Thursday, April 24, 2014

Forty-five Hamlets.

Yesterday for Shakespeare's birthday, The Guardian published forty-five images of Hamlet from various productions.

Which was essentially an opportunity for me to say, "Seen that. Seen that. Haven't seen that. Haven't seen that. Not old enough. Seen that. Seen that."

Michael Billington also offered his suggestions for the best of each the decades in his career.

I still maintain my favourite's been Natalie Quatermass.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Shakespeare at the British Pathe Archive:
Happy Birthday!

Today would have been Shakespeare's 450th birthday, so to celebrate let's delve again into the Pathe archive to see how it was marked in earlier years. Essentially it's a history of the traditional tour around Stratford.

We begin in 1920. You'll notice as we continue through these that Stratford doesn't much change across the century.

Our first proper glimpse of the flag raising ceremony in 1930. Sixty-four nations at this point.

In 1936, the birthday was relegated to few shots in the News in a Nutshell montages. Same as 1935.

In 1938 at the dawn of the Second World War. Merriment in general though a key country has been removed from the flagpoles.

A reigning monarch's first visit to Stratford apparently. Includes tour of birthplace and shots inside the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre of a Julius Caesar rehearsal and greeting Anthony Quayle in costume as Henry VIII.

The annual tradition continues in 1957, now in full colour.

It's 1964, the 400th birthday and here we're in in Techniscope and Technicolor. What looks like the opening of The Shakespeare Centre up the road from the birthplace. The Duke of Edinburgh is there. Frustratingly it looks like its been transferred at the wrong speed obliterating the sound.

Oh, hold on, here's the same thing in black white with sound.

Monday, April 21, 2014

The New Yorker's Relics.

Shellshocked. That's the only reaction one can draw from receiving a PR email from the venerable The New Yorker magazine about the Shakespeare related article in the new issue. Since this is a momentous occasion, at least for me, find below the guts of the press release as it appeared in the email:

Why Do We Still Search for Relics of The Bard?

In “The Poet’s Hand” (p. 40), Adam Gopnik explores scholars’ painstaking efforts to discover authentic vestiges of William Shakespeare’s life and work, and the doubt that often surrounds their findings. What drives people to search for bits and pieces of Shakespeareana four hundred and fifty years after his birth? Gopnik met with two Manhattan rare-book dealers, George Koppelman and Daniel Wechsler, who are convinced that a heavily annotated sixteenth-century quadrilingual dictionary they purchased on eBay once belonged to Shakespeare. “They believe that he kept it on his desk and scribbled in its margins, learned French by turning its pages, and was inspired to poetic flights by delving among its Latin synonyms,” Gopnik writes. Some of the connections that Koppelman and Wechsler have espied between the dictionary and the Bard—they are self-publishing their findings this month—“seem a little far-fetched,” Gopnik writes. But some of them “are genuinely arresting.” One counter-argument: the handwriting, Gopnik notes, “just doesn’t look like Shakespeare’s.” Additionally, “there is what might be called the argument from Inherent Improbability: it seems fantastically lucky that, of all the thousands of possible annotators of a single dictionary of the time, it would be the one in the world you would most want to be the guy,” Gopnik writes. “We live in an Elizabethan world of our own reductive devising, populated by the Queen and Ben Jonson and the Dark Lady and the Bard and a theatre full of groundlings.” Gopnik continues: “But the real Elizabethan world had a lot more people in it than that, and countless more possible . . . annotators [of the dictionary].” Shakespeare is a prime candidate “only because we don’t know the names of all the other bird-loving, inquisitive readers who also liked their dabchicks and their French verbs.” Gopnik spoke with Daniel Fischlin, a scholar at Canada’s Guelph University, who has spent years researching the “Sanders portrait,” a painting he believes to be “the best mirror left of Shakespeare’s face.” Though the portrait is dated “1603,” and, Fischlin claims, it can be traced to Shakespeare’s London neighborhood, the portrait does not immediately seem to resemble the one verified image of the poet. David Scott Kastan, a professor of Shakespeare studies at Yale, tells Gopnik that enthusiasts are “trying to get close to this most wonderful and mysterious of authors, this most mysterious genius—what has he touched?” The truth, according to Kastan, “is that it doesn’t change one thing about what we think about Shakespeare or why we love him or why we value him.” He continues, “It’s easy to be glib and dismissive of Bardolotry, but that’s how we all got here, in some way.”

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Hamlet at the British Pathe Archive.

As you might have heard, British Pathe have taken the rather epic decision to upload much of their archive to Youtube, around eighty-five thousand news reels. With that sort of breadth of coverage, most subjects and topics are featured and Hamlet is no exception.

A shot from the 1913 version of Shakespeare's 'Hamlet' starring Sir Johnstone Forbes Robertson. This appears to be Act 1, Scene 1 with Horatio (S A Cookson), Marcellus (A. Roberts) and Bernado (G. Richards) greeting Hamlet Snr for the first time.  Notice how the Ghost is achieved by superimposing one exposure over another on the film. The old Hamlet page at the BBC website contains the follow up scene from the same film of Forbes-Robertson meeting the Ghost for himself., though it's true that the actor could be in the above clip.  It's confusing.  Here's a clip of the actor offering reading of the advice to players. Screen Online has a short essay about the production. Here's a painting of the actor in the part from the V&A's theatre collection and photographs at the National Portrait Gallery and Folger Shakespeare Library.

Here's the footage again in a '63 film about its discovery and restoration.  This would seem to indicate the BFI has the whole film in its archive somewhere though it doesn't appear on their collection of Silent Shakespeare.

Douglas Fairbanks Jnr (!) accepts the 1948 Best Picture and Best Actor Oscars on behalf of Sir Lawrence for his Hamlet.

"Twenty-one gun salute being fired from Hamlet's Castle at Elsinore."

Czechoslovakian craftsman produce a model of Hamlet from glass.

This travelogue offers a colour glimpse of Elsinore (3.40 onwards). Film notes that the palace was actually built in the 16th century.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Globe to Globe Hamlet Kickstarter Appeal.

In a bid to pull together more funding for the Globe to Globe tour, The Globe has begun a Kickstarter. Here's the widget:

They're trying to raise £200k. Click through for the pledge video which is worth watching anyway to offer some idea of the logistics of what's being attempted.  Two Hamlets, three Polonius's.