Shakespeare in London

Click the image to watch the video

Poco più di una settimana fa, il 23 aprile per l’esattezza, ricorreva l’anniversario del compleanno di William Shakespeare, il grande poeta e drammaturgo inglese autore di opere quali Romeo e Giulietta, Amleto, Otello, tanto per citarne alcune. Per l’occasione, ce ne andiamo alla scoperta dei luoghi di Londra che hanno ispirato i suoi capolavori e lo facciamo in compagnia dell’attore shakespeariano Ben Crystal, grazie a questo video realizzato per il British Council.

While you watch the video, try to answer these questions – you will find the solution at the bottom of the post:

1. When and why did William Shakespeare move to London?
2. What was London like at the time?
3. What about its population?
4. Why did Shakespeare and his troop of actors move their theatre to Southwark?
5. When did the new Globe Theatre open?
6. How did Shakespeare’s life change with the opening of the Globe?

If you need help, the transcript is further below.

In the meantime, London was surely an important source of inspiration for Shakespeare. Did you catch the adjectives and expressions used in the video to describe the city at the time?

– diverse = made up of people or things that are different from each other
– (not very) developed = (not very) wealthy, industrialised, and modern
– busy = full of activity
– bustling = busy, full of activity
– melting pot = a place in which many races, ideas, etc. are mixed.

Now let’s take a look at some of the other words and expressions used in the video:

– (to) be hungry for something = (to) have a strong desire for something
– (to) float = (to) move gently on the surface of a liquid
– (to) make a living = (to) earn enough to support oneself
– (to) make one’s fortune = (to) acquire great wealth by one’s own efforts
– (to) take apart = (to) divide into parts, disassemble or dismantle

– bank= the higher ground at the edge of a river, lake, or sea
– disagreement = a conflict or difference of opinion
– landowner = someone who owns land
– playwright = a writer of plays
– share = any of the equal parts into which a property or corporation is divided
– troop = a group of people, animals or things

– faraway = very distant, remote
– fine = of superior quality, excellent

And, finally, here’s the transcript:

“Sometime in the late 1580s, a young actor named William Shakespeare left his family and home in rural Stratford-Upon-Avon to make his fortune here, 100 miles away, in London.
Over the next 20 years he produced some of the finest poems and plays in the English language.
So what happened here, in London, to transform the son of a glove maker into one of the world’s greatest writers?

Today, London is a global centre for finance, the arts and fashion, and is one of the most diverse cities in the world. But what was London like when William Shakespeare first arrived here?

Dr Hannah Crawforth: “It was obviously a much smaller city. Much of the activity was focused on the City of London, which is now the financial district. The rest of London was not very much developed. The West End didn’t exist. Covent Garden was still a garden. And, like modern London, it was a very busy, bustling place. There were lots of people coming into the city looking to make a living. It was a very diverse population, lots of immigrants, different social classes living closely together, the very rich to the very poor. And all of these people were hungry for entertainment and, particularly, the entertainment that the theatre could offer. The buildings that Shakespeare would have known were destroyed in 1666 in the Great Fire of London. So, sadly, we can’t see the city as Shakespeare saw it.”
Ben: “Do you think London was a source of inspiration for Shakespeare?”
Hannah: “Definitely. I’m absolutely sure it inspired Shakespeare. Although he tended to write about faraway places, Athens or Rome, the plays are full of the energy of London. A city that’s a real melting pot of ideas. The centre of political power. And that world, I think, is the world of Shakespeare’s plays.”

In his first decade in London, Shakespeare built up a reputation as one of the country’s most successful playwrights.
But at the end of 1598 Shakespeare’s troop of actors, the Chamberlain’s Men, had a disagreement with the landowner of their theatre in north London. So in the middle of the night they took the theatre apart, brought the wood, piece by piece, down to the banks of the River Thames, floated every single piece of wood across the water and brought it here to Southwark, an area of London where the land was cheaper, and rebuilt the theatre and called it The Globe. But today, much of Shakespeare’s London has disappeared. Only the foundations of the original Globe Theatre remain.

Dr Chris Laoutaris: “We’re opposite a square which looks quite plain, office blocks and apartment blocks around us, but this is the site of the original Globe Theatre which opened in 1599. This is where this magnificent theatre once stood.”
Ben: “With the arrival of the Globe Theatre, how did Shakespeare and his actors’ lives change?”
Chris: Shakespeare for the first time had some real financial stability behind him. He had a large share in the Globe, so he was earning quite a bit of money by this time, and I think from this foundation of financial security his creativity flourished. During the first six or seven years of the opening of the Globe he produces some of his most memorable plays, including the great tragedies, Hamlet, Othello, King Lear and Macbeth.
Ben: What was their working daily life like here?
Chris: Shakespeare would have been working very hard indeed. Because plays changed very, very often, this meant Shakespeare would have written plays very quickly and under very demanding conditions.

Shakespeare continued his playwriting almost until he died in 1616. But his work lived on thanks to his friends who saved many of his plays in a book now known as the First Folio.”

You can also download the transcript from the British Council’s website here.
While you can find some interesting activities for the documentary here.

E se volete saperne di più sulla vita del Bardo di Stratford-upon-Avon, andatevi a vedere il post William Shakespeare – The Life. Vi piacerà!

Bye for now, j

(1. William Shakespeare moved to London in the late 1580s to make his fortune there. 2. At the time London was smaller than today, much of the activity was focused on the City while the rest of London was not very developed. 3. The population was very diverse with lots of immigrants and different social classes living together. 4. Shakespeare and his troop of actors took their theatre apart and moved it to Southwark because they had a disagreement with the landowner and the land in Southwark was cheaper. 5. The new Globe Theatre opened in 1599. 6. With the opening of the Globe Shakespeare was earning quite a bit of money and his creativity flourished.)

Janet L. Dubbini

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