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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Shakespeare 400: Monstrous Little Voices (review)

Remember this book I mentioned a few days ago?


Well, I’ve finished it, and here are my thoughts! Spoiler-free, because at least with spiders, I can ring my neighbour’s doorbell; with spoilers…just, no.

Blurb: It is the Year of Our Lord 1601. The Tuscan War rages across the world, and every lord from Navarre to Illyria is embroiled in the fray. Cannon roar, pikemen clash, and witches stalk the night; even the fairy courts stand on the verge of chaos.

Five stories come together at the end of the war: that of bold Miranda and sly Puck; of wise Pomona and her prisoner Vertumnus; of gentle Lucia and the shade of Prospero; of noble Don Pedro and powerful Helena; and of Anne, a glovemaker’s wife. On these lovers and heroes the world itself may depend.

These are the stories Shakespeare never told. Five of the most exciting names in genre fiction today – Jonathan Barnes, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Emma Newman, Foz Meadows and Kate Heartfield – delve into the world the poet created to weave together a story of courage, transformation and magic.

Including an afterword by Dr. John Lavagnino, The London Shakespeare Centre, King’s College London. (From Goodreads)

Release: 8 March 2016 for the collection, but each story is released separately. See the publisher’s site for more details.

Disclaimer: I received a copy from NetGalley in exchange for a fair review. I also have an academic background in Shakespeare studies, where my research is focused on film adaptations.

Having worked so extensively on Shakespearean adaptations, I’m always ambivalent about approaching works based on or inspired by Shakespeare. While I do read and write plenty of fiction, I find it difficult to switch off my ‘academic mode’ when it comes to Shakespeare, and was admittedly a little cautious about reading and reviewing this collection. In my experience, it’s almost impossible to achieve the ‘right’ balance between the most ‘critically successful’ and ‘enjoyable’ adaptations, and when you throw my own personal tastes into the mix, things can get even more interesting—as it certainly did here.

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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


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.


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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