What was Shakespeare like? Woodland has been deforested and barrels of ink spilled on this aspect of Shakespeare’s biography, so, as a bit of fun, let’s add to the eternal saga. There are two characters that Shakespeare named William and they are both in comedies; As You like It and The Merry Wives of Windsor.
The production team gathered at the Pendley Manor Hotel last weekend for a routine check-up on itself. This rather threw me off my blogging rhythm. Anyhow, seeing the space again, complete with its bushes and branches, brick-built steps and grassy knolls turned my attention to the concept of outdoor Shakespeare.
I just can’t shake off this London interest.
I was playing the ‘If you could travel to any time and place in history where would you go?’ game with a friend once and he said he would go to Bankside in Shakespeare’s day. I was just about to stifle a yawn, when he said he didn’t want to go for the plays alone. Cancelling the yawn, I took an interest. He pointed out that there was a whole universe of entertainment in that area, situated neatly just outside the City’s jurisdiction.
Well, there’s a question to ruffle a few feathers.
I was at the Sam Wannamaker Playhouse at The Globe yet again last night, seeing The Knight of the Burning Pestle, and it led me to reflect on the sort of parallel lives that London Renaissance theatre lived in and around Shakespeare’s time. The companies that put on all the plays we remember were the adult companies. This is not least because Shakespeare only ever write for adult companies. Throughout the 1500s, the commercial adult companies only played outdoors at playhouses broadly similar to the Globe as we know it on Bankside today.
As I staggered away from Eileen Atkins’ magical one-woman show as Ellen Terry at Shakespeare’s Globe earlier this week, I strolled thoughtfully along the South Bank towards London Bridge. I am often glad that the Globe is not nearer to a tube stop. The opportunity to be alone with one’s thoughts for any time in London is a rare gift.
Given that we are the Pendley Shakespeare Festival and that I am the rather grandly titled Literary Advisor, it would be as well to lay my cards on the table regarding what, or more exactly who, I think 'Shakespeare' means. The film Anonymous brought the Authorship Question, as it’s sometimes known, fully into the mainstream. The film posits the theory, amongst others that are even more ludicrous, that the Earl of Oxford wrote the plays traditionally attributed to William Shakespeare.