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 Shylock SOLVED 2. Shakespeare's Othello Finally Identified 3. Shakespeare In Love Sequel SOLVED 4. The Real Romeo and Juliet 5. Shakespeare's Malvolio Solved

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Something Rotten! Shakespeare Musical


I just saw the new Broadway musical about Shakespeare called Something Rotten!

If you are anywhere near New York City, you must see it!

It's hilarious!



The musical just opened last month on Broadway and it has taken New York by storm, and the critics are raving about it.

Already, it has garnered 10 Tony Award nominations, including Best Musical, Best Score, Best Choreography, Best Direction, and three Best Actor nominations.

Here is a link to find showtimes and tickets:


Here is a brief video to give you an idea of the show:







The musical is set in 1595 London, and William Shakespeare is a glam rockstar playwright/actor with adoring fans everywhere who cry out his name whenever he appears.

But the problem is that the other playwrights are always left behind.

Playwrights Nick Bottom, and his brother Nigel Bottom are broke and they need to get a big hit and fast. Nick goes to a fortune teller named Nostradamus whose fortune sets off a chain of events that will keep you laughing the whole way through.

Nostradamus and Nick Bottom

I don't want to ruin the plot for you but let's just say that there are a lot of great songs, there's lots of fantastic dancing, and loads of really funny gags and jokes. And omelets.

I was very excited to see this musical so early on. The actors were clearly thrilled to be performing such a hit, and each and every one of them in the cast was at the top of their game. All of them dance and sing, and I was exhausted just watching them, but their positive energy was electric and infectiously fun.




There are tons of Shakespeare references, some of them are obscure but most of them are very accessible -- but they are all very very funny. The creators of the show, Wayne Kirkpatrick, Cary Kirkpatrick, and John O'Farrell do an outstanding job of making almost every single line of the show into a punchline. The audience and I were laughing nonstop.

There are tons of musical references, from just about every single musical ever to run on Broadway. If you like musicals, you will be laughing even harder.




The musical seemed like a mashup of Shakespeare, Monty Python (Spamalot especially) and Mel Brooks's The Producers but with lots more singing and dancing. 

Brian d'Arcy James plays Nick, and John Cariani plays Nigel. They are the heros of the show, and their journey from down and out playwrights to the greatest showmen in London, and rivals to Shakespeare, is simply hilarious. 

Nigel and Portia

They carry the story and their misadventures take the story in all sorts of directions, including one especially funny subplot when Nick's wife gets a series of jobs, and the star-cross'd love between Nigel and Portia, a Puritan princess.

I was especially pleased to see Brian d'Arcy James, a veteran stage actor, since I saw him two years ago as Banquo with Ethan Hawke as Macbeth.

Brian d'Arcy James as Nick and Christian Borle as Shakespeare

Christian Borle as William Shakespeare (almost) steals every scene he's in. He plays the Bard as a bad boy lounge lizard who craves and demands to be the center of attention wherever he goes.

His Shakespeare is sidesplittingly funny. I especially enjoyed it when he disguised himself as Toby Belch, an actor from York. Priceless.

Christian Borle as Shakespeare

I don't think his Shakespeare resembles the real Shakespeare at all, but I do think Shakespeare would enjoy all of the bawdy humour in this musical. It may come as a surprise to you, but Shakespeare frequently used sexual puns and other naughty lines to keep his audience entertained. When Hamlet mentions "country matters" to Ophelia, he's not talking about current affairs in the suburbs.

There are so many incredible performances in this show it's hard to single anyone out: Heidi Blickenstaff is great as Nick's wife and her journey into the workplace with men provides some of the funniest jokes in the show. Brad Oscar as Nostradamus has two amazing show-stopping scenes. Brooks Ashmanskas as Brother Jeremiah, a Puritan scold and father to Portia, almost runs away with the whole show as he battles the other characters and whose lines always veer into sexual double entendres.

Heidi Blickenstaff with Nick and Nigel







But again, every single actor was performing their heart out, and they made the entire show exciting and thrilling. It’s rare to see such a perfect piece of entertainment, and with every moment, I was eager to see more of what they had up their sleeves. Happily, I was never disappointed by the show. It kept surprising me, and making me laugh.

And I wasn't the only one. I can't remember an audience laughing so much and so loudly.

Casey Nicholaw, who directed the show and choreographed the dancing, deserves a great deal of credit for making this show one of the most entertaining musicals I have ever seen, and I truly hope that it enjoys many years of success. It really deserves it.

