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tv   400th Anniversary of William Shakespeares Death Commemoration  CSPAN  April 23, 2016 12:00pm-2:16pm EDT

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this will be live on booktv. and following that program, it's your opportunity to ask questions or make comments about william shakespeare. we'll be joined by shakespeare scholar ellen mckay and folger library director michael witmore. and now, live coverage from the folger shakespeare library. ♪ ♪ >> hello, and welcome to the wonder of will live. i'm michael witmore, director of the folger shakespeare library, and today you are joining us on a very special day. we're broadcasting here from the historic pastor reading room where for the past 80 years scholars from around the globe have come to use the largest shakespeare collection in the world. ..
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joining on the live feed for making it possible for shakespeare fans to enjoy this special day. shakespeare's influence goes beyond the written word, your arrival was accompanied by the folger consort. if you are interested in their music you can find it on itunes and have a look at the wonder of will room that has been created by itunes. we collect shakespeare material for everyone who wants to celebrate. today we are here to celebrate the legacy of the world's
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greatest storyteller. what better way to do that than pay tribute with stories. i am willing to bet that every one of you has a story to tell about how they got to know this amazing writer. 400 years ago to this very day, april 23, 1616, william shakespeare died. the world is much larger and connected today than it was in 1616 and a lot has happened. we are still talking to shakespeare. for many it feels like he is still in the room. if you look around he is still in the room. how is it that we still have more to say about this writer? why is it that when we talk about our own lives we often seem to be having a conversation with him?
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one reason might be because shakespeare is unavoidable. he is the most produced playwright in north america. over 90% of american schoolchildren encounter shakespeare's works or plays, not to mention half of the secondary students on the planet. there are more shakespeare films made in hollywood than there are in the united states and the uk combined in terms of filmmaking. the characters and phrases from shakespeare's writing now appear in dystopian novels, disney cartoons, broadway musicals, hip-hop. if you do a google search today you will find shakespeare on the manner. four centuries after his death people from around the world are still having a conversation with this glover's son from warwickshire. with shakespeare lightning seemed to strike many times in
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one place. he brought so many gifts to his job as a writer and a man of the theater, whether it was his handiness about human emotions or his dazzling use of language or the unerring ability to find a human pulse in just about every situation. it is important that all these gifts get expressed in stories because it is in stories that we learn to pass into the lives and experiences of others. shakespeare's stories and plays teach us to empathize with those who are unlike us and even more important they teach us about the communities we may someday become for better or for worse. think about the familiar stories we find in shakespeare's plays. young love or the beginning of love in "romeo & juliet" or much ado about nothing, sibling rivalry in "as you like it," a loss of family in "hamlet,"
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forgiveness in the winter's tail, self-destruction in "macbeth," standing up for what you believe in in king lear, or the experience of being treated as an outsider in othello or the merchant of venice. shakespeare speaks to us in 2016 because we still struggle with politics, war, love and family and in the end this will always be a struggle to understand ourselves and each other. markets and social media will only teach us so much about what drives us. to learn more we need the humanities and the arts to inspire them. what better way to celebrate the 400th anniversary of shakespeare's death then bringing together people who can
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talk about the moment they discovered this amazing writer. and now it is time to hear their story. in early 2009 president obama appointed our first presenter as associate director of the white house office of public engagement. however you might know him better from the film adaptation of the name steak, doctor lawrence cutler on house or maybe you know him as kumar. what you might not know is he shared a special connection to shakespeare from literally the first day he was born. please join me in welcoming kal penn. [applause] >> thank you. if there is something everyone
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knows about actors we are impulsive and irrational. i am sure psychologists have a term for this but the most common phrase is actors are crazy. as every report card i ever had likes to deck out to my parents we are quick to speak before we think. i wanted to be an actor because i loved the power of storytelling from a very young age. in seventh and eighth grade i created characters in my bedroom and entered worlds i never could in real life. but shakespeare, despite my grandfather's love of shakespeare whenever i glanced at the pros i would think shakespeare, it is not even english, shakespeare is overblown and old. no one actually talks like that. ninth-grade came around and three things happened. number one i noticed in small font on the inside front cover of my english class copy of selected works of william shakespeare that william shakespeare was born on 23 april which also happens to be my birthday. i noticed that we share a birthday and the message was sent to the crazy part of my overdramatic inspiring actor mind that this was a sign that not only was i going to be an
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actor but i was going to be a working actor because i shared a birthday with this shakespeare fellow whoever he was. he was respected and relevant and people were still doing his plays all this time later. number 2, i was only 14, when we read romeo and juliet we were allowed to watch in the classroom, you all know where this is going, the franco zeffirelli film adaptation which featured what? nudity. how is this possible, i remember thinking to myself? who is this shakespeare who allowed the teacher to show us nudity that is totally against the rules, nevermind that never really was a talented director, this shakespeare guy got away with letting ninth graders see someone estimating suit area in english class and was born in my birthday meant unconditionally i was going to be an actor and i was going to read shakespeare. around this time, frankly a related, i actually did read and started to understand and fell
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in love with shakespeare. i started to understand the beauty of his words and symbolism and universality. i grew up in new jersey in the 90s and this capulet montague beef is the same as we see in the local news except new jersey local news talked about lots of families. replace verona with hoboken and you have the opening to a mafia movie, two households both alike in dignity in fair hoboken where we lay our scene, even the prologue is rich. shakespeare in many ways taught me my first lesson in making exceptions to rules and started to raise more plays. and i was totally in love with shakespeare. and we are holding the version of romeo and juliet, and we went for that? we loved it and it was so contemporary and heated and sexy and violent and it excited me
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even more as endless possibility of storytelling, white or rich or interpret any of this, the mtv interview began and they have their campus rolling and opened up about my feelings and in eighth grade i used to feel the words of shakespeare were not decipherable. i remember i thought to myself it is not even english but in 10th grade i came to understand and review shakespeare and i love this movie and i love shakespeare. the mtv special aired. i gathered around with friends in my dorm and my segment gets closer and i see my face and the interviewer comes on, we are asking inspiring actors what they think of shakespeare, kal penn, how do you feel about change your? i was so excited. i am going to be so eloquent. this is going to be my big break. how do you feel about shakespeare? cut to my face. it is not even english and the camera cuts to someone else. and the first editing. several more years go by, i am
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still struggling actor dissatisfied with typecasting and hollywood systemic refusal to cast colorblind gender blind roles and i hear a woman speak on a panel sponsored by the screen actors guild, she was in the only woman of color on a major network tv show and she said i decided long ago hollywood has reasons for not casting me. and race and gender had something to do with it. i was going to be classically trained. after classical training, not breakthrough barriers, and gatekeepers, and here we are. i have been working actor, and i am speaking at the 400th birthday -- i look back and appreciate the coincidences. one little remaining matter of how it all ends. when shakespeare actually died i did notice in ninth grade he was born in my birthday and i was
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born on his but i never process the idea of what it meant that shakespeare also died on his birthday. we actors are impulsive and irrational, we fear and review things that aren't there. the fact that sharing a birthday with 60 are meant i was going to be an actor surely i can be selective in ignoring the fact it must also mean that i'm going to die on 23 april. in the meantime if i get through today i continue to vouch for the ability that he has for the universality of love and joy for another hundred years and if i lose this, let me be boiled to death in melancholy, thank you. [applause] >> not today, kal penn. happy birthday, we are off to a great start. our next presenter turned in early love of music into a career that has in turn,
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empowered people across the country to transform any curiosity about the arts and full-fledged careers and lifelong pursuit -- as the 11th chairman of the nea, awarded nearly $220 million and agency grants, please join me in welcoming jane ii. >> who is there? those of the first two word in shakespeare's the tragedy of hamlet, the prince of bismarck, also the essential question great literature, who is there? and the world at large, the question of who is there continues to resonate across the ages from when hamlet was published in 1603 to today.
