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  • Hi everyone, it's Lauren and this is the first video in a series that I'm doing on the plays of William Shakespeare.

  • I'm going to be looking at Shakespeare in context, Shakespeare in performance

  • and giving some tips and advice on how to read Shakespeare

  • and also doing some separate videos really analyzing some of his plays,

  • so if there's any requests that you have, any specific parts of Shakespeare or certain plays that you want me to focus on,

  • let me know in the comments below and today's video is just going to be a really brief

  • really brand-new overview, sort of a Shakespeare 1010 for people who maybe who are

  • interested in learning a little bit more about Shakespeare but don't really have any

  • experience or have had really bad experiences in school. Starting from the

  • very beginning, Shakespeare was born in 1564 in Stratford-Upon-Avon which is a

  • small town in the middle of England. He was married there, he had three children

  • and then sometime later left them all behind to move down to London to pursue

  • his career as an actor and playwright. He was part of a group of players called

  • the Lord Chamberlain's Men and they performed in several different theatres

  • in London, they also toured the country, until about 15 99 when they opened their

  • own theater - The Globe, a replica of which is in London which you can go and whatch

  • plays in today, and this was an open-air theatre. The stage is covered, so the actors

  • stay dry but if it rains all of the audience standing in the pit below get

  • wet

  • Although Shakespeare's language is very poetic and I do enjoy reading his plays

  • his plays weren't really written to be read they are written to be performed so

  • understanding the context in which they performed really helps you understand

  • what's going on in the plays and Shakespeare's motivation for some of the things

  • that he's doing. So we can roughly divided Shakespeare's plays into about two

  • areas, the first area is when he's performing under the reign of Queen

  • Elizabeth I and plays of this time tend to be historical plays which

  • are really fashionable and also a lot of comedies are written at this time. It's

  • important to remember with the history plays in particular that these are not

  • being written from a position of objectivity because Queen Elizabeth is a

  • Tudor monarch and she is the current reigning monarch, and there is a lot of

  • Tudor propaganda which turns up in some of these plays that Shakespeare's writing

  • particularly Richard III

  • Quick English history lesson here! Richard III was the king before Elizabeth's

  • grandfather, Henry VII and he was killed in battle during a time

  • called the Wars of the Roses and since he was killed and basically usurped

  • by Henry VII, it was really important for the Tudors to depict

  • him as a terrible cruel and evil king which he is depicted as in 'Richard III'

  • The second part of Shakespeare's career takes place under the reign of King

  • James I who is a Stuart king and his group of players, the Lord

  • Chamberlain's Men is changed to become the King's Men and they have a much

  • closer relationship with the monarch and there is a change in the type of plays

  • that he's producing at this point, they're not so much comedies and really literal

  • historical tragedies. They're a little bit more complex such as Hamlet, Othello, King Lear

  • and The Winter's Tale, they are all written in this period. We also notice some

  • themes which are probably appealing more to King James's taste, who was really

  • obsessed with magic and witchcraft and those sorts of things appear in Macbeth

  • and The Tempest. At this point the King's Men are also given a theatre to perform in

  • during the winter months because you can imagine in The Globe being open air can

  • only be performed in summer, it would be too cold in the winter otherwise, but

  • performing plays indoors is actually kind of a new and interesting concept

  • and allows the players to try out some different techniques with special

  • effects. It means that they can make the stage dark for the first time, they've

  • never been able to do that before and the use of candlelight is very interesting

  • and important and comes back in lots of Jacobean plays. Now we come to the part

  • which a lot of people seem to struggle with with Shakespeare and that is the

  • language itself. So firstly you have to remember that these plays were written

  • 400 years ago and language and certain words, certain meanings is very different

  • to how we speak now. Not only that, you've got to imagine that these players are

  • performing these words, performing these speeches in front of audiences who don't

  • have very much set, there's not very much special special effects as we know

  • them today, people might be standing in the cold for hours on end to see these

  • plays and the key isn't just a tell a good story is also to capture the imagination

  • of the audience and also maybe explain stuff that can't be portrayed them

  • visually. For example with plays like Henry V you can't have a massive

  • battlefield on the stage, it just isn't possible and they

  • can't do it justice to the audience so they have to use their words, they

  • have to use the language to really evoke the atmosphere. So this descriptive

  • poetry that he uses can get a little bit flowery and to a modern audience seemed to

