“Too late!” I replied. “New tradition born!” The double meaning makes it perfect for the occasion.

So if you catch me on Twitter today telling people to flourish, you can say you were there when the whole thing began.

UPDATE – Wow, I posted that whole original spelling it “fluorish” instead of “flourish”. I’m annoyed with myself, my spell checker, and my coworker (who spelled it that way originally), all in that order.

Shakespeare Happy Hours

I have been doing whatever I can to get the word out about Rob Myles’ The Show Must Go Online project, where actors gather to perform Shakespeare virtually every week.

What I didn’t realize is that a bunch of people, including some in my own back yard, had the same idea!

Shakespeare Happy Hours comes from the Seven Stages Shakespeare Company which is right down the street from me in New Hampshire. (I’ve seen productions there though I can’t remember which. Hamlet, maybe?)

Seven Stages’ approach is a little different. They’re doing shortened versions – 90 minutes – but they’re doing them more often. Rob’s group goes once a week, while Shakespeare Happy Hours goes three times a week and have already put nine shows up in their archive! I’ve not seen them yet, I literally just discovered their existence today, but hope to check them out.

Streaming Shakespeare

I’m probably the last guy on the block to post links of Shakespeare productions to stream, and I have no excuses. But it’s Shakespeare’s birthday and tradition dictates that we fill the day with content.

https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2020/apr/22/play-on-12-of-the-best-shakespeare-productions-to-stream

I like this list because it’s got a little of everything – some stuff on Amazon Prime, some on YouTube, some BBC and others. It’s no fun when you click through to a list and all you find is stuff on services you’re not subscribed to.

It’s also a good list because it doesn’t just serve up half a dozen different Hamlets. 12 suggestions, and I’d say no repeats but technically Henry V shows up twice as one of the suggestions is actually a trilogy.

I’m hoping that I get a chance to see some of these while they’re still up. In theory I’ve love to say I have all the time in the world to spend my days binge watching Shakespeare, but that’s simply not been the case. I can’t make the family sit through hours of productions, and I can’t disappear from them for hours. The closest I’ve gotten to Shakespeare is getting most of the way through The Crown with my wife. Get it? It’s a Queen Elizabeth joke. Help me, I’m losing my mind.

Sex Education : Romeo & Juliet

I’ve never seen the Netflix show Sex Education. Have no desire to. The most I know about it is that the trailer used to uncomfortably autoplay whenever the kids were around, and eventually my son got so intrigued by it that he got grounded for binge watching it when he wasn’t allowed to.

But then I heard that Season 2 ends with some sort of Romeo and Juliet thing (and, honestly, doesn’t every high school drama eventually involve some sort of Romeo and Juliet thing?) and I thought, I’ll probably have to end up watching that.

Luckily I don’t! The whole Romeo and Juliet thing is available on YouTube. Ready?

It’s pretty awful and I’m glad I didn’t put up with two seasons of a show I wasn’t interested in just to get to this.

It’s like a weird a Darren Nichols (Slings & Arrows) production staged by middle school students who learned what sex is from watching ABC Shondaland dramas. Everybody’s just kind of bumping and grinding on each other like that’s how babies are made.

People say text things, but there’s hardly any Shakespeare content. Benvolio talks to Romeo’s parents. Romeo and Juliet meet. I think Mercutio got some lines? He’s the one that talks about idle brains, right?

I like to be open minded, though. Somebody who has watched the whole show tell me, would it have been better if I had any sort of context for the characters? Romeo is reluctant to be there. The show does get interrupted and there is a “hold my hand” moment that must have been some sort of big deal. And then a dude comes in and shuts down the whole show. From my Shakespeare only seat those things were all negatives, but maybe for someone who saw this as “Sex Education with Shakespeare” rather than the other way around, those things were a highlight to some lengthy story arc?

Guest Post : Shakespeare’s Travels

Scotland – the famous setting for Macbeth

Should you ever decide to embark on a tour of the locations of Shakespeare’s plays you’d find yourself with a long itinerary. The bard’s quill pen roamed the world, from Egypt and Syria to Scotland – this blog has even provided a handy map. Some places, such as England and Italy, were, of course, frequently visited by his imagination. Others, such as Austria (Measure for Measure) and Cyprus (Othello) he only visited once.

Shakespeare shaped these foreign lands to suit his stories. Greece (A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Timon of Athens, The Two Noble Kinsmen, etc.), Wales (Cymbeline, Richard II, Henry IV P1) and Turkey (The Comedy of Errors, Troilus & Cressida, etc.) were made the settings for comedy, tragedy, romance, and history. The world truly was his stage to dress – in fact, most of his plays are set abroad, the Globe Theatre, therefore, becoming an actual microcosm of our globe.

Some locations are famously linked with his plays. Who, after all, would not know that Hamlet is set in Denmark? Other links are, perhaps, a little more obscure. Lebanon featuring in Pericles, for example, or the former Yugoslavia (specifically, the area known as Illyria) in Twelfth Night.

Dubrovnik, once the centre of the Republic of Ragusa in the ancient region of Illyria

Are visitors to Spain’s Basque Country aware that they’re following in the footsteps of the characters in Love’s Labour’s Lost? The location of the French court in All’s Well That Ends Well is a little unclear, but it isn’t hard to imagine Helena and Bertram amidst the grand buildings of Carcassonne. I’m also a fan of the vague Mediterranean setting of The Tempest, which allows me to imagine Prospero roaming Malta, or Menorca, or perhaps Sardinia.

The Great Pyramid of Giza, famous even in Shakespeare’s day

How did Shakespeare know about these far-flung places? As the No Sweat Shakespeare blog once mentioned, even travel between Stratford-Upon-Avon and London was no mean feat. Shakespeare, therefore, didn’t have direct experience of these locations – it was 40 years after Shakespeare’s death when The Grand Tour made foreign travel popular amongst the English elite. Instead he took inspiration from historical texts and other stories (including Italian novellas) – Egypt, for example, has always been well-known to the western world and descriptions of its ancient sites would not have been hard to come by.

The world’s mine oyster, which I with sword will open” – the world isn’t currently our oyster to open, but with Shakespeare’s stages on shores near and distant, perhaps we can, for now, take a little peek and plan for the day when we follow the footsteps of his far-flung characters.

Olly loves to travel and has visited over 80 countries and all 7 continents. He also likes to explore the world through the medium of literature and enjoys matching famous locations with the places he’s been to. Olly runs travel planning blog APlanToGo.com, on which you can download free, highly detailed itineraries for destinations across the globe.