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Shakespeare: 400 years later

In German they call it Nachleben, the reception of a literary figure or an epoch at later stages. On April the 23rd, the whole world is going to celebrate one of the most pre-eminent playwrights and poets ever, William Shakespeare,

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In German they call it Nachleben, the reception of a literary figure or an epoch at later stages. On April the 23rd, the whole world is going to celebrate one of the most pre-eminent playwrights and poets ever, William Shakespeare, who died on the same day 400 years ago.

In my previous article, I focused on certain aspects of his life (religion and sexuality), but, this time, I am considering how the Bard and his fictional world have survived until now.

 

Transport for London and Shakespeare’s Globe have organised a special initiative for tourists and travellers: Tube maps have been renamed in accordance with Shakespearean plays and figures. Westminster is going to become King Lear and St Paul’s will be named after Lysander, one of the protagonists of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Linguist David Crystal contributed to reconstructing Shakespeare’s phonetics and pronunciation of Early Modern English, the language in which the author spoke and wrote, whilst his son, actor Ben Crystal, recited the famous and stunning Sonnets in accordance with the pronunciation of the time.

 

Hamlet’s Nachleben has intertwined with legal practices too. The directors Yan Duyvendank and Roger Bernat have been touring Europe with their Please, continue (Hamlet), where the Shakespearean text is turned into a courtroom drama where jurors, counsellors and expert witnesses have got to establish whether Prince Hamlet has killed Polonius. 

The Italian academic Nadia Fusini (Vivere nella Tempesta, 2016) has just published her own reading of The Tempest, where an autobiographical background mingles with an intense and personal reading of the Bard’s last play.

Shakespeare has also provided ample opportunities and material for directors; in this context, I would like to bring up Radford’s The Merchant of Venice (2004) and this year’s Macbeth. In the former, queer suggestions and a more sympathetic treatment of Shylock make the film more captivating, whilst the latter capitalises on wonderful scenery and a convincing production.

 

Still of Al Pacino as Shylock in The Merchant of Venice - © 2004 Sony Pictures Entertainment, photo by Steve Braun

Still of Al Pacino as Shylock in The Merchant of Venice – © 2004 Sony Pictures Entertainment, photo by Steve Braun

 

On Saturday everybody will celebrate William Shakespeare: but did he really exist? Did he really write everything? We do not know, but, in any case, we are still able to appreciate his great works.

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