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when i read hamlet i was in high school and was slightly higher than the hamlet character but like a lot of adolescents i grappled with answering the question of who is there for myself and what really hit home to me reading hamlet, how his process coming to terms with his own grief as premature loss, mirrored the loss of my own father at the age of 9, there were a few things that were different from hamlet, i was fortunate in that unlike hamlet, my father was not murdered by my uncle, facing great loss at a young age hits home with me. to move on, to get over it, even hamlet's own mother tells him to cast the color off, do not
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forever with your veiled lid seek for thy noble father in the dust, thou knowest is common, all that lives must die, passing through nature to eternity, a lot of conversation in my classroom was around how difficult it was for hamlet to make a decision but for me personally the play was about how grief if it is not properly processed in its own time can lead to greater challenges. hamlet is not indecisive, he is not depressed, he is grieving. i always felt hamlet had been placed in a profoundly unfair position, here he is a young man at the age of barely being a man and the problems he has been handed by taking the responsibility of fixing those problems created by the grown-ups around him. i kept thinking if only the court had let hamlet take the time he needed to feel bad about his father maybe the play
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wouldn't have ended in such a tragic ending. when my father died when i was 9 i found a lot of solace in music, playing the piano through the lessons i was taking and pretty soon started to realize so many art forms give us powerful ways to express ourselves, ways that transcend the use of linear conversation and found a lot of comfort in hamlet because i recognize i was not alone. shakespeare had written about the process of confronting one's own grief 400 years ago, i was not the only person to ever have these feelings and i surely would be okay. shakespeare let hamlet pass forward, the message about the importance of grief through his dying words to his best friend and those words help us understand the power to say goodbye to our loved ones and keeping their stories alive in our hearts.
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if thou didst ever hold me in my heart, absent the from felicity a weiland in this harsh world drive i breath in pain to tell my story, thank you. >> thank you. shakespeare's influence is not limited to the arts and humanities. you need look no farther than outerspace. with uranus moves -- moons named puck and ophelia our next guest will feel right at home. as nasa's chief scientist studies the geology of venus, mars, saturn's moon titan and
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the earth please join me in welcoming doctor ellen stove and --stoef --stoefen. >> sweet moon, william shakespeare wrote in a midsummer night's dream, i think the for they sunny beams, i think the moon for shining now so bright. i wonder if shakespeare ever envisioned worlds with many moons such as the 27 moons of uranus which bear the names of shakespeare's characters. each of these moons it's its own little world from the messy fractures of miranda pulled and twisted by uranus to the dark and ancient cratered surface of him real, umbriel but it is right to pay homage to shakespeare with these points of light in the night sky to a man who brought light to so many people as he has encapsulated the very nature of what it means
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to be human. in 2011, i sat in the theater in haymarket london having the amazing experience of watching ralph fines play prospero in the tempest. the program noted that the play was first performed for james i in london in 1611. the thought of that actually made me stop paying attention to the play for a few minutes. for 400 years in that very city in theaters people like me or maybe slightly more royal had sat in theaters hearing those same words laughing at those same lines. what is past is prologue. we are such stuff as dreams are made of and so on. i find as much relevance to my life and my modern era in his words as the people that watched it with james i found in theirs.
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the ability to bring life into art and make it last for centuries, that is the gift of shakespeare. i find in the timeless appeal and relevance of shakespeare the same thing i actually love about geology, the study of earth, our solar system, our universe. for billions of years, stars, planets, galaxies are born, they live, they die. we came from stardust and we return to it. for the study of astrophysics or astrobiology is just that. a wonderful, complex story with depth and drama. just the kind that shakespeare told so well. i get frustrated sometimes with scientists who tell the public the facts and leave out the stories behind the science. burying people in jargon and
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methods. i was an art history minor in college and i now promote science communication at nasa helping our scientists and engineers bring not just the detail but the why, but who cares, how did we get here, how does this affect my life and my place on this planet, and what is our future. science not only informs us, it inspires us. the more we learn the more we crave knowledge and understanding. science feeds our innate curiosity. we want to know more, we want to know what those points of light in the night sky are. when we plan at nasa to send humans to mars we do so to answer the fundamental question are we alone? did life evolve beyond earth? what is the nature of that life? when we look at the thousands of planets we have identified around other stars we want to
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know are those planets not just potentially habitable but are they inhabited? that is why we need not just stem but the humanities, we need shakespeare, we need the arts, we need designed to understand our world and beyond. shakespeare knew how to tell a story of the lives of people on this planet. in science we try to take apart what is behind the story piece by piece to understand how it works, where it is going, where we are going. we need to approach these difficult challenges using both sides of our brain, using our head and our hearts. great science is about so much more than analyzing data. it is about dreaming big, creativity, inspiration and asking the right questions, perseverance and courage, it is about heroes, about
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shakespeare's works. as we work to solve the most pressing questions about our origins and destiny we must come back to shakespeare to share the big story of science with everyone, thank you. [applause] >> fabulous. [applause] >> thank you, ellen. even after 400 years, shakespeare remains ago to commentator in contemporary affairs. still writes the headlines even if the events that are happening are not yet history. clarence page, his keen insights, local and national affairs, recognized for his work with the pulitzer prize, and
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network commentator. please welcome clarence page. [applause] >> i am a word man. when we celebrate shakespeare they celebrate the power of words, words often describe washington as downright shakespearean and why not? he wrote the script. the fellow who just introduced me said four years ago we discussed the 2012 presidential race. almost all our political rhetoric comes from two books from the 16th and 17th centuries, the king james bible, shakespeare's plays. like me, whitmore was impressed by bill clinton's speech, his comedic and sometimes ad-libbed speech at the democratic
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national convention. even president obama sounded like he thought the former president did a better job selling the current president than the current president did. obama said somebody emailed me after the speech and said appoint him to be the secretary of explaining stuff. i like that, said obama, and i did too. later comedians felt seth myers observed on saturday night live we are ready have a job for that, it is called president. that is true. explaining stuff is a big part of the job. some leaders do it better than others do. the use of shakespearean simplicity and language is something president clinton, president obama and donald trump hold in common. we cannot get this far in the program without mentioning donald trump. at a campaign rally in december in hilton head the republican front runner explain the important of words while describing the state department, quote, i am telling you i used to use the word incompetent.
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now i call them stupid. i went to an ivy league school, very highly educated, i know words, i know the best words but there is no better word than stupid, right? no wonder michael whitmore was intrigued by the language of politics. in fact michael took the text of bill clinton's remarks and compared it to obama's >> found clinton relied almost exclusively on single syllables, action oriented words, words that come from germanic anglo-saxon roots of english. obama more often employed larger and more nuanced latin rooted words. the university of chicago exposure. words the french brought to english with the norman conquest in 1066. today whitmore said you could say all our political rhetoric comes from those two books. indeed political speech comes to
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us in two speeds, i call them social economic tongues. it was latin and derivative of romance languages, french, spanish, italian, the king the english spoke and the law of bureaucracy and intelligentsia, short action oriented anglo-saxon words with hard consonants, fighting, eating, hiking became the day-to-day language common people talked. i know the difference, listen to rock 'n roll, rock 'n roll not very tolerant of fancy latiny words and notable exception as michael pointed out was the rolling stones classic i can't get no satisfaction, the anglo-saxon, very effective way but mick jagger ran into a dilemma, what can he get to rhyme with satisfaction? we all know the answer, don't we? girly action.
