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Shakespeare's pastoral comedy was written and first performed around 1599, and presents some of his familiar motifs: a cross-dressing heroine, a wise-cracking fool, brothers usurping their brothers' power, a journey from the court to the country, and various romantic entanglements. (Summary by Elizabeth Klett)CastOrlando: Arielle LipshawAdam/Hymen: Kevin GreenOliver/Le Beau/First Lord/First Page: ToddTouchstone/Dennis/First Lord/Forester: KristingjCharles/Second Lord/Jaques de Boys: Algy Pug ...
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Shakespeare was passionately interested in the history of Rome, as is evident from plays like Titus Andronicus, Julius Caesar, and Antony and Cleopatra. His tragedy Coriolanus was probably written around 1605-07, and dramatizes the rise and fall of a great Roman general, Caius Martius (later surnamed Coriolanus because of his military victory at Corioli). This play is unusual in that it provides a strong voice for the ordinary citizens of Rome, who begin the play rioting about the high price ...
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This personal anthology is my choice of speeches from Shakespeare that I enjoy reading (that I would like to have had by heart years ago!) and that seem to me to illustrate his unsurpassed use of language. He was a man who seemed to know everything about human nature and as Orson Welles said ‘he speaks to everyone and we all claim him’. I know that it has been said that ‘it is impossible to be a great Shakespearian actor without an idiosyncratic and extraordinary voice’ and this may be so, b ...
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Cymbeline is one of Shakespeare's late romances, which (like The Tempest and The Winter's Tale) combines comedy and tragedy. Imogen, the daughter of King Cymbeline of Britain, angers her father when she marries Posthumus, a worthy but penniless gentleman. The King banishes Posthumus, who goes to Rome, where he falls prey to the machinations of Iachimo, who tries to convince him that Imogen will be unfaithful. Meanwhile, the Queen (Imogen's stepmother) plots against her stepdaughter by trying ...
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Despite its optimistic title, Shakespeare's All's Well That Ends Well has often been considered a "problem play." Ostensibly a comedy, the play also has fairy tale elements, as it focuses on Helena, a virtuous orphan, who loves Bertram, the haughty son of her protectress, the Countess of Rousillon. When Bertram, desperate for adventure, leaves Rousillon to serve in the King's army, Helena pursues him.
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After the turmoil and uncertainty of Henry IV a new era appears to dawn for England with the accession of the eponymous Henry V. In this sunny pageant, the Chorus guides us along Henry's glittering carpet ride of success as the new king completes his transformation from rebellious wastrel to a truly regal potentate. Of course, there is an underlying feeling that the good times won't last, and this is all the more reason to enjoy the Indian summer before the protracted and bitter fall of the ...
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Henry VI, Part 1 is a history play by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written in 1591, and set during the lifetime of King Henry VI of England. Whereas 2 Henry VI deals with the King's inability to quell the bickering of his nobles, and the inevitability of armed conflict, and 3 Henry VI deals with the horrors of that conflict, 1 Henry VI deals with the loss of England's French territories and the political machinations leading up to the Wars of the Roses, as the English political ...
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The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark is a tragedy by William Shakespeare. Set in the Kingdom of Denmark, the play dramatizes the revenge Prince Hamlet exacts on his uncle Claudius for murdering King Hamlet, Claudius's brother and Prince Hamlet's father, and then succeeding to the throne and taking as his wife Gertrude, the old king's widow and Prince Hamlet's mother. The play vividly portrays both true and feigned madness – from overwhelming grief to seething rage – and explores themes o ...
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Antony and Cleopatra is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written sometime between 1603 and 1607. It was first printed in the First Folio of 1623. The plot is based on Thomas North's translation of Plutarch's Life of Marcus Antonius and follows the relationship between Cleopatra and Mark Antony from the time of the Parthian War to Cleopatra's suicide. The major antagonist is Octavius Caesar, one of Antony's fellow triumviri and the future first emperor of Rome. The trag ...
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William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice was probably written between 1596 and 1598, and was printed with the comedies in the First Folio of 1623. Bassanio, an impoverished gentleman, uses the credit of his friend, the merchant Antonio, to borrow money from a wealthy Jew, Shylock. Antonio pledges to pay Shylock a pound of flesh if he defaults on the loan, which Bassanio will use to woo a rich heiress, Portia. A subplot concerns the elopement of Shylock's daughter Jessica with a Christian ...
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This is truly a delightful compilation of some of the best known and loved passages from William Shakespeare's plays. Most readers would be familiar with all or at least some of them. If you've studied Shakespeare in school or college, plays like The Merchant of Venice and Macbeth were probably assigned texts. However, if you haven't encountered these plays before, Shakespeare Monologues is a great volume to browse through and enjoy at leisure. It's important to know that there is a distinct ...
