Shakespeare Solved™ versions of these plays solve the mysteries surrounding them by taking us back in time to see the plays as they were performed for the first time in history.


This blog explains these new versions, and explores the life and times of Shakespeare, in order to build support for my new film versions of the plays.


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Articles Written For:


The University of Oxford's Bodleian Library & The Royal Shakespeare Company


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1. Shakespeare's Othello Finally Identified 2. Shakespeare In Love Sequel SOLVED

3. The Real Romeo and Juliet 4. Shakespeare in January 1601 5. The Miracle of Shakespeare's Birth

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Shakespeare's Schoolroom at Stratford's Guildhall

As far as the life and work of Shakespeare is concerned, there is no greater place in the entire world than the schoolroom where he went as a boy.

This place, the Guildhall in Stratford-upon-Avon, is the place where he learned to read and write.


The schoolroom where Shakespeare was a student


It is the place where he fell in love with English, with Latin, and some little Greek.

It is the place where he met his greatest literary friend and lifelong artistic companion, Ovid, whose life and work, especially Metamorphoses, inspired Shakespeare for the rest of his life.

It is the place where Shakespeare, with his fellow students, probably performed as an actor for the very first time — in plays by Plautus for example.





It is the place where he probably saw professional actors perform for the first time in his life, as they went on tour outside London.

He would have met these actors up close, closer than most children of the town. His father, John Shakespeare was in charge of hiring these actors to perform. 

It is also just possible that some of these same actors helped Shakespeare break into the theatre scene in London when he went there around 1587.


Seen from outside



It is the place where Shakespeare fell in love with acting and writing.

It is the place where, in the earliest and most critical moments of his life, he fell in love with that immeasurably wonderful sound of an audience as people laughed, cried and applauded.

Yes, the place where Shakespeare was born is very important. Yes, the Globe Theatre in London is important.

There are several important places in the life of William Shakespeare.

But without the Guildhall in Stratford-upon-Avon he may have never traveled beyond Stratford and changed history.

It is hard to know if Shakespeare knew, sitting at his desk in his classroom, learning his alphabet on his hornbook, that he would become the greatest playwright the world would ever know.


A desk in the schoolroom



But the awesome ambition he had to write, create and entertain audiences — including Queen Elizabeth and later King James — the fires of that ambition were first lighted and stoked in that little room in Stratford.

Please watch this wonderful short video by Michael Wood (whose ‘In Search of Shakespeare documentary is a must-see) about the remarkable history of this school.


click here to watch



The school is asking for donations to renovate the schoolroom -- and make it open to the public for the first time ever!

It is the first renovation since 1891.

I don’t often ask you to donate your money to any cause — but I can hardly think of a more deserving one than this.

Just think, when the renovation is done, you can visit Stratford-upon-Avon and see the schoolroom where Shakespeare the poet and playwright was born.


Cheers,

David B. Schajer



To Donate:


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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Martin Freeman as Shakespeare's Richard III


Great news!

Martin Freeman will play Richard III!

He will be on stage later this year at Trafalgar Studios in London







I am thrilled that he is doing some Shakespeare!

I fully expected that he would at some point in his career.

But I didn’t expect him to do Richard III — that’s brilliant!

It is a very shrewd choice for him, since the play is very funny, and he is such a master at comedy.

I have written quite a bit about Richard III here, and the fact that I have not seen one actor fully discover the comedy in the play. Too often, the play is treated as a dark historical drama, when in fact it is more of a send-up or parody of that kind of play.

It’s meant to be played as if all of the other characters are stuck in a strait-laced drama, and Richard III is the odd man out — his character is above and beyond all of them. He violates all the rules of the play they are stuck in, and they are powerless to stop him.







In that regard, Martin Freeman is perfectly cast. He seems to specialize in playing the character who can stand inside and outside what is happening to the rest of the characters.

He is superb at expressing himself with just a look, and without words. I can think of very few actors who do it as well.

Most actors portray Richard III as a bad guy, who is charismatic. But there are more layers to him waiting to be discovered.

