Living, Loving and Loathing Shakespeare (and laughing, too!)
Presented to the Calgary Women’s Literary Club
October 16, 2018
By Cecilia Krupa
Prologue: In my presentation I described how attending The Comedy of Errors in Stratford, England in 1972 awakened my love of Shakespeare as I witnessed his words come alive on the stage through the tremendous talents of the Redgrave family. I then spoke in first person as William Shakespeare, who began by reminding us that what was written about him was mostly speculative. He also insisted that he wrote his own plays because for two hundred years after his death no one questioned his authorship.
Act 1: People who were influential in my life:
- Citizens of Stratford: I was born in 1564 when two out of three infants died, so the fact that I survived my first year is probably my greatest accomplishment.
- My mother Mary: My mother could not read nor write, but she taught me nursery rhymes by rote thereby teaching me rhythm and rhyme in the process.
- My father John: As my father was mayor of Stratford, numerous acting companies came to our door for permission to set up shop in the town, and so I was introduced to pageantry.
- My teachers: I studied Latin and took part in morality plays where I learned that the boundary between comedy and tragedy was porous.
- My wife Anne Hathaway: My wife and I had three children including twins, but she couldn’t read so there was little correspondence between us after I moved to London to make a living.
- The citizens of London: Witnessing their suffering during the plague and the violence of the Reformation led me to write my greatest tragedies.
- Booksellers: I studied books written by Ovid and Chaucer and the Bible, too.
- Friends: Richard Burbage and Will Kemp invited me to become a sharer in the Lord Chamberlain’s Men. My friend Robert Greene became the hilarious scoundrel Sir John Falstaff.
- Hamnet: When my son Hamnet died at age eleven I experienced profound grief.
Act 2: The Bard
According to author Stephen Greenblatt something astonishing happened during this period in time. Shakespeare developed a very special skill either by accident or intent. He was the first playwright to perfect the means to express inwardness as seen in the play Hamlet. To be or not to be…
Act 3: The Role of Humour, Irony and Satire in Literature
Foley and Coates in Shakespeare for Grownups: Characteristics of humour in Shakespeare include movement of play from conflict to resolution; love and marriage; mistaken identities; disguises and doubles; stock characters such as a fool or smart servant; punning, wordplay; insults; inversion of normal order of things; arguments between families, but no death.
Act 4: 2018 A year of Living, Loving and Loathing Shakespeare (and laughing, too!)
Throughout 2018 I immersed myself in everything Shakespeare. My research was extensive, and I attended several plays and movies, including fundraisers for The Shakespeare Company. I even travelled to Stratford, Ontario to see The Tempest. This exciting year was documented in a scrapbook and in my seven-page handout which was rolled up like a scroll and tied with a purple or red ribbon. My written presentation was ten pages in length. I then used Power Point to illustrate my journey.
Act 5: All the World’s a Stage: a group recital of Shakespeare’s poem had everyone taking part.