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that song will be stuck in your head all day. it is only rock 'n roll but i like it. yes i do. of rock 'n roll and raucous discourse. all the men and women merely players in a one man in his time plays many parts, this is true. i found in fact i wonder what would shakespeare say today about government shutdowns, obamacare website meltdowns, he wouldn't be surprised. he wrote the script. indeed dealing with kings, queens, aristocrats and others, shakespeare understood how history repeats itself in different times and places, it is not hard to understand shakespeare writing the script for today's politics, paul ryan
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reminding us of hamlet, to be or not to be, that is the question, republican chair reince priebus, and be not afraid of greatness, some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them. president obama could turn to hamlet addressing congressional gop leaders, do you think i am easier to be played on than a pipe? donald trump, i speak daggers to her but use none. we can hope. or from a fellow, rude am i in my speech, little blessed with a soft phase as peace. a good line for supreme court justice kennedy, merrick garland, senators on capitol hill, i like this place and willingly could waste my time in
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it. or ted cruz, the world has grown so bad that rooms may pray where eagles dare not purge or my good friend clarence thomas, brevity is the soul of wit. or back to donald trump, though this be madness yet there is method in it. well indeed, whatever happens to our politics today we will be in for more surprises but one thing will be consistent, we know who wrote the script, thank you very much. [applause] >> thank you, clarence. going to be thinking about those rock 'n roll songs and looking for those words. for many of us our first encounter with shakespeare was
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in high school. our next presenter is no exception. a senior at bell multicultural high school in washington dc, a member of the folger program, vice president of her school's book club and the member of the green team. please join me in welcoming francesca santini. [applause] >> good afternoon. i am speaking about my shakespeare story and how shakespeare is still relevant to today's teenage era, and my shakespeare story began when i was in ninth grade, i arrived in the caribbean when i was 11 years old, i was a seventh
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grader, i didn't know any english, i struggle to make greats in my classes and keeping up with my classmates. i started in the library, i read books and more books throughout the years. and two years i learned english and was proficient, more advanced than my other united states students here. when i became a ninth grader, started reading macbeth with the booklet. the language of shakespeare, i was so intrigued by how the language has to change in so many years and how people understand and make something out of it. i decided i was still going to keep reading shakespeare, that i would be a fan of his.
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so i kept reading macbeth. i came out of my shell and started speaking to other students about it. we were learning together. we were learning words, we were learning about feelings and what happened in the stories together. when i became a 10th-grader we did "julius caesar," learning about friendship, everyone was interested in the story and didn't really know who shakespeare was yet. in ninth grade i applied to the lily mckee fellowship and in the fall of my 11th grade year i was excited. we read "as you like it," pericles, "hamlet" and the sonnets. we went to multiple plays in the library and it was amazing to say the least. we met a lot of experts, we learned a lot about ourselves, how shakespeare was still relevant to today's society. at school meanwhile in my 12th grade ap english class we were
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reading a fellow -- a fellow o --othel --othello. if your friend told you your girlfriend or boyfriend was being disloyal to you, who would you believe. this was answered with multiple opinions from my classmates and they were using elements of their own lives. they didn't know they were talking about shakespeare. when the teacher said this is happening in "othello" he decided to drop his friend instead of his lover. shakespeare is relevant today because he talks about what makes us human by feeling relationships to others, who we choose to believe or to trust, who we rely on, shakespeare still remains relevant in another 400 years because he
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wrote about humanity. his stories will always be relevant. thank you. [applause] >> francesca santini, great job. [applause] >> started the next discussion. what does it mean to be human? this question drove our next presenter to dedicate his life to a lifelong study of the humanities. as a combat infantry advisor at the age of 20 he came face-to-face with a host of critical questions poets and writers and philosophers have
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been struggling with for generations. william adams better known as breaux adams spent his career fostering a love of learning and exploration of our humanity. he served as the president of bucknell university and colby college. he is now the chairman of the national endowment for the humanities. please join me in welcoming breaux adams. [applause] >> thank you. this is a story about what i would call the sociological and existential significance of king lear. in the 1980s i was teaching at stanford university in what was then called the great works of western culture program which every student at stanford had to pass through in order to get on the baccalaureate degree. in the course of reading the great works of western culture, we read shakespeare. for a number of years the play we read was kingsley or, remarkable extraordinary play which was a pleasure to teach.
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i was dealing with students between the ages of 18 and 22 but most were about 18. teaching the play to students who were 18 years old went rather naturally to the place they knew and that had to do with the fact the play is about a family, a deeply dysfunctional family, in particular. most of the conversations and most of the work and most of the significance of the play for them arose from those relationships king lear has with his daughters and the domestic relationships during the play. at the end of my time at stanford ironically i was invited to participate in a seminar funded by the national endowment for the humanities, teaching shakespeare in a summer program to professionals and particularly people from not-for-profit organizations including a number of executives of important foundations in
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california and beyond. it was so interesting, the difference in the way these people read the play. i learned from them that what was in the foreground was not the domestic and familial which i was accustomed to talking about but the organization, not as a family member but the ceo of an organization. someone whose personality and character is formed over time around his organizational role, his being the king of this kingdom. even though that is the kind of background consideration in much of the play. it was fascinating to follow them through this play and understand one of the profound dimensions of this drama is the way in which this person cannot get over the fact that for most of the day he spends his time giving people orders and telling people what to do and when he comes back to that domestic context he is at a complete loss
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how to live with other than the drama of the play figures centrally around his abandonment of that role and his abandonment of that persona but he can't abandon it. as he dislodges himself from that context, he finds himself nowhere. the fool says to him principally in one of the first scenes i am a fool, you are nothing. he goes into a parade to his daughter's residence and at every turn he is rebuffed. weight that albany's palace, treats his people badly, puts the fools in the stock, lear is no longer able to understand the world or cope with the world. this is a play in many ways about what happens to people in great positions of authority when they enter other modes and domains of life and how
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difficult it is to lose that sense of self and sense of being being given to us by positions of authority. i thought this was interesting reading of the play and it helped me understand what shakespeare was doing but i didn't understand it until years later when i myself had the opportunity to take on positions of significant responsibility in the presidency of two colleges. for me, one of the most difficult aspect of that work was coming home at night after being in the office all day, walking in the front door and sitting down at a dinner table with my wife and two young children. there is that wonderful moment when lear is with his entourage in albany's palace and oswald comes up to him and says something insulting and he says
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do you know who i am? and he says yes, you are my lady's father. he goes into a rage which gets repeated numerous times as he feels himself divested of the meaning of the world that had been his in this context of the kingship. there i was at the dinner table with my two children wanting to say do you know who i am? of course that doesn't work at the dinner table and it was so illuminating to be to understand how shakespeare illuminates us and gives us perspective on our lives through these wonderful plays that show us who we are in so many powerful ways, thank you very much. [applause] >> thank you, breaux.