Laurence Olivier didn’t discover them. Nor did Ian McKellen. 

But their performances were part of a tradition of playing Richard that goes back a long way, and while there is value in that tradition, it is not the portrayal of Richard that Shakespeare intended.

The best I have seen is Mark Rylance. His Richard was pathetic and charismatic, often begging the audience for sympathy, then later acting defiantly to the audience, and all the while he was running rings around the rest of the characters on stage. He was very funny. But Mr. Rylance still didn’t exploit the character as fully as he could have.

The best Richards I have seen are the imitations, like Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter, Ian Richardson in House of Cards, and Kevin Spacey in the new House of Cards.







But what makes this opportunity so great for Martin Freeman, is that he has the benefit of being on a stage. The energy of performing in front of a crowd of people is lost on screen. It is to his advantage to do it on stage. 

What is special about the Richard III character is the fun in having him build a relationship with the audience, and making them complicit in his crimes.

That complicity is the magic of the play — and the audience can be both fascinated by such an evil man, and fascinated by their fascination.

I hope that however this production of the play is staged, they make it as intimate as possible. The best stage productions are the ones that allow Richard to get close to the audience, get inside their heads, and create that magic.





If there is any actor who can discover the comedy in this role, and in the play, and create a new sort of magic with Richard III, it is Martin Freeman.

I can’t wait to see it!

Cheers,

David B. Schajer



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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Benedict Cumberbatch as Shakespeare's Richard III


Thrilling news!

Benedict Cumberbatch will play Richard III!







He has agreed to be part of the next series of Hollow Crown BBC2 TV adaptations of Shakespeare. It will be televised after a two-part version of the Henry VI plays, to create a trilogy. The director is Dominic Cooke, who was the previous artistic director at the Royal Court Theatre.

Benedict Cumberbatch has been very busy lately, what with all his film work, and the recent announcement that he will play Hamlet on stage later this year in London.

I have written before about him, and really hoped that he would do some Shakespeare — and now he’s doing Hamlet and Richard III in very short order! Fantastic!

He really should do Shakespeare as often as possible, and make it a regular part of his career.

Also, I think he would be great playing the role of William Shakespeare in my Shakespeare Solved versions of the plays.





So, what would his Richard III be like?

He was great as the villain Khan in the recent Star Trek movie. I thought he did a excellent job portraying Julian Assange as neither villainous nor heroic.

But Richard is something completely different. 

Mr. Cumberbatch was quoted as saying ‘I can’t wait to work with Dominic Cooke again to bring this complex, funny and dangerous character to life.’

I find that very encouraging, because he included the word ‘funny.’ That is key. 

If Mr. Cumberbatch understands that this play has humour, then I hope that he discovers as much of it as possible.

I have not seen an actor play Richard III who fully understands the comedy in the play. Olivier knew to make Richard III charismatic but didn’t make him funny. Ian McKellen was also charismatic, but he didn’t make him funny.

Anthony Hopkins’ portrayal of Hannibal Lecter was a perfect Richard III — very funny, very charismatic, and he was very good at making us like him. Ian Richardson in House of Cards, and Kevin Spacey in the new House of Cards are both excellent Richards. And the way they speak to the camera has never been done better, in my opinion.

I have written quite a bit about Richard III, and the productions I have seen. Mark Rylance’s Richard III was fantastic, and he discovered much of the humor in the play, but he didn’t go far enough and make the play as funny as it really is. 

The entire play is funny. Every character, not only Richard, is funny.

When I wrote my version of the play, I came to the conclusion that the play may have been not at all funny in an earlier version. But at some point, Shakespeare discovered a way to make it much funnier, edgier, and much more entertaining — so, he re-wrote it.







I don’t expect this new Hollow Crown Richard III to push the envelope too much. If there was anything bad to say about their excellent productions of Richard II, Henry IV parts 1 and 2, and Henry V it is that they were too traditional and cautious. I expect this new Hollow Crown to be similar.

But — there is still a great deal that Mr. Cumberbatch can do, in his performance, to make this unlike any other Richard III we have ever seen. 

