400 Years After Shakespeare’s Death

The Cobbe Portrait, William Shakespeare

On April 23rd, 1616, it is believed that William Shakespeare passed away. While we don’t have records of his death, we do have records of his funeral which occurred two days later on April 25th, 1616.

At the age of 52, Shakespeare left behind a body of work that has captivated pop culture and has been the favored subject of academia (think of your high school literature classes) for the past 400 years. Shakespeare’s works have lead to an unparalleled phenomenon across cultures and well past his time.

This blog has continually looked for Shakespeare from searching for Shakespeare in bookstores in Taipei, Taiwan to visiting a bookstore with his namesake in Berkeley, California. Speaking of books, we’ve reviewed the Star Wars Shakespeare-style books, have shared our own stories about Shakespeare, and have made so many freaking posts about Shakespeare loot it’s kinda ridiculous. (more…)

Summer is the time of Free Shakespeare Plays in Los Angeles

I’m lucky to live close to L.A. because, in the summer, Los Angeles is filled with things to do. For one, we have The Last Bookstore, which is just plain awesome and filled with catacombs of used dollar books.

There are also tons of lectures, literary events, book signings, and poetry readings to attend as well.

But my most favorite thing to do in the summer is to attend the free Shakespeare plays put on by the Independent Shakespeare Company as well as Shakespeare by the Sea.

This summer both companies are putting on two Shakespeare plays – one tragedy, and one comedy, each.

Photo by Mike Ditz from the Independent Shakespeare Company website.
The Independent Shakespeare Company is putting on Romeo & Juliet June 25th through July 26th in Griffith Park. This is the classic tale of two adolescents whose forbidden love spins out of control and ends with a double suicide. The Independent Shakespeare Company makes this production their own by adding a little Sid and Nancy twist – this tale is set in the modern world of punk rock. So if you’re a fan of Shakespeare, and/or a fan of punk, this show should blow your socks off.

Literary Paraphernalia: All Things Shakespeare

This month we’ve done lots of Literary Paraphernalia posts featuring Shakespeare-related goods. This Friday we’re continuing that trend with a pretty cool collection of awesome things from Etsy.Com – from bags to tea to, well, there’s a hamster in there too. I’m not really sure what to classify that hamster as, except really damn adorable.

Shakespearean Insult Mosaic

You never know when you’ll need a handy-dandy Shakespearean insult at your disposal, and this mosaic is here to help you remember them.

William Shakespeare Cookie Cutter

What better way to show your adoration for Shakespeare than to eat his face in the form of a cookie?

Shakespeare Pillow

I think this item is supposed to be for children, but I would totally cuddle with it still.

Hamlet Hamster

I can’t think of one damn functional purpose for this thing, except that it’s ultra adorable and that I want one for my desk.


Story Shots: Shakespeare


Today, in 1616, William Shakespeare, beloved playwright and poet, passed away. For the past 399 years, Shakespeare has continued to live through his work. An author, you see, can die twice. Once is his or her actual, physical death, and the second death is when no one reads nor remembers your work any longer. While Shakespeare has died once, he has yet to experience this second death. This blog isn’t about Shakespeare’s death, but rather is about his continued life through his works.

Sonnet 74

But be contented when that fell arrest
Without all bail shall carry me away,
My life hath in this line some interest,
Which for memorial still with thee shall stay.
When thou reviewest this, thou dost review
The very part was consecrate to thee:
The earth can have but earth, which is his due;
My spirit is thine, the better part of me:
So then thou hast but lost the dregs of life,
The prey of worms, my body being dead;
The coward conquest of a wretch’s knife,
Too base of thee to be remembered.
The worth of that is that which it contains,
And that is this, and this with thee remains.

– William Shakespeare

I am a rumor – a story. I just happen to be true.

I started one day in a Shakespeare course at Cal Poly Pomona.

They were paired up – the brightest and most talkative girl in the class – big in size and personality. And he was the handsome, fit, and quiet boy – quiet because he slept through most of the class.

He had all of the lines, literally. He was Henry V and she was Catherine – his French speaking princess. Only, she didn’t speak French. But Catherine did in eight lines of the scene they were assigned.

Henry V had issues remembering his long-winded speeches. It might have been because they were so long. It was most likely because he had put off practicing them until the day of the scene.

Catherine had issues remembering how to say things in French. She tried to write the lines down on her hand, but she realized she also had issues reading French. French, overall, was the issue for the princess of France.

