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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Best of 2015 – Top Five-ish (books, films, TV, shows, meals, and moments)

Now that I’m firmly in 2016, I can finalise my “Best of 2015” list—and I’m glad I waited, because there were some wonderful last-minute additions! Here are some of my favourite books, films, TV shows, shows, meals, and moments from 2015:


Since I only read 37 “funfunfun” (i.e. non-academic/work-related) books this year, it wasn’t too difficult to choose my top five. I’m particularly glad I did my three reading challenges, because I wouldn’t have discovered some of these otherwise! I’ve included the “overall” reason I’ve picked these books, but do please click on the titles to read the full “review”. These are listed alphabetically, because I’m indecisive enough as is. ;)

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


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


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


Introducing: The Tragedy of Macbeth

For this inaugural post about an actual Shakespeare play, I decided to go light and easy, and provide a summary of sorts. There’ll be plenty of time to cover more ground in the future, but for now, here’s a brief overview of the play (contains a couple of spoilers!).

The Tragedy of Macbeth is Shakespeare’s shortest tragedy, and is most commonly dated 1606, making it a Jacobean play. As with all his plays, Macbeth was drawn from other sources, namely Holinshed’s Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland (1587), which detailed a lot of British history. Basically, Shakespeare read the Chronicles and decided to yoink some aspects about Macbeth, the King of Scotland (who reigned between 1040–1057), and make up lots of things along the way to make it a more interesting story. Sounds like (inaccurate) historical (fan)fiction that’s nonetheless entertaining? Yup, Macbeth is exactly that—a Renaissance version of The Tudors or Vikings, if you will.

King James IV of Scotland and I of England. Look at all that gingery goodness!

King James IV of Scotland and I of England. Look at all that gingery goodness!

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Review: As You Like It at The Globe (dir. Blanche McIntyre, 2015)

So it’s been a good fortnight since my last post, but that’s because I’ve travelling a little and was rendered inarticulate by one-too-many food comas. I know I’ve promised a post on Macbeth, and while that’s mostly written, today’s A Spot of Shakespeare will feature a review of the Globe’s thoroughly entertaining production of As You Like It (directed by Blanche McIntyre), which I had the pleasure of seeing while in London.

I went to the opening night with my good friend Costy, who, as it happens, has seen a previous production of As You Like It at the Globe (but she preferred this one—I’d like to think her stellar theatre companion had something to do with it). Despite our relatively last-minute booking, we managed to nab two £16 seats near the base of the stage and with a restricted view. Here’s how we experienced the production:

A sold-out opening night.

A sold-out opening night.

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Shakespearean authorship, originality, and theatre practices

I hope you’ve had a good week, and have been throwing around some Shakespeare-related terms like “Renaissance” and “Elizabethan” like celebratory confetti! Today’s post—which is a little on the long side, so feel free to read it with two biscuits instead of one—is about breaking the “Bardolatry Barrier” (formed by idolising the “Bard”, one of Shakespeare’s nicknames) by considering some of the vastly different writing and performance practices during the Renaissance, and lowering him a little on that literary pedestal (not by too much, though—I wouldn’t want to be branded as a dissident and lose my Shakespeare PhD funding!).


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Elizabethan, Jacobean, Renaissance, early modern—what huh when who?

I hope you all had a chance to indulge in some celebratory birthday cake for dear Shakespeare last Thursday—I certainly went for it, and had three servings of cake (I figured it was my duty as a professional Shakespeare fangirl to om nom nom on his behalf). While we’re at it, here’s one of the cakes I had, with some theme-appropriate roses:

Happy birthday, Shakespeare--I'll eat all the cake on your behalf!

Happy birthday, Shakespeare–I’ll eat all the cake on your behalf!

Okay, so those of you non-Shakespeareans who haven’t seen Shakespeare in Love might be thinking, “What’s so special about roses?” Well, first and foremost, I highly recommend you go see the film—the music is sublime, as is Joseph Fiennes in a perpetually half-open shirt.

Will and his quill.

Will and his quill.

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