And I have every confidence that he is just the actor to do it!

I can’t wait to see it!

Cheers,

David B. Schajer

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Monday, April 7, 2014

Happy Birthday Russell Crowe!


Happy Birthday Russell Crowe!





He has been a very busy man recently, in some great films — especially playing Superman’s father Jor-El in Man of Steel and starring in Noah

Also, for the first time in his career, he has directed a feature length film, The Water Diviner, coming out later this year.

But what about Shakespeare?

You would think that a man as talented as he would have made some Shakespeare by now.

I think I have an idea why he has not done any Shakespeare, on stage or on screen.

I have written before about the fact that he was offered the role of William Shakespeare in Shakespeare in Love. Yes, he was could have been Shakespeare opposite Gwyneth Paltrow in that film.

As much as he loved the opportunity, and the script, he turned it down!

He didn’t think it depicted the real Shakespeare. He didn’t like the idea of Shakespeare as some romantic heart-throb ‘prissy pretty boy.’

He didn’t want a fantasy about Shakespeare. He wanted the true flesh and blood Shakespeare. 

He said he, in regards to Shakespeare, that he ‘wanted to create a body of work that would last century after century.’

Obviously, he didn’t think that Shakespeare in Love would have an enduring appeal. 

He wanted something more, something different.







It appears to me that Russell Crowe is the kind of man who wants to put his mark on the world. 

Why else would he want to re-define the Superman myth? 

Why else would he want to re-imagine the story of Noah?

It would be safe to say that Russell Crowe does NOT want to make the same old Shakespeare. He wants to re-define and re-imagine Shakespeare, and make it last for a very long time. 

This may be the answer. This may be why he has not done any Shakespeare.

I think he should do some Shakespeare Solved.

It is not the same old Shakespeare. It is not a romanticized version of Shakespeare’s life and work. It is as real a story of the events of Shakespeare’s life as we may ever know — and it presents versions of the plays that decipher and unlock the meaning of the plays for the first time. 

Now we can understand who the real Hamlet was, why Richard III was the play that made Shakespeare’s career, and why Shylock is not the villain but in fact the hero of Merchant of Venice

With my forthcoming version of Othello, now we can finally understand why Shakespeare wrote the play, what it really means, and where Shakespeare got the name Othello in the first place.

Who would Russell Crowe play in these Shakespeare Solved versions?

What about arguably the most important man in Shakespeare’s life — Will Kemp?



Will Kemp, on right




Will Kemp was the greatest performer on the London stage in the 1590’s. For almost a decade he was the funniest, most crowd-pleasing and talented larger-than-life actor there was. 

I think Shakespeare had two fathers — his father John, and Will Kemp. 

John Shakespeare inspired Shakespeare and helped light the spark of creativity in the young boy’s mind. But his father’s reversal of fortune would have been a source of shame for Shakespeare his whole life.

Kemp taught Shakespeare everything else. I think it was Kemp who taught him how to entertain a crowd, which was Shakespeare’s reason for being. But Kemp and Shakespeare may have had a falling out around 1599, and Kemp left the playing company. He disappeared from history. 

It is an indication of the importance of John Shakespeare and Will Kemp that arguably Shakespeare’s most important character (at least in the 1590’s, before Hamlet, Lear, Macbeth, and Othello) was John Falstaff.

Kemp was the first actor in history to play him. It was customer-tailored to Kemp. Audiences, including the Queen herself, adored Falstaff. He made them laugh, and cry. Falstaff is the very best and worst kind of man. Falstaff was once noble, and is now less than noble.

So, it should not come as a surprise that Falstaff is based on Shakespeare’s father, John, who brought financial ruin upon his family.

What does it mean that John Shake-speare becomes John Fal-staff?

This is the kind of complex and fascinating person in Shakespeare’s life that we don’t know enough about. The story of Shakespeare and Will Kemp, not to mention the story of Shakespeare and his father John, is a story whose time has come, and should be told.