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[applause] >> kia henderson has served as chancellor of the dc public school system since 2010. it has become the fastest improving urban school district in the country. she accomplished this through intense focus on improving teacher quality and actively engaging students and families. she has focused on creating programs that benefit all students. please join me in welcoming kia henderson, great to have you here. [applause] >> like most high school students i had a pretty casual relationship with shakespeare growing up. i tolerated plays like "romeo & juliet," "hamlet" and a midsummer night's dream, i
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plodded through sonnets vaguely understanding, then we read "othello" and i fell in love, the murder, the intrigue, the horrible scoundrel iago, the gorgeous desdemona, the loyal casio. it was the best of great storytelling and great theater. even more than that, it was the first time i had encountered a main character who was a person of color in such a significant historical work. i was surprised but more importantly, i was affirmed. the play showed me that people who looked like me were an important part of the world story. william shakespeare helped to validate my place in history. the play challenged me. i was struck i how despised a
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fellow was. i couldn't imagine what he had done that deserved all of this treachery. he seemed to only begin the of excelling in a world stacked against people like him. personally and professionally, he was the man. he rose through the ranks of a foreign army, took the top spot and he got the girl. good stuff. but his unlikely success set the stage for a string of jealousy fueled murders but that made me love them even more. because a fellow --othello showed me that people like me could excel. not only could we excel, in fact, we have been doing it throughout history, for hundreds of years. in my current role, i have the pleasure and the honor of
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sharing that important lesson with the 50,000 students of dc public schools. my students and i, we owe a huge debt to the bard. thank you, william shakespeare, for showing us who we could be in the world. [applause] >> thank you. [applause] >> thank you, kia. a few months ago we began commemorating significant anniversary, we call it the wonder of will, and it involves the first folios, the complete works of shakespeare to 50 states and two territories, exhibitions, performances, educational outreach, online events, we are so happy we are able to do this and the centerpiece has been an initiative to collect shakespeare stories made out of
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videos and had them under the hashtag myshakes400. i wanted to share a couple stories with you including one from joss weeden, the director of the avengers or since you are in this room you also know he created a beautiful version of much ado about nothing, filling it in his home in a week and. let's have a look at these videos that range from selfys to shots by filmmakers. ♪ >> share your favorite shakespeare quote? today it is and yet i wish but for this thing i have, my bounty is as boundless as the sea, the more i give to you the, the more i have, both are infinite.
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>> much ado about nothing, the tempest, winter's tail, they are all marvels. i refuse to pick a favorite. >> [speaking in native tongue] >> there were moments in my life when i felt i don't belong or i don't fit in or that doesn't relate to me. something like shakespeare was a distant to me. i didn't think there was anything in me for shakespeare, princes and royalty dying, that doesn't pertain to me. that is not my story. when i realized going back to the human condition that these people fall in love, they get
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jealous, they have rage, all of those things i get. >> i get asked a lot my favorite line of shakespeare and they expect me to wheel out some big multisyllable word or something classical but i always say marco she is warm. it is the climax of the winter's tail when a man believes he has lost everything, suddenly get it back again and has a second chance at happiness. >> i like shakespeare's bloodied, vicious plays, i love titus andronicus. >> my favorite childhood memory, we did a reading of henry iv part i, an opportunity for me to make fun of how fat my stepfather was but weimar articulately. i got to go the whole splitting his belly, it was a giddy time. >> shakespeare is a phenomenon. he made literature something people could discuss and argue
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about and decide, i believe this but even though you may believe that i still feel this piece of literature holds something dear to me that no one else can understand. in a certain way you take this away. [applause] >> incredible. if you are feeling inspired, make your own myshakes400 video, share it with the hashtag myshakes400, visit and find a way to make your own video. dubbed intellectual vaudeville by the new york times, our next guest is accompanied by an american theater troupe disguised as a comedy team.
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they are noting -- they take huge important stories and reducing them to silly little skits. please join me in welcoming read martin and austen from the reduced shakespeare company. >> you did it. thank you. thank you. i am read martin. we are two thirds of the reversed shakespeare company. we are a theatrical comedy group known for taking long, boring topics and making them into short sharp comedies. >> that is right. our first shows the complete works of william shakespeare, the complete history of america abridged and the complete word of god abridged, ran in london for almost we 10 years at the criterion theater and it is time for the anniversary year 2016, we created our tents stage show, william shakespeare's long-lost first play abridged. here is the premise. we were on tour in england and
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finished performing in a theater. >> we went back to titus. >> you should ask wayne what titus is. >> when we are on tour we travel in a 12 seat passenger van we call titus andronicus. it is awesome. we went back to titus which was parked in the parking lot. >> we saw a hole in the parking lot. >> down in the hole was a pile of bones. >> they looked utterly unimportant. >> next to the bones was a bundle of papers and that bundle of papers turned out to be the most important literary discovery of the last 400 years. >> no, not 50 shades of gray. we discovered william shakespeare's long-lost first play. we had to cut it down. textual clues suggest it is 100 hours long. it talks about the 100 hours traffic of our stage and no one will sit through that. we have cut it down to two hours and one of the scenes we cut indicates shakespeare was an early influence of the comedy
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team of abbott and costello. what a glorious day it is here in the elizabethan era, perfect day to attend a theater and with so many playhouses to choose from, the curtain, the theater. are you bound for the theater? >> i am bound for the road. >> i'm not bound for the theater. >> it is the road for which i am bound. >> i remain confused, you said you are not bound for the theater. >> you remain with us and death. the theater is my destination. >> i'm bound for the red. >> the cup old, what strange melody, i am going to the roads theater. >> now i see we might have been across purposes. i ask if you are going to the theater, specifically named playhouse. >> i mystic you, i fight you maintain foul malevolence. >> the rose by any other name
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. i will miss the curtain. the curtain is that way. >> why do you tell me this? >> i don't know. thank you very much. [applause] >> one of the things we realizes shakespeare was very young when he wrote his first play. we think he was around 17. he was young and foolhardy. he didn't know making richard iii in the house of york such a likable character could get him beheaded by queen elizabeth of arrival house of tutor. in his long-lost first play richard iii is a supernice guy trying to woo beatrice and it is not going very well so because he cannot love her he is determined to prove a vaudevillian. ♪'s i know more lady ♪ sigh no more ♪ 1 foot on seat and one onshore
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♪ sign up and let them go ♪ be obliged and bonnie ♪ converting all your songs in the world to she didn't love me but i slept like a baby, i cried and went to bed. ♪ let them go and bonnie ♪ converting your songs of the world into my shrink said i was crazy, i said i wanted a second opinion, he said you are a hunchback too. converting all your songs to grow until they laughed when i said i wanted to be a comedian, they are not laughing now. converting your songs into hey nonnie nonnie. thank you very much. [applause] >> we have a matinee here in an
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hour. we are two thirds of the shakespeare company. thank you very much. >> thank you. >> our next presenter is a terrific colleague and shakespeare scholar. her book persecution, plague and fire describes the ways in which live performances can go wrong either because of gunpowder or pyrotechnics or the use of live animals, none of which are allowed in the folger reading room. join me in welcoming ellen mc chi. >> when i was a senior in college the culminating force for theater majors was acting in shakespeare's theme study. its culminating event which took place every april was a public performance of highlights from shakespeare's plays.