The songs are wildly inventive and punctuated with jokes throughout. There are several standout songs, including "God, I Hate Shakespeare" and "The Black Death" but perhaps my favorite is when Shakespeare sings "Hard to Be the Bard." 

Do yourself a favor and see this show as soon as possible. You won't be disappointed.



Cheers,




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Thursday, May 14, 2015

Shakespeare's Real Petruchio


Who was the real Petruchio?

Did Shakespeare model this character after a real historical man?

Is Shakespeare's play The Taming of the Shrew based on real people?


Richard Burton as Petruchio

Many of the characters in Shakespeare's plays have names that he did not create. Those names were already established in history or literature. For example, Shakespeare did not invent the name Lear or Hamlet, since Lear was based on the ancient mythological king of Britain, and Hamlet is named after the Scandinavian story of Amleth.

However, there are many characters whose names Shakespeare invented himself. For example, he invented the names Othello, Shylock, Malvolio. I have solved the meaning behind those names, and now I would like to show you what the name Petruchio means.

Where did Shakespeare get the name Petruchio? I have not found a single theory behind the name.

Recently I came across an Italian man who was very well known to Queen Elizabeth, and he may have been the inspiration for the character of Petruchio — which is also commonly spelled Petruccio, as in the Arden edition of the play, for example.

This man was named Petruccio Ubaldini.

He was born in Tuscany around 1524 and died around 1600. He served as a mercenary soldier for King Henry VIII, and Edward VI. It is unclear, but he may have left England during the brief reign of Mary I, and returned to London once Elizabeth became queen.

He was one of many Italians who were welcome in Elizabeth's court. But most of these Italian expatriates were artisans without any political connections back in Italy. They were musicians, painters, and so forth. 


Dancing at court

Ulbadini was unique in part because he did have political contacts in Italy which were useful for Elizabeth to exploit. 

He served as a liaison between England and Italy. He would spend the rest of his life in her service, and she even paid him a salary.

Therefore, Ubaldini, in the words of one scholar: "became almost the only well-placed Italian reporter for English affairs during the second half of the sixteenth century. For lack of better sources, rulers in both England and Italy turned to Ubaldini."

But it seems that she did not pay him as much as he wanted. He regularly begged Queen Elizabeth for work. He had to turn to writing, teaching Italian, translating books, and copying and illuminating books. His need for money would become a real problem by the 1590's.

Also, he made translations for masques performed at Elizabeth's court — and even acted in them!


Queen Elizabeth watching a play at Christmas
Christmastide, William Sandys

In E.K. Chambers' The Elizabethan Stage, he writes that Ubaldini performed in a masque in 1576 and that "For that same masque a reward was paid to one 'Petrucio' while for a later masque of 11 Jan 1579 'Patruchius Ubaldinas' was employed to translate speeches into Italian and write them out fair in tables. This was Petruccio Ubaldini, another of Elizabeth's Italian pensioners, who was both a literary man and an illuminator."

Ulbadini wrote 12 books, published in England, between 1564 to 1597. 

Perhaps the most interesting book was a 1596 collection of poems written for Elizabeth. In his dedication to her, he wrote that he is "worn out by the weight of years and by the hard blows of cruel fate; and above all by the vain hope of his own success, something he expected because of his long and faithful service; he is not beaten yet, but exhausted."

He also wrote about his observations of Anne Boleyn, whom he personally knew, and her daughter, the Princess Elizabeth. In addition to praising the princess, he describes how the young Elizabeth "also uses a wonderful art with every man whom she wants to make use of." He also wrote that she was "tightfisted" and "shrewd" and mentions her "more than womanly shrewdness."


John Cleese as Petruchio

By the end of his career, and life, he blamed Elizabeth and her own evil and backbiting court for his failure to get better and more financially rewarding work.

We don't know what happened to him, when he died, or where he died.


So, is this Petruccio -- this former soldier, friend to Kings Henry VIII and Edward VI, and who saw Elizabeth from the time she was a girl, and later served in her court for about 40 years -- the real Petruchio in Shakespeare's play?


Peter O'Toole as Petruchio

How did Shakespeare know, or could know Petruccio Ubaldini?

Shakespeare arrived in London around 1587/8. By this time, Ubaldini's position and influence at court was waning, but he would have been a very entertaining fellow, who would attract young man in England to hear his stories and learn about Italy and Italian literature, music, etc.