Shakespeare Solved is four versions of Shakespeare’s plays written for the screen that thoroughly re-define and re-imagine Shakespeare. 

If Russell Crowe wants to create a body of work that lasts for centuries, and change our understanding and history of Shakespeare, then this is what he is looking for.


What do you think?

If you agree with me that he should do some Shakespeare, please show your support on facebookTwitterPinterestGoogle Plus or Tumblr.

Your support will really make a difference!



And your comments are always welcome!


Cheers,

David B. Schajer

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Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Shakespeare Theatre Company's Henry IV, Part 1

I just went to see Henry IV Part 1 at the Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington, D.C.

It’s a great show!

If you are anywhere near Washington, do yourself a favor and go see it — it’s very funny and very entertaining.

It runs through June 7. Henry IV Part 2 begins its run today, and runs through June 8.

You can get tickets here:






The veteran stage and screen actor Stacy Keach plays Falstaff. He has great comedic timing, and really gets the most out of this most beloved character.

I had seen Stacy Keach on screen before for years, but never on stage before. I was very excited to see him live on stage, and I wasn’t disappointed. He has a larger than life energy that perfectly fits Falstaff.


Stacy Keach



The show was directed by the acclaimed Michael Kahn, STC’s Artistic Director and the production is superb — the sets, the music, the costumes and of course, and most importantly, the cast.

I enjoy the play very much, and this was as solid and as entertaining a production as you will find. Parts 1 and 2 are Mr. Kahn’s very favorite Shakespeare plays, and it shows in the production. Every actor puts their all into the production and with so much energy, that the play was over before I knew it.

The cast was excellent and very engaging. There were some familiar faces in the cast I recognized, like Aaron Gaines who was great in The Shakespeare Forum’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream in New York City, Chris Genebach whom I’d seen in STC’s Measure for Measure last year, Craig Wallace whom I’d seen in STC’s Twelfth Night — he was great as Sir Toby Belch.

Edward Gero is a very convincing King Henry IV. His relationship with his son was very sincere, and his disappointment in Hal was very real.

I especially liked John Keabler as Hotspur and Matthew Amendt as Hal. They were very well cast, and both were excellent at showing the many facets of each character. I have never been really moved by the death of Hotspur before, but these actors together made the moment of his death much more human than I expected. Well done.

I hope you get a chance to see this excellent production — it runs through June 7. 


Edward Gero as Henry IV



I will see Henry IV Part 2 this week and let you know what I think.


Cheers,


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Monday, March 31, 2014

Ewan McGregor and Shakespeare


Should Ewan McGregor do some Shakespeare?

Absolutely!





It’s been a long since he played Iago on stage with Chiwetel Ejiofor as Othello at the Donmar Warehouse, from 2007 to 2008.


Chiwetel Ejiofor as Othello and Ewan McGregor as Iago
Donmar Warehouse 2007-8



Don’t you think it’s about time he did some more?

The first time I saw Ewan McGregor on screen was in Trainspotting.

To my dying day I will never forget falling out of my seat and gagging almost to the point of vomiting as he plunges headlong into a toilet! 

Since then, I have seen just about every film he has made, and he’s made quite a few.





There are few actors who are as versatile and fearless as he is. I don’t know a lot of actors who could have gone from The Pillow Book to starring as Obi-Wan Kenobi. 

When I saw him in Velvet Goldmine, I was astonished. I thought he should forget about acting, and become a rock star. He is that good. 

I was not surprised when he was cast in Moulin Rouge. I knew from Velvet Goldmine that he could really sing.

Since then he has made some remarkable films, and he is always exciting to watch. You never know what to expect from him as an actor. He was great in the more recent Salmon Fishing in the Yemen. He gives a very moving performance.

I am not surprised that he did Othello for Michael Grandage in 2007. I’m just surprised that he has not done any since.

There are so many roles he would be perfect for: Hamlet, Richard II and Richard III, Henry V, and so forth. Why he has not done Macbeth is a mystery.

I do hope that he decides to do some more Shakespeare, on stage or on screen. I think he would find it very rewarding. I know that he has a busy film schedule, but I’m sure he could do more Shakespeare.