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This is Shakespeare's dutiful tribute to one of the most imposing and terrifying rulers in European history. The kingdom trembles as the giant monarch storms through his midlife crisis, disposing of the faithful Katharine of Aragon and starting a new life and, the king hopes, a line of succession with the captivating young Anne Bullen. Unlike his predecessors, Henry has no doubt about the security of his tenure on the throne, and dominates the royal court with absolute authority. The extent ...
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The Tragedy of King Richard II, by William Shakespeare, is the first of the history series that continues with Parts 1 and 2 of King Henry IV and with The Life of King Henry V. At the beginning of the play, Richard II banishes his cousin Henry Bolingbroke from England. Bolingbroke later returns with an army and the support of some of the nobility, and he deposes Richard. Richard is separated from his beloved Queen, imprisoned, and later murdered. By the end of the play, Bolingbroke has been ...
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In seventeenth century Venice, a wealthy and debauched man discovers that the woman he is infatuated with is secretly married to a Moorish general in the Venetian army. He shares his grief and rage with a lowly ensign in the army who also has reason to hate the general for promoting a younger man above him. The villainous ensign now plots to destroy the noble general in a diabolical scheme of jealousy, paranoia and murder, set against the backdrop of the bloody Turkish-Venetian wars. This ti ...
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Right from its famous opening scene which begins, “Thunder and lightning. Enter Three Witches” The Tragedy of Macbeth by William Shakespeare holds the reader fast in a stirring, monumental experience that plumbs the depths of the human soul and reveals its most morbid secrets. The play is set in medieval Scotland. It is based partly on historical facts and recounts the tale of Macbeth, who was a king in Scotland, according to The Holinshead Chronicles, a book published in 1577. This book was ...
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Sebastian Michael, author of The Sonneteer and several other plays and books, looks at each of William Shakespeare's 154 Sonnets in the originally published sequence, giving detailed explanations and looking out for what the words themselves tell us about the great poet and playwright, about the Fair Youth and the Dark Lady, and about their complex and fascinating relationships. Podcast transcripts, the sonnets, contact details and full info at https://www.sonnetcast.com
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Though it's titled The Tragedy of Julius Caesar, the man himself appears only in five scenes in the entire play! However, such is his impact on the events that surrounded him that he still remains the central figure in this psychological drama that combines politics, honor, assassination, betrayal, the lust for power, patriotism and friendship. Set in 44 BC in ancient Rome, it is one of William Shakespeare's early Tragedies. First thought to have been performed in September 1599, William Sha ...
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Summer nights, romance, music, comedy, pairs of lovers who have yet to confess their feelings to each other, comedy and more than a touch of magic are all woven into one of Shakespeare's most delightful and ethereal creations – A Midsummer Night's Dream. The plot is as light and enchanting as the settings themselves. The Duke of Athens is busy with preparations for his forthcoming wedding to Hippolyta the Amazonian Queen. In the midst of this, Egeus, an Athenian aristocrat marches in, flanke ...
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Considered to be one of Shakespeare's greatest plays, the tragedy King Lear portrays some of the darkest aspects of human nature that can be found in literature. The helplessness of the human condition, as we fall prey to our destinies, the injustice and random cruelties practiced by people, suffering and humiliation, the lust for power and the greed for wealth are all depicted in this magnificent play. And through it all, runs the golden thread of love and sacrifice, daughterly affection an ...
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In a tiny French dukedom, a younger brother usurps his elder brother's throne. Duke Senior is banished to the Forest of Arden along with his faithful retainers, leaving his lovely daughter Rosalind behind to serve as a companion for the usurper's daughter, Celia. However, the outspoken Rosalind soon earns her uncle's wrath and is also condemned to exile. The two cousins decide to flee together and join Duke Senior in the forest. Meanwhile, a young nobleman, Orlando is thrown out of his home ...