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since i have been more of a torchbearer type than a "hamlet" type during my acting career i was very happy to get the part of the prince of france catherine in the play henry v particularly in the scene where he asks for ladies in waiting to train her in speaking english. this is like a painting over the course of shakespeare's play. it opens a window and casts a vibrant light on history that we would not otherwise see. at this point the french have been decimated and they were moping and boasting about his horse, catherine sees the writing on the wall. recognizing her marriage will be brokered to steal a negotiated peace she repairs for a reality everyone else fails to see coming. i knew i could not get all this rich context across so i concentrated on something i knew i was tasked to do, namely speak french. tripping away on the tongue at least the point for cancer and
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encounters two words that are homophones or sound alike for french absurdities. this, she responds with comic alarm [speaking french] but then she also can't resist the opportunity to repeat. [speaking french] so my moment came. i performed my part and the sun set on my shakespearean acting career. the next day i was walking across campus, looking -- someone hailed me and came
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running up and spoke to me very slowly and said you are learning to speak english very well. very well. when will you be journeying back to france? i paused for a moment in some confusion trying to figure out how to handle this before deciding honesty was the best policy at which point i said actually, i am an american. it was one of utter and profound disappointment, unable to pivot to the usual social niceties he turned and slouched away. i recognized the story is a bit of a cliché. many actors have recited these kinds of encounters with people who failed to recognize the difference between an actor and the character they performed. for me it was a profound
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illumination of the hold shakespeare still has on us. this person, a perfectly rational seating person by all outward signs was so reluctant to part company with catherine that he simply did not see or would not allow himself to see all the ways in which i was not a 15th-century princess of france. i imagine dining out on the story for quite a while but i have chosen to share it with you today because i see the ways in which the spectator and i are more alike than different. i too hated dropping the part of catherine. i loved housing her inside my psyche and having her as my constant companion and i have come to believe one of the reasons i went to graduate school to study shakespeare was to keep myself in the company of shakespeare's imaginary persons for as long as i could. what is more i have come to think that is not so much delusional or wishful thinking as an expression of shakespeare's formidable ability to bring his world forward and
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large it in us and create these encounters on shockingly intimate grounds. let me finish one short example. a year and a half ago i was at a conference on the hatred of the stage in renaissance europe. it was in fact the hated phenomena in. there was a presentation on annunciation of the actors in 16th century france. i was struck how it was repeated again and again, the word catherine uses to describe the indecency foisted upon her by the english tongue. all of a sudden i had this whole new revelation of catherine, how in imagining herself preparing to play the role of a french queen on the english stage she raises and sort of marks the anti-theatrical critique of the period. i have to say this is precisely
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what interests me as a scholar, the way plays of shakespeare's period draw our attention to the conditions of their own production and force us to notice how precepts of the period concerning the emptiness of show or the corrupting force of the theater as an agent don't match the vibrant multidimensional experience of going and seeing a play. this presentation struck me not just as evidence for my argument but as revelation of how the idea lodged in me in the first place. if i made it my business to try to take apart limited visions of the stage perhaps the reason is catherine was with me during those sessions of sweet, silent thought when i was percolating my research. if i could see the way in which she quotes back the language of theater's detractors, it is because i played her and she
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primed me for things that way. my shakespeare moment, the long arc of my recognition, no other other is capable of orchestrating sustained and sustaining relations between his characters and ourselves. [applause] >> thank you, ellen. [applause] >> considered by many to the most prominent latino playwright in america, octavio has written 20 plays mounted in major theaters across the country. he is an award-winning writer and director whose style defies formula. please join me in welcoming octavio scully's. change the way it goes, the way
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it goes, yanked out by the roots at dawn, in the ground like an old bone, that is how long we got, that is how long it takes to live, barely time enough to love, knows the way it goes, you kiss and die, the only story we got time to tell because there it goes, there goes my son. he is leaving his romy and ready to die, taken all day to die and there it goes toward the blue above, the sun over romy and the parking lot of the hidden valley shopping center, the fire romy feels but romy knows before she knows.
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>> and suddenly i knew there was yet a third language to learn of metaphor. and before i learned how to pronounce the word shakespeare -- [laughter] i was riding the waves of rhyme and alliteration. i was confounded by the meanings of the words, but the music of the verse, the elegant turns of phrase and brash cloak wallisms, and as i took on the role, the comic lexicon of nonsense, bodiness and magic streamed out of my new-fashioned mouth and made not an ass of me, but an artist. [laughter] because this is the moment i knew i wanted to write like this man. because this man had made a metaphor that expressed my world. i wanted to create my own language for my own works, but
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that took more time than i thought. i played iago in my senior year in college, and still all i could do was marvel at how sense and sense bilityd were so beautifully fused so that what was expressed on stage was not bought or feeling, but some wondrous human marriage of the two. inseparable and complete. how will could endow a vile man with such heavenly language and then grace the mouths of peasants and soldiers with uncommon poetry, these were mysteries that this mexican kid just couldn't work out. but shakespeare taught me how. he taught me humanist universe. everyone has a soul of a poet. a king can be crude and a drudge speak with angels. but he also taught me that as
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his king and drudge spoke to our world, our kings and drudges must speak to his. so i turned to the language that coarsed through my childhood, the language where spanish and english fused to make spanglish, the dancing poetry, the rhythms of my street -- [speaking spanish] come with a spanish drawl, and everyone speaks with a spanish accident. [laughter] i found my way into the city of morality or, rather, let the idiom find its way into me, and thereby hangs -- [speaking spanish] because once again my mouth was big enough for more words, more ideas, more metaphors than i ever thought possible. in my play a young girl stands between two fathers she must choose between and laments in her head the brevity of life, its hard slogs and sweet joys experienced in a single arc of the sun because she wants to die. the metaphor is hers to make. but she is a metaphor too, for a
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mexican kid in el paso, texas, who learned an extraordinary language wrought by genius 400 years and more ago. [applause] >> thank you. thank you. [applause] >> donna is the chair of the english department at st. alban's school for boys' here in washington d.c. she's author of the poetry chat book, "the lovers' voice," as well as a book of poems," broken like joe." she was a member here at the
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folger since 1984 and has been contributing to the student work that has been happening here as they excel in their work at the folger. please join me in welcoming donna denizae. [applause] >> so my first experience with shakespeare was one in which i happened, i was about 13, and i happened to watch a tv show. and it was with japanese characters and with english subtitles. i came to find out later, after a totally absorbing experience, that it was "throne of blood." and i think it was so satisfying for me because as an african-american, i felt like there was so much when i was growing up that seemed unjust. and here was divine justice and, boy, was it satisfying. but my next deep experience with shakespeare occurred at the end of graduate school. i had been raised by maternal
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grandparents, and my father, for him education was the top. when i was about to graduate, he wanted to see me march. however, there had been a procedural glitch in the final days before the ceremony, and i learned i was going to have to wait another semester in order to actually graduate. he was furious. he blamed me. he said once again you get things wrong. do you ever get things right? even though it wasn't my fault. and so as i drove him back to the airport -- he had came from new york. he thought the trip had been a waste. as i drove him back to the airport, he's yelling at me, i'm yelling at him, what have you ever done? when have you ever helped us? you've let me down, i mean, it was one of those family rows that i think we all can recognize. he's yelling in french, in
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creole, i'm yelling in english. i dropped him at the airport and immediately went to my professor's house. she was working in her garden pulling up tomatoes, pulling out tomatoes, pulling up lettuce and things. and i went into a rail against my father. she listened carefully, and she stopped and said your father gave you everything you need. he gave you life, he gave you good brains, and he gave you good looks. that stopped me for a minute. [laughter] everything else you can get on your own. that wasn't good enough. i still criticized him. and finally she turned to me, and she said: the branch that attacks the tree will itself die. what? [laughter] speak english. [laughter] she says, the branch that attacks the tree will itself die.
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the merchant of venice. read it. think about it. so i immediately thought, stopped in my tracks, the merchant of venice. she said, this is a play where shakespeare was prophet. and so began our discussion. in a world that comes to confuse the material with the spiritual, every human relationship is tainted. so a father sets his daughter up as a lottery prize, friends base their relations on borrowing and lending money, christians engaged in a slave trade condemn a jew for desiring a pound of flesh and portia, dear portia has no love or few shylock. so when all human flesh has a price of material worth, anything is possible. for a minute, boy, did that stop
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me in my tracks. i began to understand my father's need to see me walk as a confusion, a confusion of spiritual with material. i was going to get my degree, but he needed to see me walk. and i was guilty too. so at that point i began to see the relevance of shakespeare in my life, and that's the relevance that i love to bring to my classroom for students today certainly experience the same lesson of confused values. for example, they apply to college. lots of seniors. but it's really not about just getting an education. as soon as they say they're into college, it's which college, okay? or someone gets engaged, and they say, oh, i found the love of my life. i have a ring, and we want to see the ring, and we want to see the size of the ring. [laughter] or how about this?