Henry V and Catherine, while never having practiced the scene completely through together, did have one agreement though – they would end their production of Henry V right before Henry’s line “Catherine, you have witchcraft in your lips.”

Catherine was happy with that plan. Henry V had a surprise.

This is where the rumor was born. This was how I was made.

Henry V pulled the teacher aside before class and begged to use his copy of Shakespeare’s play to remember his words.

Catherine declined and tried to read her horribly scribbled French lines off of her hand.

Henry V and Catherine both forgot about Catherine’s maid, Alice. An Alice was pulled out of the audience and stuck into the scene.

Alice didn’t know her words either nor any of the staging. She assumed there would be staging. Henry V and Catherine never really got that far.

Alice was standing between Catherine and Henry when the dreaded line was said “Catherine, you have witchcraft in your lips.”

Catherine’s eyes opened wide and a slight look of horror swept across her face as Henry pushed aside Alice and took Catherine in his arms.

Henry V pulled Catherine close. His hand touched her cheek.

His thumb found itself over her lips, so when his lips approached, they were both kissing his thumb.

The class gasped.

Catherine exhaled.

Henry V thought himself clever.

Overall, the performance was awful. The Bard was probably rolling over in his grave.

The teacher gave Henry V and Catherine a solid B.

And now everyone remembers me as that time that one girl got kissed in Dr. Aaron’s Shakespeare class.

– Amanda Riggle


Literary Paraphernalia: Shakespeare Home Decor

To continue with our celebration of The Swan of Avon, I’ve found some really cool items to turn your ordinary, 21st century home into a Shakespeare extravaganza. It’s not quiet like The Globe, but hey, what in life is like The Globe?

Hamlet Mixed Media Print

Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio, a fellow of infinite nest, of most excellent fancy bird hats.

Lady Macbeth Soap Dispenser

You too can feel like a murderess cleaning her hands of her sins every time you go to wash your hands.

The Tempest Poster

Take a leap and stick this bold poster inspired by The Tempest up on your wall and see what devils come to play in your life.

As You Like It Stained Glass

This stained glass quote would look cool in any window or hanging out in a garden – wherever you may like it.


Confirmed by Science: A New (to Us) Shakespeare Play

For years, Professor Brean Hammond of Nottingham University has been convinced that Double Falsehood, a romantic tragi-comedy credited to Lewis Theobald, was more than based off of Shakespeare’s lost play Cardenio. In 2010, The Guardian quoted Professor Hammond as saying:

I don’t think you can ever be absolutely 100% but, yes, I am convinced that it is Shakespeare…This version of the Shakespeare play has been doctored. Theobald cut out material that he didn’t think appropriate, but this was quite common. Shakespeare was very frequently rewritten in the 17th and 18th centuries.

While Theobald claimed that his own play that came out in 1728 Double Falsehood was based off of Shakespeare play manuscripts, critics at the time, the most vocal being fellow writer and rival Alexander Pope, said that Theobald’s claims were unfounded and were never further looked into. The Independent notes that:

Double Falsehood, also known by the title “Distressed Lovers”, is based on the “Cardenio” episode in Don Quixote and appears be taken from the 1612 translation of Cervantes’ novel by Thomas Shelton. It wasn’t included in Shakespeare’s First Folio and there is little written evidence to link it to the Bard.

The 18th century poet Alexander Pope was among the loudest voices to decry Theobald’s claims that the play had Shakespearean origins soon after it was published.

But all of that changed in the 20th century, when critics agreed that Theobald’s claim should be more thoroughly investigated. Professor Brean Hammond is one of the most vocal modern proponents of the idea that Double Falsehood is an edited version of Shakespeare’s Cardenio, and now two researches at The University of Texas at Austin, Ryan L. Boyd and James W. Pennebaker, have analyzed Shakespeare’s plays and Double Falsehood using software to analyze the “psychological signature” of the texts to see if the play did indeed match Shakespeare’s other works.

And it did.

Literary Paraphernalia: Shakespeare Bling

Did I use bling right? I’m pretty sure I did. Today we’re continuing our Shakespeare-themed Literature Paraphernalia posts with some cool Shakespeare jewelry. If you love The Bard of Avon, you’ll love these shiny trinkets as well.

Henry VI Quote Necklace

This necklace is not only beautiful, but also charming.

Shakespeare Charm Bracelet

Did I say the last item was charming? I meant this bracelet was charming.

