Shakespeare in our society

Since it was the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death on Saturday, I thought it might be appropriate to write a little thing about him to commemorate his work.

I love Shakespeare, as a pioneer and founder of British Theatre. A playwright who has influenced countless generations of practitioners. His work still stands strong in today’s society. I thought I would work through my experience of Shakespeare, and his work in theatre. The first interaction I had with Shakespeare, was my end of primary school production, my teacher wrote a musical, based around Shakespeare’s Macbeth. It was set during one of the final live shows of the X-factor, and it was 80s night, so all the music was from the 80s, I played the equivalent of Lady Macbeth, a pushy mother of the main contestant of the show. It sounds better than it actually was, and that is saying something, because it sounds terrible.  It’s funny that now, Lady Macbeth is one of my dream roles, when I played her 7 or so years ago. I then went on to study ‘The Tempest’ in my first year of secondary school, then ‘Romeo and Juliet’ and ‘Macbeth’ again, in my third and fourth year. In those two years, I also performed in the Shakespeare schools festival in ‘Midsummer Night’s dream’ and ‘The Winter’s tale’. The most vivid things I can recall from those past five plays of his, is that I hated Romeo and Juliet, and still think it is one of his worst plays, despite it being one of the more famous ones. I love the others though. Macbeth is still one of my favourite plays of his, along with Hamlet, which I saw in August last year. Now Hamlet, for me is my favourite tragedy of his. I love the characters, and the story, but the thing that stands out for me, more than his others plays his the language. The metaphors and imagery provided in the piece is so vivid and beautiful. Throughout all his work, the writing is iconic. And something must be said for his insults, which is a work of genius, exhibit a: Villian, I have done thy Mother, and exhibit b: Away, you starvelling, you elf-skin, you dried neat’s-tongue, bull’s-pizzle, you stock-fish! His work is full of sass and is just brilliant.  And then there is the more recent stuff that I have done recently, helping out with Macbeth and Midsummer Night’s dream,  my audition pieces and playing ‘Beatrice’ in Much Ado About Nothing. Every piece I have seen or been a part of, has influenced me as a practitioner, and as a person. I have chosen to go study Drama at Queen Mary, because the head of Drama there, is renowned for her work in Shakespeare, and I cannot wait to go study under her guidance.

Bu, I don’t want to talk about myself for 500 words or so. I wanted to explore his work throughout contemporary theatre, however that will be near impossible. Shakespeare is seen in almost all aspects of theatre and our society. Take for example, King Charles III, not my favourite play, however you can see Shakespeare’s influence embedded throughout the piece, or if you walk down the royal mile during peak season you can see wide assortment of different Shakespeare or Shakespeare related pieces, one notable one that has just transferred to the west end is ‘Shit-faced Shakespeare’. His work is surprisingly relevant, when it is staged the right way. And is iconic, in almost every sense. When people think of theatre, and British theatre, usually the first thing they think of his Shakespeare. And it’s not just plays Shakespeare has inspired, if you look at the lyrics to ‘Take a break’ from Hamilton:

Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
I trust you’ll understand the reference to
Another Scottish tragedy without my having to name the play
They think me Macbeth, and ambition is my folly
I’m a polymath, a pain in the ass, a massive pain
Madison is Banquo, Jefferson’s Macduff
And Birnam Wood is Congress on its way to Dunsinane

You can clearly see how Shakespeare’s ideas have been woven throughout this piece, and all theatre really, and society. And his words have been an inspiration to people everywhere, especially aspiring theatre practitioners. One of my favourite quotes, from Hamlet,  which I have on my favourite mug remind me to keep going.

‘We know not what we are, but we know what we may be’

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