  • get a little bit off topic, but you've got to perhaps put yourselves in the shoes of

  • the audience who are listening to these passages.Shakespeare also uses a lot

  • of myth, a lot of stories that his audience would have been really familiar with in

  • the way that these days we might watch a lot of World War II films or read some

  • books which are fairytale retellings because those stories are sort of in our

  • collective consciousness and Shakespeare uses stories of recent history such as

  • the Wars of the Roses which were not really long ago for his audience and he

  • also uses allusions and comparisons to characters in Greek and Roman mythology

  • and well-known folktales because these are stories that his audiences would

  • have been really aware of and it's just a metaphorical way of setting the scene

  • and explaining and the emotions and motivations of the characters. And this

  • is why I would really advocate listening to Shakespeare being read aloud, by

  • someone else or reading and out to yourself or watching an adaptation of

  • one of his plays either on stage or film. Not only can the language itself be

  • a little bit tricky at times but also the structure I think people can find

  • alienating. So Shakespeare uses two different types of structure depending

  • on who's speaking

  • and depending on the nature of the speech or the scene. He uses prose for

  • more colloquial chatter when people are talking to each other, being funny or

  • when characters are of a lower status, and then he uses verse for his epic

  • grand speeches and often when characters are of noble blood. Now the verses,

  • although it doesn't often rhyme, it does sometimes, and they are written in

  • iambic pentameter. Now I'm sure you've heard that phrase before I'm sure it was

  • banged over your head at school, and it really is very simple, so breaking it

  • down, a penetameter is basically a set of five pairs of syllables we know that

  • pent (pentagon) is five, it's five sets of two syllables which means actually the

  • whole sentence itself is ten syllables but it's more like ONE and TWO and THREE

  • and FOUR and FIVE

  • that is a penetameter. Iambic pentameter flips the rhythm of that on

  • its head a little bit and it means that the stress is always on the second

  • syllable rather than the first

  • so rather than ONE andTWO and THREE and FOUR and FIVE

  • it's more like da DUM da DUM da DUM da DUM da DUM To BE or NOTto BE that IS the QUEStion

  • that his iambic pentameter. Simple! Another reason I think it's a really

  • good idea to watch a production or an adaptation of Shakespeare's plays is the

  • way that his plays have been written down and preserved there aren't a lot of

  • stage directions in there which can make a reader perhaps imagine the characters

  • just standing on stage and giving a really long monologue and that there's

  • not much going on, and you really need a director to bring this stuff to life

  • When these plays were written, the actors didn't get a whole play as you would

  • these days, they literally got their parts written down just with the last

  • line of the person speaking before them so that they knew their cue so that when

  • they heard that line they knew that that was then their turn to speak

  • so there wasn't really a play as such which existed in one form for the actors

  • to work from

  • so the stage directions and what was going on would have just been happening

  • while the play was being rehearsed and they haven't all been written down

  • However there are actually a lot of visual jokes in Shakespeare and gestures

  • which you can see in people's words they're reacting to, but it's not obvious

  • that that's what other characters are doing so if you are new to Shakespeare I

  • think it really helps having someone who deeply understands that text bring it to

  • life before your eyes and it just helps with the comprehension

  • for example there's a scene in As You Like It where Rosalind walks on stage

  • and says 'Well this is the Forest of Arden' and that's just a line when you

  • read it down because she's saying 'oh we're in the forest', but if you saw her

  • on stage in a blank and empty wooden state and she goes 'Wwell this is the

  • Forest of Arden!'

  • that's actually quite funny (if you're actually a professional actor and not me)

  • and that's quite a funny visual joke for the audience but it's something that you

  • wouldn't get on a first read. So I hope that has whetted your appetite somewhat

  • and given you a little bit of background into who Shakespeare was and

  • how and why he was writing these plays. Like I said I'm going to be doing some

  • small videos really focusing on a couple of his plays, perhaps ones that you're

  • studying at

  • school maybe Romeo and Juliet or Hamlet and really going through the language

  • of them, so if there are any that you would really particularly like me to

  • make a video on please let me know

  • make sure that your subscribed to get all of the videos in this series and I will

  • see you next time, bye!

Hi everyone, it's Lauren and this is the first video in a series that I'm doing on the plays of William Shakespeare.

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A2 UK shakespeare written da dum stage dum da king

An Introduction to Shakespeare

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    Jerry Liu posted on 2019/01/27
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