Two Gentlemen at the Bodleian Library

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 27.256  Friday, 1 August 2016


From:        Julia Griffin <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         July 29, 2016 at 9:39:52 PM EDT

Subject:    Two Gentlemen at the Bodleian Library


In the spirit of recent postings, I’d like to warn anyone considering a visit to the Globe on Tour’s Two Gentlemen, playing in the Old Schools Quad of the Bodleian Library this summer.  The programme explains that the director is in love with the 1960s, and the performance noisily confirms it; there’s much less sign that he loves or indeed has any time at all for the play.  The result is a show perversely gimmicky, garbled, hard to follow, and thus a bore, for all its obvious terror of that.  Not to speak of the lack of dog (his part usurped by a guitar-player in a furry deer-stalker).


A great disappointment for anyone who, like me, had seen the brilliant Comedy of Errors performed in the same space a few years ago, or the wonderfully ingenious Hamlet.


Julia Griffin




New Play on Shakespeare

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 27.255  Friday, 1 August 2016


From:        Sean Lawrence <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         July 29, 2016 at 7:06:48 PM EDT

Subject:    New Play on Shakespeare


I’ve just saved this to pocket. I imagine that you’ll get a number of other people noting this play by Rowan Williams, but my source is perhaps original:


Former Archbishop turns tables on William Shakespeare

By Gavin Drake

July, 29 2016


A play written by the former Archbishop of Canterbury and Wales, Rowan Williams, about the “lost years” of celebrated English playwright Williams Shakespeare has opened in a theatre in Wales. Shakeshafte is set in 1581 and depicts Shakespeare as a Roman Catholic at the time of Elizabeth I’s suppression of the “old religion.”


The play is fictional but draws on a creative interpretation of known events.


A review of the play by BBC Online explains that very little documentary evidence can be found for Shakespeare’s existence in his 20s; but that a will unearthed in 1851 shows that a Will Shakeshafte, on the recommendation of a John Cottam, was acting as a schoolmaster for a Catholic family in Houghton Tower, Lancashire. Cottam is said to have been Shakespeare’s last schoolmaster in Stratford-upon-Avon.


The play is based on Rowan Williams’ supposition that William Shakespeare and Will Shakeshafte are the same person.


“Shakespeare knows exactly where he does, and doesn’t, want to go, in matters of church and state,” Rowan Williams said in an interview with the South Wales Echo last year. “He deliberately puts some of his plays right outside the Christian, Tudor/Jacobean framework.


“For instance, King Lear takes place in a pre-Christian Britain. Again, some people argue that Cymbeline is about a rupture with Rome, leading to a reconciliation.


“I think Shakespeare did have a recusant Catholic background. My own hunch though is that he didn’t go to church much.”


The theatre’s publicity for the play says: “It is 1581 and the Protestant queen, Elizabeth I, is half way through her long reign, but not all her people are happy to turn from their Catholic past and obey the Protestant regime.


“Talk of Catholic invasions and assassination of the queen is rife and those of the ‘old religion’ live in fear and ever watchful spies.


“This is the setting for ‘Shakeshafte’ by Rowan Williams when Edmund Campion, a Jesuit priest travelling incognito from one household to another, meets a young Will Shakeshafte who has been hidden at the request of a schoolmaster in Stratford!


“Based on some truth, gossip and rumour, it is an exciting play, full of suspense and drama and Rowan has used his poetical and philosophical gifts to create Will’s depth of thought and feelings about human relationships and to elaborate on the personal choices that he has to make.”


The play is being staged this weekend at the Dylan Thomas Theatre in Swansea, South Wales, as part of commemorations marking the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death.


Since retiring as Archbishop of Canterbury in December 2012, after 10 years in the post, Rowan Williams has been Master of Magdalene College at Cambridge University. Before becoming Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Williams served as Bishop of Monmouth in the Church of Wales from 1992, becoming Archbishop and Primate of the Province in 2000.



Sean Lawrence

Associate Professor and Associate Head of Critical Studies

University of British Columbia, Okanagan




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