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at graduation when everyone's happy and celebrating the movement through education, and now we're going to go off, kids go up to each other, and they say what'd you get for graduation? be what would happen, i say to students, if you turned and said to your friends, i got a lot of love and a lot of support from my parents? you got nothing, huh? [laughter] so that's what i think we live in a world in which this play, the merchant of venice, is so apropos to our time. and it is a play that teaches us a lot about the confusion of spiritual and material on religious grounds, on mercantile grounds and on human grounds. and for me, i thank my teacher, because she taught me more than the merchant of venice. and thank you, shakespeare. [applause]
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>> fabulous. thank you, donna. ms. -- >> our next presenter has served as assistant watergate special prosecutor, chief council to the senate judiciary committee and taught law for many years at harvard law school and at the kennedy school of government. however, you're probably more familiar with him in his current capacity as associate justice of the united states supreme court. justice stephen breyer has written many books and articles, including "active liberty," "making our democracy work with: a judge's view," "and the court and the world." please join me in welcoming justice stephen breyer. [applause] >> thank you. thank you. thank you for inviting me here. i mean, i've learned so much already, it never stops.
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it never -- what was that, the branch that turns on the tree will soon die. i'm going to tell that to my children. [laughter] and you said exactly what i think. it never stops. that was said, i think, about shakespeare, he said he knows every person, every kind of person. and -- what they think, how they feel, how they express themselves. and he takes all those characteristics and shows you their thinking and their feelings and their thoughts and actions better than they could do it themself, and he does it all in poetry. that's what you said, and i take it in. and i often get asked by law students -- not law students, undergraduates. they want to be lawyers, you know, there we are, some have to -- and there we are. [laughter] they want to be lawyer, and they say what should i study as an undergraduate? they were doing what you were
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just saying, how do we get up on this ladder here? and i say, well, you know, you don't have to study something leading to law. i can't tell you what to study, but i'll tell you one thing, you have one life to lead. one. and you'll know that life. and you'll know your friends, you'll know your family, but that's very, very few. and if you go into humanities more those four short years, if you learn some other languages, if you read a few books, you'll learn about some lives that aren't your own. but they're out there. every kind of person. so i recommend that. and it comes back in spades to help me. i mean, just a few weeks ago we heard about a fellow, i mean, it's been playing, and a fellow, what is iago? is there really such a person? i mean, he is a real are, serious rat. and could there be a person like that? then i happened to see a movie,
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a classic french movie on television. no, i saw it on an airplane, i think. it was children of the gods. fabulous movie. great movie. there's a character in it, a real criminal. and he is an egomaining yak. i mean, he is a rotten person, but he has very high opinion of himself. very high. and he cares about nobody else, no emotional reaction to anybody else. it's him, the greatest in the world. and the only person that he will fight is the person who insults him and suggests he's not the greatest person in the world. and at the end of that film, he goes into a turkish bath where there's an aristocrat who did look down on him. dead. and when he goes and sits down, calmly on the shelf, pulls the chord and he waits for the police to come. what does he prove? that he's the greatest person in
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the world. to whom? himself. now ask yourself, and i ask myself, why at the end of othello when they say why did you do this, this marvelous man, why have you ruined him and killed him, why? no answer. he's proved it. to himself. someone insults him, he got to prove he's the greatest person in the world. that's one way of looking at it, you see? shakespeare told me there are such people, and it helps explain the play, at least to me. and if, in fact, you see groundhog day which is one of the great movies in the world -- [laughter] what does it make me think of? be it makes me think of rosalynn, of orlando when she says, hey, you're going to do this until you get it right. [laughter] right, isn't that right? [laughter] i mean, and my goodness, there are problems of intelligent women, that they have some special problems to this day. and you want to know what they are? go look at beatrice. go look at beatrice and
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benedict, and there they are. so all over the place, all over the world you, i want to tell the high school students, the college students, the law students, with your one life, you better know about a few others, and you better understand what this world is like. and if you have that desire, and i surely hope you do, you can do worse than start with william shakespeare. [applause] >> thank you, justice breyer. caroline clay is a 25-year veteran of the stage, film and television. most recently she played both characters in the folgers' latest production of a mid summer night's dream. a native washingtonian, she is on the faculty of the duke
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elington school of arts. she is a play wright who is committed to telling the story of unsung women in literature. please join me in welcoming caroline clay. [applause] >> good morning and thank you. it is beyond an honor to be here this morning as a native washingtonian and a proud product of the d.c. public school system. my childhood was punctuated with field trips, many of which happened right here in this building, at the folger theater right next door. it was here that i first saw african-american actress franschel stewart dorr. a graduate of the yale school of drama. i saw her play tat ark nia when i was in middle school, a role that i had the honor of playing
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here just this season. today, in the presence of my students from the duke elington school of the arts, in the presence of our d.c. schools chancellor, it cannot be understated, it cannot be underestimated, the power of black and brown children seeing themselves exemplified and celebrates by theatrical practitioners. making manifest the message: shakespeare is for everyone. in a time where it's ease i for the phrases -- easy for the phrases diversity and inclusion to ring hollow when used for grant speak, artists, produce beers, theater administrators, drama -- [inaudible] must lean forward into communities and truly engage, embrace the intersection of race, of gender, of radicalism, of culture. one of the greatest roles here at the folger was the complex and colorful lady macbeth.
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fran dorn, thank you for allowing me to be a part of that legacy. he hath almost served. why have you left the chamber? was the hope drunk wherein you dress yourself? haven't slept since and with it now to look so green and pale at what he did so freely from this time? such i account by love. art thou feared to be the same in acts as in desire? the ornament of life. and yet be a coward in my -- [inaudible] letting i dare not wait upon -- [inaudible] like the poor cat in the adage. when you just do it, then you were a man. and to be more than what you were, you would be so much more the man, nor time, nor place, yet you would make both. they have made themselves and their fitness now does unmake you?