The Earls of Derby, Southampton, and Essex were exactly the kind of young men who would have flocked to Ubaldini to teach them how to be polished courtiers.

These earls were Shakespeare's artistic patrons, and it is through them that Shakespeare could have met Ubaldini. 

It is not hard to imagine that the young Shakespeare, young, eager and ambitious, would have become fast friends with Ubaldini, who would have probably found Shakespeare to be a very witty and talented writer.

Ubaldini had performed in masques for the queen in the 1570’s. He clearly had an affinity with theatre, and probably got along quite well with actors like Shakespeare. 

Since they were both writers, Ubaldini may have seen Shakespeare as a kindred spirit.


Morgan Freeman as Petruchio

Why would Elizabeth keep Ubaldini in her court? What did she think of this man? 

Since she had known him her whole life, she may have seen him almost as family. And since he was close to her father, and he knew her mother, Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth may have considered him to be a precious and unique connection to her youth and her family's history.

Also, Queen Elizabeth admired and favoured blunt no-nonsense men. Men like Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, and Sir Walter Raleigh, her royal favourites.

Ubaldini may have been just such a man, and he also seems to have been every bit the poet/soldier/courtier type of man, like Sir Philip Sidney, which was so admired at the time in her court.

So, if Shakespeare did model his Petruchio after Petruccio Ubaldini, what does that mean for the play? What was Shakespeare up to?


Simon Paisley Day as Petruchio

If we assume that Petruchio is Petruccio Ubaldini, then who is Kate? Does she represent a real historical person?

Perhaps the Petruchio/Kate story is based on something that happened to Ubaldini in his youth, and Kate represents some long lost love of his. 

Perhaps Kate is based on a real woman whom Ubaldini knew in London circa 1594, around the time that the play was written. 

Perhaps Shakespeare wrote the play to lampoon Ubaldini and his misadventures in love. He was arguably a well known man in London, and perhaps the public would enjoy seeing a comedy at his expense.

Perhaps he was known for being a ladies man, and maybe even a bit rough and callous in his treatment of women. For all we know, he may have been a brute.

The play is controversial and problematic for some people, because of what they consider to be the misogynistic treatment of women in the play. 

But what if the play itself, and Shakespeare himself, are not misogynistic at all? What if Ubaldini himself was a misogynist, and Shakespeare was merely representing it?


Was Queen Elizabeth the real Kate?

Yet, of all the possibilities for the real identity of Kate, it is also tempting to think that Kate represents Queen Elizabeth herself. 

I am not suggesting that Ubaldini and Queen Elizabeth were lovers, although they were not that far apart in age. He was only about 9 years older.

What I am suggesting is that the shrewish Kate represents the shrewish qualities of Queen Elizabeth, whom Ubaldini described as being "shrewd" and possessing "shrewdness" even as young woman. "Shrew” and “shrewd” are  related words.


Elizabeth Taylor as Kate

It must have been an irresistable idea for Shakespeare to put Petruccio Ubaldini and Queen Elizabeth on stage as Petruchio and Kate and let them engage in a battle of the sexes.

I think that Queen Elizabeth had a good enough sense of humour to find it very funny. And I'm sure that Ubaldini thought it was a laugh riot.

But there may be a greater point here, too. Perhaps Shakespeare is also making the case that Queen Elizabeth should employ Ubaldini, and not mistreat him. Petruchio mistreatment of Kate seems very odd considering how badly the queen was treating Ubaldini during the period in which the play was written.


Samantha Spiro as Kate

So, did Shakespeare base his Petruchio character on Petruccio Ubaldini?

Yes, it must be based on him. The conclusion is inescapable.

Shakespeare wrote all of his plays, including Taming of the Shrew, so they would eventually be performed before the queen herself.

What other possible reason could Shakespeare have in naming the character Petruchio, when he knew that as soon as the queen saw the play and heard the name Petruchio, she would immediately associate it with Ubaldini?

Also, there is a very convincing suggestion that Shakespeare’s Duke Orsino character in Twelfth Night, written in the winter of 1601-1602, is named after Virginio Orsini, Duke of Bracciano, whom Queen Elizabeth met during the previous winter of 1600-1601. 

So, if it is conceivable that SX would name Orsino after an Italian man whom Elizabeth had met for a few months, then it is even more likely that he would name Petruchio after an Italian man whom Elizabeth had known her whole life.