But what Ewan McGregor in some Shakespeare Solved?

I think he would really enjoy acting in the Elizabethan period. 

I could easily see him as one of Shakespeare’s fellow actors, playing different parts in the plays, and sometimes multiple parts in the same play, as was common in Shakespeare’s acting company.

The playhouses were far from polite and quiet, they were very noisy and exciting, and the plays were not like we see today. There was more energy, and the audience was part of the show. The actors played to and played with the audience, encouraging them to make noise and respond to the action on the stage.

I could easily see Ewan McGregor with other great actors, like his former Othello castmate Tom Hiddleston, performing Shakespeare like this. 


With Tom Hiddleston as Cassio



I could see Ewan McGregor as one of the Elizabethans whom Shakespeare knew. He had a brother named Edmund who was an actor. He had a childhood friend who was a book publisher.

Or, what about Ewan McGregor as King James? 

I am writing a version of Othello, which was originally written for and about King James, that features King James very prominently. We know very little about who he really was, and we know very little about Shakespeare. But when their stories are told together, as I am doing, both of them are revealed in new and very surprising ways.

I think an actor as adventurous and talented as Ewan McGregor would love to tell a story like that.





What do you think?

     If you agree with me that he should do some Shakespeare, please 
     show your support on facebookTwitterPinterest
     Google Plus or Tumblr.

     Your support will really make a difference!

     And your comments are always welcome!



Cheers,



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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Shakespeare and Sting


One of my favorite parts of learning and writing about Shakespeare is discovering music from the Elizabethan world in which Shakespeare lived.

It is one thing to read Shakespeare’s plays. It is great to see his plays live in a theatre.

But it is something entirely different to listen to music that was composed during his lifetime and which he would have heard himself.

When you listen to the music of John Dowland, the most famous of all Elizabethan composers, it seems to transport you back in time.

I will write more on this blog about the other albums and artists that I listen to, that are relevant to Shakespeare, but in the meantime I highly recommend Sting’s album ‘Songs from the Labyrinth.’





He performed and produced this album of the music of John Dowland, with the lutenist Edin Karamazov.


Edin Karamazov and Sting


You can learn more about the album here:







And you can learn more about John Dowland here:


This music was played and performed for the most important figures of the time, including Queen Elizabeth, and it is a great insight into that world.

The Queen’s Favourite, Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, is one of the people who figures in my versions of Hamlet, Richard III and Merchant of Venice. He was Shakespeare's friend, patron and the inspiration for many of Shakespeare's characters, like Henry V and Hamlet.


Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex


On this album there is a song whose lyrics are attributed to him, ‘Can She Excuse My Wrongs’ also known as ‘The Earl of Essex Galliard.’ It seems likely that Essex wrote the song for the Queen, and while we don’t know why he wrote the song, he is clearly in trouble with her — again.


Robert Cecil



Sting has even included spoken excerpts of a letter from Dowland to Robert Cecil, who was Queen Elizabeth’s right hand man, and her spymaster from 1590. Cecil was the most powerful person in England at that time. 

In my version of Hamlet, he is figured very prominently. If there was one man who was Shakespeare's nemesis, it was Cecil.

It even seems that Dowland even acted as a spy for Cecil!





Overall, Sting’s album is quite good. I do think he emphasizes the singing a little too much. But he has such a great voice, and it makes sense since he is trying to translate this music for today’s modern audience which is accustomed to music with an emphasis on the vocals. 

When I go to see a Shakespeare play, I am sometimes confused why the director and music director decided to compose new music. Often the music is very good and works with the play, while at other times the music doesn’t seem to fit. Why don’t they include more Elizabethan music? They could even make it more contemporary with modern instruments.

It was a treat to see the Shakespeare’s Globe productions of Twelfth Night and Richard III, accompanied by several musicians playing 17th century instruments.

I hope that more productions look at the Renaissance music like Dowland’s, and help to continue to introduce new audiences to this fantastic art.

Cheers, 



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