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i have given -- and know how tender 'tis to love the babe that milks me. i would, while it was smiling in my face, have plucked my nipples from its boneless gums and dashed its brain out -- if we should fail, we fail. screw your courage to the sticking place, and we'll not fail when duncan is asleep where to the rath every of his long day's journey -- [inaudible] while i would whine and waffle so convinced that memory, the warder of brain, shall be a fume. and the receipt of reason, a limbic only in swinish sleep that drench natures lie as in a death. what cannot you and i perform upon the unguarded duncan? and what not put upon his spongy offices who shall bear the built
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of our great quell? thank you. [applause] >> wow. thank you, caroline. thank you. i'd like to thank again all of our presenters. [applause] thanks to them and thanks to our generous supporters, booktv and c-span2, the national be endowment for the humanities, the national endowment for the arts, the british council,, vinton and zig rid serf, metropolitan group, apple and all of our co-hostst across the country. thank you for celebrating 400 years of shakespeare. [applause]
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and now, now it's your turn. the celebration isn't complete until your story has been told. so please visit download a tudor rose or a hamlet dagger. grab a friend, grab your iphone and tell your shakespeare story. upload it to social media under the hashtag my shakes 400. you will be in terrific company. shakespeare gave us the stories and the poetry that let us explore who we are, and more importantly, who we might someday become. as we look out onto the horizon of the 21st century, we see what early lewis has called our yet to be perfected future. on this 400th anniversary of shakespeare's death, we
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celebrate shakespeare's staying power as a poet, as a playwrighting and as a cultural -- playwright and as a cultural force. but we also celebrate the infinite adaptability of his works and the fact that they sustain a conversation with a truly diverse set of languages and cultural forms. that conversation continues because of what we, every one of us, bring to it. shakespeare belongs to all of us. a traveler without a passport, he stands at the edge of a vast world of imagination, of history and of the mystery of the human heart. we should continue to explore all three. thank you. [applause] >> let's give another round of applause to our amazing presenters! [cheers and applause]
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thank you. thank you. [applause] you know, we're a building that is filled with rare books and man manuscripts, and the record of today will probably be on a digital medium that will need to survive for a century. we'll have to figure out how to do that. but i hope that in 2116 when folks are again in this room and thinking about what we said then, that they'll look at today and say that was a fellowship and a congregation of people who were truly part of an enduring and powerful legacy that we can celebrate again and again. in just a few moments, we're going to be opening up the phones for a national shakespeare call-in discussion
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here with booktv's peter slen. thank you for joining us at the folger shakespeare library for "the wonder of will," and learn more about how you can participate in the 400th at please join me in welcoming peter slen. [applause] >> host: and as michael witmore just said, it is now your turn. we want to hear from you. you've heard from this audience for an hour and a half, and it's your turn. 202 is the area code, 748-8200 in the east and central time zones, 748-8201 in the mountain and pacific time zones, and those of you here in the audience, if you have any questions, we have some audience mics set up as well, and we'll be talking those questions. michael witmore, the director of the folger shakespeare library, and ellen mckay of indiana university will be joining us up
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here to answer all your questions. now, michael witmore, we spent the last hour and a half hearing nice things about william shakespeare. what's the -- [laughter] >> guest: are you going to ask me a hard question? >> host: what's the criticism? you can go right over there. >> guest: what's the criticism of why he's no good? >> host: yeah, is there a criticism? >> guest: well, he used a lot of long words, and he had a hard time stopping himself when he saw a metaphor or an image that he loved. he just had to go. so even people who knew shakespeare had said would that he had blotted a few of those words. it was like cleopatra's nose, once he said -- he saw it, he couldn't resist. >> host: ellen, for those of us who have tried and tried and tried to access william shakespeare, what's your advice? >> guest: i guess my advice is
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there are many ways, happifully, of coming at shakespeare. you're not alone if you find there's maybe a high hurdle there and performances of remediations of shakespeare, shakespeare in comic books, shakespeare in memes is a perfectly bl -- suitable way of gaining access to him. there's no reason he has to be tied to arcane practices of interpretation. >> guest: when we think about what it must have felt like people in london, they were hearing it in this verse form in this new genre called professional theater. that's probably -- think about what's happening now in new york on broadway. when americans are seeing their colonial history presented in a new art form in an idiom of hip-hop and being reintroduced
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to their history. it's such a great example of how contemporary forms can teach us what it must have been like then and why that tradition of storytelling with newed a apations or new -- adaptations or new language just keeps going? >> host: let's hear from our viewers. let's begin with a call from jim in king george, virginia. jim, you're on booktv at the folger library. >> caller: thank you. i appreciate the program x i appreciate the attempt to universalize. but i'm afraid there was too much identity politics in the presentations given this afternoon and not enough on the universal quality. i think the supreme court justice breyer said it best when he talked about universal quality of -- [inaudible] and some of the other characters in the play and less about what
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were identity politics. so please emphasize universal qualities and less on the particular identities of the presenters and of the characters that were described. >> host: all right, we got the point, jim. michael witmore. >> guest: jim, your point is these plays speak to everybody, and when we take these plays up and make them our own, we bring our own perspective. i appreciate what you're saying because i do think shakespeare is a universal writer. and when we encounter his stories, we feel like shakespeare's describing us. so the fact that so many people have brought their own lives and, yeah, their own particular perspective to shakespeare shows us just what a universal writer he really is. and so, you know, i hope everyone who's watching the show today leaves feeling that shakespeare can speak to them, can speak for them but that also
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they can speak shakespeare's words in the way that they want. >> host: let's take another call. this is another jim in maas lin, ohio. jim, go ahead. >> caller: oh, good afternoon. mr. witmore, i also very much enjoyed the tour of the folger library that you did with peter slen a while back. i'm 38 years a teacher of science and math, but as an undergrad i was one of those rare students who took the, studied humanities along with the sciences. i had three terms of shakespeare simultaneously with three of physics. which is going to get to my question in a second. in 1984 i got to visit stratford upon avon, picked up a couple of books there that i'll commend quickly, every man's companion to shakespeare, a british publication by dent, ghei roett and barbara lloyd evans and a quick interpretation of shakespeare by d.c. browning.
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great to add to the folger volumes that you publish. [laughter] on someone's shelf. my question, with the emphasis on modern technologies and health sciences and other s.t.e.m.-focused curricula in our education systems at all levels, do you think enough students will continue to study shakespeare to maintain some familiarly and that it may be still offered as dedicated courses at the college level as opposed to just kind of inserting shakespeare in a survey course? thank you. >> host: well, let's direct that to our shakespeare scholar and teacher, ellen mckay, of indiana university. >> guest: sure. well, i have great hope for the endurance of shakespeare. he's made it thus far, pretty impressive. the rationale or the push behind those hopes, i guess, is that in many curricula where there's been an openness, a larger
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freedom to include text that speak to a variety of populations and come from a variety of places of origin, in the midst of those curricular visions, shakespeare still end rolls. -- enrolls. they fill. and so many of us see the teaching of shakespeare as an opportunity, really, to quicken the ap appetite for humanities learning into thinking of all shapes and forms. shakespeare really, if he encompasses all, if he feels to us that he speaks to everything, surely that's an advantage we can draw out really to make the case for the humanities and for the necessity of its continuance. >> host: well, one of the things the folger library did here was ask students to send in tweets, happy birthday tweets to william shakespeare. and forest in edgewood high school in wisconsin says thou saucy, boil-brained anchor
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blossom. [laughter] let's take another call. this is jane in weatherford be, texas. hi, jane. >> caller: hello. thank you again more c-span and for this wonderful program i attended college for the first time in my life at the age of 65, and i had a familiarity with the plays of romeo and juliet, macbeth. and so it wasn't until i enrolled in theater that i was really able to understand the words of shakespeare. and i performed in some of the plays, even at that age. and after one of my performances, my younger brother gave me a copy of works of shakespeare which included sonnets, folios and plays. and, sad to say, during katrina i lost my book. and i still feel that loss every day. thank you. >> guest: oh, that's a tough
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one. we run a research library with one of the largest collections of english books in the world, and even european books, and we had a lot of books from this period, but there are so many that are lost. and it reminds me of when prospero says at the end of the tempest, i'm going to crown my book. [laughter] -- drown my book. for those of us who love books and wish that we had more plays by shakespeare, we know that he wrote at least two that they exist, but we don't have them. that feeling that you could actually lose a book and once it's gone, it's gone is so heartbreaking. i think what you're feeling about your own book is the way we feel about books in the past, and that's why libraries are so important, because we need to save these stories. and we need to have other people reading them in the long run. >> host: certificate teen, great falls high, michigan.
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happy birthday, shakespeare, thank you for inspiring many great authors and actors around the world especially in small towns. what does she mean by that, ellen mackay? >> guest: well, shakespeare has routinely produced in small theater companies. so, you know, they're kind of everyday, small town fare that might be kind of neil simon plays if often enhanced with plays that would, i think, normally be considered really difficult, right? they're challenging for the most incredibly dynamic, talented thespians we have. and so there's something fabulous about the fact that those of us who are english language speakers often -- although not exclusively, right? -- but our theatrical experience requires we include shakespeare, and we push ourselves to do works that are incredibly challenging and incredibly rewarding.