I do not know all the reasons why Shakespeare named Petruchio after Petruccio Ubaldini. I don't understand what it was about this Italian courtier that so fascinated the queen.




But it seems very clear that Shakespeare wrote this play for them, and the meaning of the play is hidden within the play, and waiting for us to discover.

Cheers,



Sources:


Wikipedia:




E.K. Chambers, Vol II, pages 261-5


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Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Shakespeare and Robert Pattinson


Should Robert Pattinson do some Shakespeare?

Absolutely!




I have read that he once performed the role of Malcolm in Macbeth, so he has already done some Shakespeare.

There are many roles he would be great in -- Hamlet, Macbeth, Prince Hal/Henry V, Benedick, Coriolanus, and so forth.

But I would really like to see him as Petruchio. The Taming of the Shrew is one of my favourite plays, and Petruchio is one of the greatest roles in history. Petruchio has to be manly, funny, charismatic and very strong to be able not only to woo but also to win the heart of Kate.

I think Robert Pattinson has those qualities, and I think it would be exciting to see the sparks fly between him and Kate in Shakespeare's war of the sexes.




It would seem that ever since the Twilight series of films, he has been hell bent on doing as much work as possible, and experimenting with roles. Good for him!

I especially liked him in Water for Elephants and Bel Ami.

He is a very interesting actor, and it will be exciting to see him develop a body of work.

So, if he is that brave, he should give a hard look at Shakespeare, and do some soon.




But as much as he should do some Shakespeare on stage and on screen, I think he would be perfect in my Shakespeare Solved series of films.

It would be great to see him as an Elizabethan actor, and show what it was like for Shakespeare to write the plays, and perform them for the first time in history.

When I was writing my version of Merchant of Venice, and I realized that the actor who first played Bassanio, probably Henry Condell, must have been uncommonly handsome, and would no doubt have had adoring female fans who came to many if not all of the performances.

I thought of Robert Pattinson immediately for Henry Condell/Bassanio.




Also, in my versions of Hamlet, Richard III, and Merchant there are many other roles beyond the actors who perform those plays.

One of the most significant roles would be Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton, who was known to be uncommonly handsome. He and his close friend Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex were patrons to Shakespeare, and he was a co-conspirator in the failed Essex Rebellion against the Queen in 1601.

Of all the people who may have been the "fair youth" in Shakespeare's sonnets, Southampton is the most convincing candidate.

I also thought of Robert Pattinson for the role of Southampton.

Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton

And I couldn't help but think that Shakespeare modeled the character of Bassanio after his friend and patron Southampton.

And since Southampton, and Essex for that matter, practically lived at the theatre, I would bet that I'm right.

Also, Shakespeare had already written Romeo and Juliet for and about Southampton.




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, May 5, 2015

Shakespeare and Henry Cavill


Should Henry Cavill do some Shakespeare?

Absolutely!




He was great in The Tudors -- he really looked like he belonged in that period of history.

And it seems like he enjoys acting in different periods, with his work in The Immortals and The Count of Monte Cristo.

He was fantastic as the new Superman. He was absolutely convincing as the greatest superhero of them all. And I thought his scenes with Russell Crowe were excellent.

I can't wait to see him opposite Ben Affleck in Batman v. Superman next year.




I hope that he eventually, sooner than later, does some Shakespeare.

There are so many roles he could play -- as Coriolanus, Henry V, and Macbeth, for example. He would be great as Iago.

But I would love to see him as Mark Antony in both Julius Caesar and in Antony and Cleopatra. It would be very interesting to see him in both plays, at different times in Mark Antony's life, and I think that Henry Cavill would enjoy the challenge of playing such a complicated and important historical figure.




But what could be even more exciting is if Henry Cavill was in my Shakespeare Solved series of films about Shakespeare's life and plays.

As I have written earlier, Shakespeare's actors were the most popular players of his day, and in our day and age, it would be exciting to have an world-famous actor like Henry Cavill on the screen insome new Shakespeare for our new age.

For the sake of my versions of Hamlet, Richard III, and The Merchant of Venice -- which set the plays in their original historical context, and show how the plays would have been performed for the first time in history, in Elizabethan London -- I could see him as one of the historical figures of the Elizabethan era.


Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex

He would be fantastic as Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, for example. Essex was dashing, heroic but he came to a terrible end, as he led a failed rebellion against Queen Elizabeth.