Wax Seal Necklace: Shakespeare’s Profile

This necklace would look great paired with a cute sweater or rocking it with a bodice at a Renaissance Faire.

Upcycled Shakespeare Paper Beads Cuff

Who knew that paper could look so good when not in book form?


How To Read Shakespeare For The First Time

Do you find Shakespeare’s language difficult? Are you having problems reading his plays? Don’t fret, this guide is here to give you some useful Shakespeare-reading tips to get you through your first experience with Shakespeare.

Read the play more than once. I know, you’re busy. We’re all busy. The good news is that Shakespeare’s plays are pretty short. They can be read in an hour. You don’t need to read the play eight times to gain all of their meanings, but reading the plays at least two or three times will vastly improve your understanding.

Annotate the text. Are you one of those people whom don’t like to write in their books? Did you rent the text? Buy the plays so that you own them, or, even better, invest just once in the Riverside Shakespeare, and take notes in the margins of your page. This way once something becomes clear to you in the text, you have your notes right there next to the text to help you remember. You can also write questions you have about the text in the margins and once you have the answer, either from a study session, further reading, or from the teacher clarifying, you can jot it down and remember what the answer is.

Read the lines out loud. I mean, it is a play after all. Plays are not meant to be read like a novel or a poem (although they can be and can also be enjoyed in such a way), but instead as pieces that are meant for oration and reception by an audience. Sometimes the lines are difficult to understand on the page but, when spoken out loud, the play comes to life. Other considerations, such as to whom the line is spoken and the intonation, volume, and blocking, come into play when the lines are spoken out loud too. All of these considerations that happen during vocalization can help you understand a section of the play that was previously baffling.

Use the context to figure out an unknown word. Language evolves, and it’s been almost 400 years since Shakespeare’s death. The language he uses isn’t the same language we use today, but much of his vocabulary is similar to our own, and it’s really only a few words that have shifted in meaning or dropped from modern use all together. If you’re confronted with a word you are unfamiliar with, use the context of the sentence to figure it out – is he using this word in a positive or negative way? Are there any synonyms or antonyms in the line to help clarify the unknown word? How the other characters react to the statement with the unknown word in it can be a great clue to the meaning of the unknown word.

Create a word-bank. If there’s an unknown word you can’t clarify using context clues, or you’d just like to know the dictionary definition of the word, write it down in a word bank you have out while you read Shakespeare’s plays. This also works well for words you are familiar with that seem to be misused or make a sentence confusing. Chances are, the meaning of that word has changed in modern context. The OED—Oxford English Dictionary—is your best bet for not only getting the meaning of these words in Shakespeare’s time, but also tracking the evolution of the meaning of the word.

Literary Paraphernalia: Wearable Shakespeare

It’s no secret – I’m a fan of Shakespeare. And April is a special month for Shakespeare fans. April 23rd, 1616 is the day Shakespeare passed away. His final resting place is Stratford-Upon-Avon in the United Kingdom. Instead of mourning for someone we lost almost 400 years ago, I instead want to celebrate the work of his life. For the month of April, all of the Literary Paraphernalia posts will be Shakespeare themed in order to honor his memory and his work. Today’s post is all about wearable Shakespeare gear from Etsy.Com.

Hamlet Scarf

To be or not to be…cold. You don’t have to be with this.

Shakespeare Zombie Tank

What better way to celebrate Shakespeare’s death than to imagine what he’d be like if he were a zombie?

Ophelia Skirt

This skirt is the painting Ophelia by Sir John Everett Millais, inspired by Ophelia’s death in Shakespeare’s play Hamlet.

Hamlet “No” Quote T-Shirt

Well, that’s oddly specific. It’s also a pretty cool t-shirt.


Shakespeare and The Spanish Tragedy

I think it’s safe to say that readers of this blog are familiar with Shakespeare, but has anyone heard of Thomas Kyd? Thomas Kyd was a popular dramatist during the late 1500s, but later fell into obscurity in the 1700s. He authored a play called The Spanish Tragedy which, besides being popular in its time, is considered the father of revenge tragedy–a genre which Shakespeare happened to dabble in as well.

For the past two hundred years, there has been speculation that The Spanish Tragedy wasn’t written by Thomas Kyd alone and that none other than William Shakespeare put pen to paper to write part of this significant play.

While this debate has been ongoing, new evidence has surfaced which people agree is as conclusive as we can get, without, of course, finding the Doctor and riding his T.A.R.D.I.S. back in space and time and asking Shakespeare ourselves.

Who could say no to that?