Shakespearean Classical Music

I had the great pleasure and privilege of giving a public lecture on Shakespeare and Music earlier today, during which I referred to several pieces of Shakespearean classical music. Since the timeslot was limited–and the world of Shakespeare is immense–I didn’t get to discuss or play most of the music I’d mentioned. Fortunately, there’s plenty of space on my wee blog for both the Bard and Bardastic music, so here are a few Shakespearean pieces (complete with embedded YouTube videos) for your listening pleasure:

Thomas Arne’s Shakespearean Songs

Mr Arne’s settings of Shakespeare’s songs from the 1740s onwards played quite an important role in reviving interest in Shakespearean music. While these songs are from Shakespeare’s plays, they weren’t actually written by the Bard–in most cases, Shakespeare simply took the lyrics of pre-existing popular songs and plopped them into the plays. As I continue to advocate: Shakespeare was the greatest playwright-poet-plagiarist of all time!

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2016 Bardathon: March Giveaway

A super enthusiastic hello from New Orleans! Over the past few days, I’ve been partaking in a pretty epic amount of Shakespearing at the Shakespeare Association of America’s annual meeting (appropriately nicknamed #ShakeAss). Two days before I left for New Orleans, I submitted my PhD thesis, entitled “Shakespeare and the Soundtrack”–two weeks before that, I was in London for my long weekend of catching Shakespeare’s late romances. March has certainly been a massive Bardathon on my end!

But it’s time now to share your Bardathon activities from March, and perhaps even receive a Shakespeare-themed handkerchief in the monthly giveaway. To enter, fill out the form below with a link to a blog post/Goodreads review/Tweet/etc about how you’ve participated in the Bardathon Challenge during the month, and your thoughts about the experience. Entries are accepted until 4 April 2016, and the winner drawn at random shortly thereafter. If you have any questions, please do drop me a line. Good luck!

2016 Bardathon: February Giveaway

I am briefly emerging from my thesis cave to apologise for my recent lack of Shakespearean posts, to congratulate Melanie on winning the January giveaway, and to post the February giveaway.

To enter, fill out the form below with a link to a blog post/Goodreads review/Tweet/etc about how you’ve participated in the Bardathon Challenge during February, and your thoughts about the experience. Entries are accepted until 15 March 2016, and the winner drawn at random shortly thereafter. If you have any questions, please do drop me a line. Good luck!

2016 Bardathon: January News and Giveaway

Admittedly, I’ve neglected these Bardathon-related posts, but I’m hoping this grave error will be mitigated in light of my having neglected practically everything else in my life—I’m submitting my (Shakespearean) PhD thesis/dissertation in less than two months, and I’ve been working consecutively on revisions since 1 January. Yup, that’s 24 days and counting… On the bright side, my (crazily self-imposed) timeline means February will be relatively less insane, which means more time for Bardathoning (and also, well, laundry)—happy days ahead!

But back to the Bard! On the 400th death anniversary of the guy indirectly responsible for feeding and housing me, I’m fortunate enough to be living in the UK, at least until May. And golly, there are certainly quite a few events happening in the upcoming year!

Benedict Cumberbatch as Richard III in the upcoming BBC War of the Roses tetralogy.

Benedict Cumberbatch as Richard III in the upcoming BBC War of the Roses tetralogy.

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Shakespeare Film Adaptations: Histories (Anglophone)

Compared to the comedies and tragedies, Shakespeare’s history plays haven’t been adapted for cinema much at all—by my count, there are only five sound-era Anglophone films! The BBC and ESC (English Shakespeare Company) have produced several more for the small screen, but with the exception of The Hollow Crown series (2012-ongoing), I shan’t talk about them here.

Since there are only five cinematic histories, I’m listing list them all, by production year.

Henry V (1944)

Directed by Laurence Olivier
Laurence Olivier, Renée Asherson, Robert Newton, Leslie Banks

henry-v-olivier

Even though the film might seem out-dated today, this was the first critically and commercially successful Shakespeare film adaptation—ground-breaking stuff! If you look at the date, you’ll notice it was made during WWII. Yup, it was partially funded by the British government, and was actually intended as a propaganda film (I’ve written a bit about that here). 10% of the production budget went into shooting the epic Battle of Agincourt, which was the only sequence filmed on location (in the neutral Republic of Ireland, near Dublin).

