Julius Caesar and the Globe

(Part B of Bronze Award)

During the summer of the past year my family and I went watch the political play, Julius Caesar. I can still remember the horror of it all, the blood, the violence and the torture of having to stand in the sun for three hours! Oh the pain!

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It was worth it though. Julius Caesar was an excellent play about power, ambition and assassination; it was exceptional. We went to watch it in the GLOBE and I think really if you want to get the best of Shakespeare you have to watch it there. Being there and watching the play really gives you a sense of what it was like back in Shakespeare’s day. What also made it interesting was how the players actually acted all around you and since I was part of the yard I got the best of it. During the scene changes, the actors might carry the props off stage and through the yard area to the backstage. In more than one scene, actors would be around you in the crowd and shouting up at the stage. At one point, we, the audiences were shouted at to make way for the Roman senate to go past. It was truly tremendous.

While during intermission, my younger brother took the opportunity to move forward toward the stage. When the play came back on, they had a scene where a poet’s testicles were ripped by the angry mob. It was so real that my brother was shocked and he ran back to my mum. His astonished face was priceless.

copyright of The Telegraph

copyright of The Telegraph

Julius Caesar was about the power of struggle of Julius Caesar, his assassination and the turmoil that came after. Shakespeare must have adopted the play based on historical fact that he have studied in school. I was told that the Elizabethan crowd loved these bloody play. The audience in most play would actually participate in the play by booing, cheering and even throwing rotten fruits on stage. One can imagine how much more entertaining it would be in those days.

I didn’t read about the play when I went to watch it, I only had a vague idea about what the play was about. Unlike my dad who had studied it at school I was clueless on what was going to happen. However it was clear, not hard to understand, and I am very glad that I have studied the language Shakespeare used otherwise I think I would have been a little bit befuddled.

(Unfortunately, I lost our GBP5 standing tickets which we bought on a standby because we just turned up without making a reservation.)

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1000 words on confusion about William Shakespeare

(Part C of Bronze Award)

Why do people fear Shakespeare? To be honest from my point of view I think that it’s silly to be scared William Shakespeare’s writing, but I once actually feared it too.

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When I was younger I used to hate it when I had to study him. I didn’t see why people forced children to look at gibberish (Shakespearean) and understand it; was there a point to it? Did they think it would help this generation? Now we have computers and the internet why did we have to be taught how to understand it when we could just search it up?

I was really too naive at the time to understand the beauty in words; how people could shape and mold letters into stories that can break our hearts. I was lazy too. I’m not the most hardworking of people and anything that took effort I was really not bothered with.

I think it was really when I started acting did I actually start to adore and comprehend the depth and meaning of his plays. I remember that my first audition, I did a piece from Shakespeare (Richard 3rd) and I really liked it. His writing literally teaches us how we feel, how we act, how we think; and when you read it you can see how much thought he put into his characters. How much detail he puts into illustrating the emotions of the individual. How hard he works to make us understand. We cannot just dismiss his works as classics. We must appreciate them for what they are. It’s not easy to write like how Shakespeare does and furthermore he didn’t even go to university!

It is sad that most of his storyline weren’t his original creation. Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth etc. were all plays that he wrote based on tales and chronicles. Romeo and Juliet was a direct adaptation from this poem called The Tragicall Historye of Romeus and Juliet, by Arthur Brooke, written in 1562. Macbeth was based of Holinshed’s Chronicles (Macbeth). However, it is Shakespeare who passed these forgotten art and story of age to us, breaking the boundary of time.

I know that his language is hard to fathom but you must be patient when it comes to learning. It is do-able but you just need that little bit of determination. There was once when we went to watch Mid-summers Dream in the Esplanade along with a friend. While we were watching it, she was scowling the whole time! During the interval she was complaining that she couldn’t understand it and that she didn’t enjoy it. So she left. However, I on the other hand, had a very pleasant time. There are a few things you HAVE to do to enjoy Shakespeare’s plays:

  1. Try to study the play beforehand, especially if you find the language hard. This is almost essential, unlike most, these plays are in Shakespearean so without understanding the plot and the language you have little hope of enjoying it. The least you should read the synopsis. Try reading the play out loud will help you to understand the language better.
  2. Make sure you actually like the play. Don’t go to watch a play that you don’t appreciate. If you’re more into death, despair and anger, see Hamlet not the Merry Wives of Windsor. If you like happy endings, despise sadness don’t bother to see Romeo and Juliet, watch Midsummer Night’s Dream instead. If you don’t like the plot when you study it then don’t go see it, it will leave a bad impression on you and you wouldn’t want to go watch another Shakespeare’s play. Begin with a story you like.
  3. Different productions will look and feel different. You might enjoy Macbeth when you first see it in the Globe in London but think it was rubbish when it is made into a movie. Every play is different even if it has the same story. The actors will interpret it differently and there will be different props and stage. For a beginner in Shakespeare, I suggest going to a modernized version of the play. One can relate better to a familiar staging. However, I must say that watching Shakespeare at The Globe is still one of my best experience.
  4. If you have no chance to go to the Globe, try to sit as close as possible to the stage. In Tudor time, play were written like Pantomime where audiences were part of the play. Sitting closer to the stage will allow you to feel what Shakespeare had intended for you to feel.
  5. This may be the last but not the least, if you can try, act out the play. Shakespeare wrote plays not novels. Many emotions are clearer when it is acted out. The very first Shakespeare I did was Richard III. We learn the history of the story and wrote a character summery for the main roles. Finally, we acted out our synopsis through each character.  It was fun!