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Sonnet 86 is the last of the Rival Poet group of sonnets, and it gives a final reason why William Shakespeare has, as he himself put it in Sonnet 85, become tongue-tied and been unable to express himself adequately in his praise of the young lover. Together with Sonnet 80 it bookends the group-within-a-group consisting of Sonnets 82 to 85 which tog…
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With Sonnet 85, William Shakespeare concludes the group-within-a-group of four sonnets that concern themselves with his own defence against the charge – evidently levied by his young lover – that his poetry is lacking in lavish expressions of praise and that 'imputes', as Shakespeare himself calls it in Sonnet 83, his silence, or, as it should more…
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With Sonnet 84, William Shakespeare continues and underpins his defence of himself against the charge, referenced explicitly in Sonnet 83, that he has failed to present his young lover with sufficiently effusive praise and instead remained silent about his unparalleled qualities: not only is it the case – as he told the young man there – that you d…
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Sonnet 83 picks up on the notion, introduced in Sonnet 82, of a 'gross painting' in words that other poets make of the young man with the 'strained touches' that rhetoric can lend them, in stark contrast to Shakespeare's own 'plain true words'. But rather than forming a contained pair with Sonnet 82, it spins the argument further, now giving his re…
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With Sonnet 82, William Shakespeare resumes his discussion with the young man of his own status as a poet in the young man's life, attempting a conciliatory, even sympathetic tone which purports to encourage his lover to by all means have a look at other people's writing too, but draws the clearest distinction yet in this group between the authenti…
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Sonnet 81, although it appears right in the middle of the Rival Poet group of sonnets, does not concern itself with any poet other than Shakespeare at all, and so it either marks a detour deliberately taken by Shakespeare from his preoccupation with his rival, or it presents an instance in which a sonnet has in fact slipped from its position and be…
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With his amazingly brazen Sonnet 80, William Shakespeare metaphorically pushes the boat out in more sense than one and comes close to mocking not only his rival, but also – albeit gently – his young lover whom he insinuates being drawn to this other writer not only by his compelling poetry but by a prowess of an altogether more physical nature too.…
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With Sonnet 79, William Shakespeare continues his lament, begun with Sonnet 78, that he no longer enjoys the exclusive privilege of writing poetry to and for his young lover, constructing an – objectively speaking fairly tenuous – argument why the young man should not be overly grateful to this Rival Poet for his efforts. With a transactional tone …
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Sonnet 78 is the first in a group of nine sonnets that concern themselves almost entirely with the apparent arrival on the scene of someone else who is now writing poetry for Shakespeare's young lover, vying for his attention and possibly obtaining his patronage, which is why these poems are collectively known as the Rival Poet Sonnets. Strictly sp…
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This special episode summarises what we have learnt so far from the first 77 sonnets by William Shakespeare. It recaps the principal pointers that allow us to put together a profile of the young man they were written for or about and outlines the phases of his relationship with our poet, and it also dismantles some of the misconceptions that are so…
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The curiously didactic Sonnet 77 marks the halfway point of the collection of 154 sonnets contained in the 1609 Quarto Edition and it stands out for several reasons. What most immediately catches the eye is that it seems to be written into or so as to accompany a book of empty pages for its recipient to collect their thoughts and notes in a book of…
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The deceptively unsensational Sonnet 76 asks a simple question and provides to this a straightforward enough answer that will hardly come as a surprise: how is it that I write one sonnet after another and they all sound the same? Because "I always write of you." With this one declaration it settles a debate that – in view of its very existence baff…
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Sonnet 75 marks a moment of comparative calm in the turbulent relationship between William Shakespeare and his young lover. With its sober assessment of a continuously conflicted world of emotions that oscillate between abundant joy at being allowed to bask in the presence of the young man and utter dejection at missing him when he is absent, the s…
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Sonnet 74 continues the argument from Sonnet 73, and now reflects on what will happen when I, the poet, William Shakespeare, am dead. My body will be buried and return to earth, but my spirit will live on in this poetry that I write for you, the young man, which is why the loss you experience at my death will be insignificant: it only entails my pa…
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Sonnet 73 is the first in a second pair of poems to meditate on the poet's age and mortality and to reflect on the point of his very existence. But while Sonnets 71 & 72 focus on Shakespeare's reputation, which he perceives as poor and which he fears might also tarnish the young man were he to show his love and mourning for Shakespeare after his de…
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Sonnet 72 picks up on Sonnet 71 and explains why the supposedly 'wise' world would look down on the young man for having loved or for still loving Shakespeare after his death and why he should therefore forget him and allow the poet's name to pass into oblivion, along with his decomposing body in the grave. The sonnet reinforces and intensifies the…
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Sonnet 71 is the first in a pair of poems which purport to urge the young man to forget the author after his death so as to spare him – the young man – any embarrassment or indeed mockery that having loved or still caring for the then deceased poet might cause him. Both sonnets, but Sonnet 71 in particular, strike an ironic tone, which nevertheless…
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With Sonnet 70, William Shakespeare once more performs the poetic equivalent of a handbrake turn and swivels what we thought we could understand from Sonnet 69 around 180 degrees to race headlong in the opposite direction. The charge levied against his young lover – that with his conduct he has been allowing himself to become 'common' and thus acqu…
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Taken on its own, Sonnet 69 presents a devastating indictment of William Shakespeare's young lover. Its uncompromising juxtaposition of the young man's universally acknowledged beauty against his reputedly flawed character would be enough to put into question whether Shakespeare can still feel at all devoted to him: by itself, the poem is nothing s…
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Sonnet 68 continues the argument from Sonnet 67 and shifts the focus of Shakespeare's opprobrium from the fashion for heavy make-up to that for wearing wigs, a practice by him equally abhorred. Unlike Sonnet 67, Sonnet 68 seems to be virtually devoid of any puns or double meanings that would resonate with us, and so although these two sonnets come …
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Sonnet 67 picks up on the deeply dissatisfied mood of Sonnet 66 and develops the theme of a world that has lost its way right through Sonnet 68. On the surface, Sonnets 67 & 68 concern themselves entirely with the then new fashion – much scorned by Shakespeare – for heavy make-up and big wigs and their wearers' futile endeavours to endow themselves…
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