IMDb / Wikipedia

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Shakespeare Film Adaptations: Comedies (Anglophone)

For those who would like some help choosing titles for the 2016 Bardathon Challenge, I’ve put together lists of some Shakespearean film adaptations. (See this post for my definition of adaptation, and for some suggestions on what to keep in mind while watching a Shakespearean adaptation.) Starting with Anglophone/English-speaking films, here are my five favourite adaptations of comedies (as classified by the First Folio):

Much Ado About Nothing (1993)

Directed by Kenneth Branagh
Kenneth Branagh, Emma Thompson, Denzel Washington, Robert Sean Leonard, Kate Beckinsale, Keanu Reeves, Michael Keaton

much ado

An absolutely delightful adaptation! Although I’m not a fan of Branagh’s later works, I adore his Much Ado About Nothing. Emma Thompson is flawless as Beatrice, the screenplay and pacing are excellent, and the music is simply lovely (especially with composer Patrick Doyle’s cameo as the musician Balthazar). Although Keanu Reeves’s Don John isn’t the most convincing villain, we can overlook that, given the bright and sunny nineteenth-century setting, and the overall joys of the film. If you’re looking for a more ‘traditional’ comedy adaptation that uses Shakespeare’s words, I recommend you check this out.

IMDb / Wikipedia

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An Introduction to Shakespeare Film Adaptations (and why they’re awesome)

Since a few participants of the 2016 Bardathon Challenge are interested in a list of recommendations for Shakespearean film adaptations, I’m putting together a blog post…or twenty. It seems my academic and fangirl personas have been conspiring behind my (sore and bad) back, and now I’ve no choice but to talk at little length and with great gusto about these film adaptations.

shakespeare400

Before getting started, I want to put forth my definition of adaptation, which has been shaped by my academic work on Shakespearean films. Over three years ago, I had a rather limiting view of what an ‘adaptation’ constituted, and would always be comparing those adaptations to Shakespeare’s ‘originals’ in terms of what the new versions lacked. Now, I think of adaptations as entities in and of themselves, and not ‘copies’ or imitations’ of Shakespeare’s plays.

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Shakespeare 400: The 2016 Bardathon Challenge – Info and Sign-up

shakespeare400

2016 marks the year of William Shakespeare’s 400th death anniversary, and to commemorate, celebrate, and yayayayay-ate, I’ll be hosting a year-long “reading” challenge focused on his works (and re-works). I use “reading” very loosely here—although there are categories focused on reading his plays and poems, the challenge consists of other activities, such as watching adaptations, attending Shakespearean operas/concerts, or participating in your own production. At the end of the day/year/lifetime of awesomeness, it’s all about your experience of Shakespeare, and enjoying the wonderful worlds, characters, and words attributed to the Bard!

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Shakespeare 400: The 2016 Bardathon Challenge – Participants

shakespeare400

Here are all the participants of the 2016 Bardathon Challenge. If you’d like to join in the fun, please sign-up here.

As of 17 Jan 2016, we have 16 participants.


Complete Shakespearean: Read/watch/engage with all 38 plays, 154 sonnets, and 2 narrative poems (and other various poems if you wish)


Tragic Shakespearean: Read at least 5 tragedies (as organised in the First Folio)


Comedic Shakespearean: Read at least 5 comedies (as organised in the First Folio)


Historical Shakespearean: Read at least 5 history plays (as organised in the First Folio)


All-rounder Shakespearean: Read at least 3 plays from each of the tragedies, comedies, and histories (as organised in the First Folio)


Late Shakespearean: Read Pericles, Cymbeline, The Winter’s Tale, and The Tempest


Poetic Shakespearean: Read the 154 sonnets, 2 narrative poems, and the various poems (including “A Lover’s Complaint” and “The Phoenix and the Turtle”)


Theatrical Shakespearean: Attend at least 5 plays (these can be live or recorded performances, e.g. a screening of RSC Live at your local cinema, or watching something from Globe on Screen on your computer)


Cinematic Shakespearean: Watch at least 5 screen adaptations

  • Sarah (West Yorkshire, UK): 5 comedies

Non-Anglophone Shakespearean: Read/watch/engage with at least 5 Shakespeare adaptations in a language other than English (e.g. Kurosawa’s three Shakespearean films)

  • Sarah (West Yorkshire, UK): 3 Kurosawa films;
    at least one screen/stage adaptation from every continent

Performative Shakespearean: Participate in at least 2 Shakespeare adaptations as cast and/or crew


Musical Shakespearean: Engage with 5 Shakespeare-themed concerts (such as this one), operas, ballets, and musicals


Novelistic Shakespearean: Read at least 5 novels based on Shakespeare’s plays and/or life (there’s a list here and here)


Mix-and-match Shakespearean: Participate in any of the above categories (read/watch/listen/perform/play/etc) on at least 5 occasions