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There is a theory that maybe Shakespeare was not the real playwright. There were many people who were suspected to have written ‘Shakespeare’s’ plays, including Lord Francis Bacon , the Earl of Essex, Christopher Marlowe, the Earl of Derby, the Earl of Rutland, the Earl of Oxford, and even Queen Elizabeth I herself. Supporters to the idea that Shakespeare didn’t write his plays claimed that first and foremost, he was not as educated as his fellow playwrights. He came from a middle class, trader family. His plays consists of many reference to the upper class.  I like to think that Shakespeare did attend a Grammar School and though he did not go to a University, it does not prove that he could not write like his peer. His short job experience at a notary would have given him many opportunity to understand the law and upper class systems. Furthermore many plays were actually co-written so it wasn’t all Shakespeare’s individual creativity.

Shakespeare was well known as a playwright but he was also an actor and a successful businessman. William Shakespeare had to leave education early in his youth because his father had failed in his financial affair. He went to London and started out as an actor. This allowed him to build a fantastic relationship and understanding with the actors. When he writes, he wrote each part for a specific actor, bringing out their acting personality and ability. In time, as theatre become more permanent structure, he invested and became one of the theatre owners.

I believed that it is because he was a successful man that he became so well known. There were many famous playwrights during his time such as Christoper Marlowe. However, one can imagine Shakespeare’s success as a person has many reasons for him to become an inspiration to others. One of the main reason for his popularity even until today could all come down to the hard work of famous English actor, producer and theatre manager, David Garrick. We could say that he was the BIGGEST fan of Shakespeare. He staged the Shakespeare Jubilee in Stratford upon Avon in 1769 which cement Shakespeare as England’s national poet.

Garrick-as-Richard-III

David Garrick as Richard III

My family and I went to Stratford Upon Avon in July 2014 to visit Shakespeare’ birthplace. So what is so great about William Shakespeare? Shakespeare was born in the time when England was emerging from its dark age. His success as a person is an inspiration to many. His plays still struck a core in our heart. His contribution to the English language remain important till today. I cannot end this better than quoting Shakespeare.

Learning about Shakespeare in Stratford Upon Avon, July-August 2014

Learning about Shakespeare in Stratford Upon Avon, July-August 2014

“Love Me or Hate Me, both are in my favor…If you love me, I’ll always be in your heart. If you hate me, I’ll always be in your mind.”

To find out more Shakespeare’s biography please visit these websites:

http://www.shakespeare-online.com/biography/shakespeareparents.html

http://www.william-shakespeare.info/william-shakespeare-biography-brothers-and-sisters.htm

To learn more about David Garrick, please visit these websites:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Garrick#An_easy.2C_natural_manner

The Merchant Of Venice

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My very poor shot of the actors in the end

The other day I went to watch, ‘The Merchant of Venice’ presented by Singapore Repertory Theatre. It was extremely pleasant and amusing to watch, but not how I expected it to be.

Ticket to The Merchant of Venice

Ticket to The Merchant of Venice

The play was set in the modern world with iPads and iPhones and with many lights which made the stage look like a city. Everyone was dressed in smart suits or elegant dresses. Everyone that is, other than the Jewish people, who were in Indian punjabi suits. Even though they did not change the script it is very clear the role of the Jew was represented by the Indian replacment. They did this to aid the Singapore audience in understanding the feeling of the minority in a country, i.e Jews in 1500s Caucasian Venice as opposed to Indians in Singapore. There were many Indian money lenders in the early days Singapore.

The players, I think, were well chosen. Portia and Bassanio were fit and good looking which I thought was how the characters were suppose to be. Prince of Morocco, I found, was the only one who was different to my imagination. I imagined the Prince of Morrocco to be tall and charming in his own Morrocon way.

Shylock’s performance did not seem as furious as he was in the written play. The famous speech on imbalance treatment of the Jew, ‘if you prick us, do we not bleed…’, somehow were lost among the love stories. Similarly, Portia’s famous speech about mercy, also, was lost among the kisses. The theme of the performance seem to be focused more on the romance, especially between Gratiano and Nerissa. I did not feel the intensity of the discrimination and revenge as I anticpated.

The emotional outburst from Jessica at the end of the show was unexpected. It occurred to me that she must have been quite upset after she found out that her father had lost everything and maybe she was regretting running away with Lorenzo. Through this, it made me think that Shylock may not have been that bad as a father.

Overall, it was done well. Although my bottom got very sore from sitting on the hill, it was entertaining. Ever more satisfying was that we get a Q&A sessions with few of the players.

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Picture of us with the actor. I am first from the right.

In comparison to the same play I saw in Worcester in United Kingdom last October, both plays are at an equal. I understood the play more this time because I studied it. The Worcester Repertory Company made up for the lack of props and background by the performance of the players. The main difference between these two plays was that in Worcester the main focus was about the money lending and revenge whilst in the recent play, it was about the love stories.

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Programme for Worcester Repertory’s The Merchant of Venice.

I think that both plays were done well and I like both of them immemsely. It is interesting how each company had protrayed the play in accordance to the culture of the audiences.

(Part B of Bronze Award)

10 May 2014

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We also did a workshop with a representative from Royal Shakespeare in regard to the Merchant of Venice. The workshop was full of different games to understand the story better. It was okay. I think it would be better if there were less children, or with children of the same age. Children ages ranged from 9 to 14 years old. The games were fun but I did not feel that I had contributed much due to the number of children.

(Part A of Bronze Award)