He was also Shakespeare's friend and patron. After the Rebellion, and after Essex's execution, Shakespeare wrote his Hamlet play to remember and celebrate his dear friend.

I would love to see that relationship on screen, and I think Henry Cavill would be fantastic as the man who inspired Hamlet.




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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Geoffrey Rush as Shakespeare's King Lear


Great news!

Geoffrey Rush will be playing King Lear at the Sydney Theatre Company later this year.




He is one of the most remarkably talented actors, and it is thrilling that he will perform this role.

He is one of my favorite actors, and while I am disappointed that he has not done more Shakespeare, on stage or screen, I am very excited that he will do Lear.

I hope that the Sydney Theatre Company will decide to film this play, and make it available for download, or purchase on DVD.

For any of you in Australia who love theatre and/or Shakespeare -- you can not miss this.

You can learn more and buy tickets here:



Cheers,



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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Shakespeare and Daniel Day-Lewis


Why hasn't Daniel Day-Lewis done any Shakespeare on film?





You would think at one point or another that he would have participated in some Shakespeare film adaptation.


It is so easy to imagine him working with Kenneth Branagh and/or Ralph Fiennes.


I did some reading up on him and it came as no surprise that he did Shakespeare on stage -- he joined the Royal Shakespeare Company in about 1983.


He played Romeo, and also Flute in A Midsummer Night's Dream.


In 1989, he played Hamlet at the National Theatre, directed by Richard Eyre. It was an uncut version of the play, and it ran about four hours long.


With Judi Dench as Gertrude


He was joined by Dame Judi Dench as Gertrude. Oh, they must have been terrific together.



As Hamlet


During a performance of this Hamlet, his emotions overcame him, and he couldn't go on. 

He didn't finish the run of the play.

For such a fine actor like him, it must have been quite a moment that brought on such an emotional response, and it must have been terribly excruciatingly difficult for him to decide against finishing the production.


Later he claimed in a TV interview that he had seen the ghost of his own father at that very moment. 


I'm not sure if we are supposed to believe this. I have a feeling that he was being provocative.

But I do find it interesting that he has never performed on stage since.


In any event, I think it is a crime that he has not done any Shakespeare since then.


Perhaps he has just not found the right Shakespeare to do.





I read recently that in 1991, Julia Roberts was going to play Viola in the film Shakespeare in Love. She insisted that the only actor who could play the part of William Shakespeare was Daniel Day-Lewis. 


But he was not interested. When she could not get him to do it, she pulled out of the film, which was set to begin only six weeks later!


It took several more years before Gwyneth Paltrow and Joseph Fiennes made the version that we know today.


I think he would have been remarkable as Shakespeare. But I have a feeling that he didn't want to portray Shakespeare as the film depicts him. He probably wanted to portray a more serious and dramatic Shakespeare.


And even though he has not done any Shakespeare in a very long time, he has done played many characters who are larger-than-life, and almost Shakespearean in their complexity and greatness.

Bill the Butcher in Gangs of New York and Daniel Plainview in  There Will Be Blood come to mind.




There are so many great Shakespeare roles for him to play -- Macbeth, Richard III, Mark Antony in Antony and Cleopatra and/or Julius Caesar, etc. 

But I would love to see him most as Prospero. I think it would be something entirely unlike anything he has done before.

Also, when he is much older, can you imagine him as King Lear? That would be incredible.


But I would also love to see him in my Shakespeare Solved series of films, and seeing him in the world of William Shakespeare, Queen Elizabeth, King James, and see how the plays were originally performed at the Theatre in Shoreditch and the Globe Southwark.




I ask you, is there a better actor for period movies? He seems to have an real passion for acting in different historical periods -- he must really enjoy living as another human being in a distant time and place for months on end. It’s a truly remarkable talent.

I think he would find the Elizabethan world every bit as fascinating as any other in which he has immersed himself.


There are several characters within this world that he could portray, but I would love to see him as one of Shakespeare's fellow actors, who eventually became the King's Men for King James.





I think he would find it a worthy challenge to communicate to us, the modern audience, the stories of struggle and sacrifice, triumph and failure of people like Shakespeare and his family and fellow actors.


I do hope that sooner than later he would lends his truly unique talent to doing some Shakespeare, and perhaps even bring my Shakespeare Solved series of films to life.


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 Schajer


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