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i think the last speaker really gave voice to the satisfactions of that process. >> host: and, michael witmore, i think it was the young lady in high school who said during the program that shakespeare is accessible to the because he speaks to us today. >> guest: i think his voice is one we remember. you know, the language is 400 years old, so there are some of those words that we no longer rememberment but even if you only understand 20% of those words, that 20% is fantastic. [laughter] and the story that they wrap around, that they tell is one that you can understand and enjoy whether you're in boise or in miami or in boston or in them be by. -- tempe. it's the stories that get us into all of that beautiful language. so i think the stories are on his side, and that's how we get a leg up when it comes to those really demanding passages and words. >> host: and if anyone here in the folger reading room would like to ask a question, we have
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a mic right in front. ben in telluride, colorado. ben, go ahead. >> caller: hi. thank you for taking my call, and i'm really enjoying your show. it's such a delight to see it on his birthday and the date of his passing too. reason i'm calling is i feel very strongly about the value of what you're doing here, presenting shakespeare to this mass of an -- massive an audience as you can in a way that makes him seem as accessible as he can be. and i'm wondering why we don't have a 24-hour station, television stationing -- station a la cnn that shows only shakespeare and gives us all the various ways that shakespeare's been studied ask so on and so forth. applied in so many different ways. >> guest: i think you're talking about c-span3. >> host: ah. our american history.
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this is unusual for us. because we do nonfiction on booktv, so this is kind of a special occasion for us. but, ellen mackay, how accessible is william shakespeare's work today, and where would you recommend ben in tell you ride, colorado, go? >> guest: i'd start with youtube. if you're interested in the range of approaches, the kind of global range of approaches, but also this range from the highly professional to the highly amateur, youtube is a fantastic place to see shakespeare performed. and i would also say your local library gives you an incredible array of versions of shakespeare that can be approached by 4-year-olds and that can be approached by those of us who have been lifelong enthusiasts. >> guest: i'll put in a plug for live theater. [laughter] it is a living, embodied art form, and theater was the first immersive dynamic art form we
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had. it's really something to be part of. and so there are so many ways to do it. but the point is to do it. and i think if we need to come up with a special playlist on youtube that your rates every -- that curates every hour 24 hours a day, that is a doable thing. but i'm glad that you want to see more. of. >> host: we have a gentleman here at the mic. >> good morning. hi, ellenen, and hi, michael. i am from the still vexed bermudas, so it'll be no surprise to know that the tempest is my favorite shakespeare play. being born in bermuda. i just have a question. was prospero shakespeare? >> guest: oh. you want to take it? okay. that's a great question anding of course, the play -- and, of course, the play is often read as shakespeare's sort offal gore call --al goriccal farewell to
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his art and certainly to world making and the use of art and magic to produce lived environments that feel realer than real, makes him seem like a perfect stand-in for the playwright who we recognize as having a distinct power of make us believe so strongly in his characters. it's a fable that the tempest was the the last play that shakespeare wrote. but at the same time, i kind of love that tendency, because it demonstrates how strongly we all invested in thinking through how shakespeare himself thought about his own profession of his art. >> host: anything to add to that? >> guest: i think that's exactly right, and it is tough to think about him saying good-bye to the stage. but he must have said good-bye every time he it should a play. >> guest: right. >> guest: and we if he stood up and was the actor for hamlet's father, playing hamlet's ghost,
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you can just imagine he does write for specific actors in his company that all the time shakespeare's thinking of this character as himself, as someone else. he must have been really, really good at pretending that he wasn't who he was. [laughter] >> host: el dorado high school in texas, happy birthday, i love you more than hamlet's mother loves his uncle. [laughter] malcolm's in elk grove, california. hi, malcolm. please go ahead, you're on booktv. malcolm, you with us? do you know what? let's go on to robert in portland, oregon. robert? we're listening. >> caller: very young in high school. i went to a competition of shakespeare in julius caesar, and up on stage i lost my voice, and i'd always heard that that happens to people. i was very young.
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it was a real surprise to me and my poor teacher who had to endure that. but i became a fan of shakespeare after that. i loved his writings, and i also love music, and i love groups such as the beatles. so i was just kind of curious what kind of influence do you find in today's modern music, how -- any ties with shakespeare in our modern music today? thank you. >> guest: wow. great question. >> host: who wants to start? >> guest: well, i have to say in the wake of prince's death, the line "good night, sweet prince, and flights of angels sing me to my rest," has been floating through my mind. i guess that's influence sort of going the wrong way, but it speaks maybe to the way in which, you know, great creators
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of art seem somehow always to be enmeshed in each other. probably because they're great because they're asking questions that are so profound and that provoke something so deep in us. so maybe they traveled in similar circles in that way. >> guest: yeah. socialit's such a big question. there's a lot of music that shakespeare himself wrote. he certainly wrote lyrics to song, so those have inspired musical performances, but i was thinking of the soundtrack to romeo and juliet which was such a big part of that film. there was the look, there was the actors, but then there was this fantastic soundtrack. really, you know, dynamic and immersed in the emotions of that play. radiohead did exit music for a film which was the walking out music which is one of the best songs they wrote. or i'll tell you another one, an independent band, indie band called low is playing a concert
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for the first folio in duluth, minnesota. [laughter] they're going to be playing it to some early shakespeare silent films. but you can see the direct and indirect ways in which a writer can create such great scenes and stories and then these beautiful phrases gets picked up by other people who want to make a big impression and tell a big story. >> host: kelsey, may you be pressured as america's favorite playwright. have we co-opted mr. shakespeare? [laughter] >> guest: i think -- shakespeare was born in england, but america adopt canned him. and i think -- adopted him and i think returned him to the world as a global citizen. i think there is something about the ways in which in an open-hearted way americans took on this writer, took on his voice that freed him up to become something that he never could have been if he remained on those shores. and to go back to the beatles, you know, these two countries
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have been trading things. rock and roll left america and went to the u.k., and then it came back with the beatles. but this is what cultures do with each other. they take their art form and say, well, let's do this. and then it comes back. and so i think your question is a really great one. i think he is an american writer in some way, but he's also a trinidadian writer, he's a south african writer, he's a writer in chinese, he's a filipino writer. this is the way great art works, it travels. >> host: we have a gentleman at the mic. >> guest: yes, hello. i'm the proud father of a lilley mckee fellow. want to congratulate the folger library for that program. [applause] it's such a tragedy in many ways that we don't know more about shakespeare's life himself and its details, and our tendency to look at his plays and assume that they're biographical or autobiographical whereas we don't know if they are. probably most likely they
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weren't. but one issue i'm very interested in because of the history of that time what was going on with the religious conversion and the prussian reformation and england becoming not catholic and how -- i would like to hear your opinions on the sense of how you think that religion may have played into shakespeare who clearly grew up in the midst of that, had catholic relatives, was in protestant london and any knowledge or insight you have on that question. thank you. [laughter] >> guest: go for it. >> guest: yeah. that's a fantastic, scholarly topic and not, you know, to say this sort of cliche thing, but the source of great and fabulous and protracted debate. i think it's impossible not to see shakespeare, you know, doing things like staging witches and not think that he's thinking about how the religion, the shift in religion in the period views things like exorcism and
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demonism and the materiality of religion in everyday life. i think, you know, great scholars have written about what it means to shift to the a protestant tradition that gets rid of a lot of the interaccessory practices, a lot of the ways in which people can make direct and intimate contact with the divine. and so so some scholars have said, well, the theater takes up the space of the church at a moment in which catholicism and all of its gorgeous and deeply personally and spiritually-held traditions are no longer available. but people have also said, you know, look, shakespeare makes us feel that way about the theater because he's a catholic, right? because he's secretly catholic s and he can't help but spark that catholic feeling within his plays. i don't think we'll know the answer to those questions, but aren't they wonderful questions? and isn't it amazing to think that we still care about the reformation in part because shakespeare's such a vivid
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presence within it. >> host: next call for our two guests, ellen mackay of indiana university and michael witmore, director of the folger shakespeare library here in washington, is meg in new york. meg, you're on booktv. apologize for that. let's try gary in port washington, new york. >> caller: yes. i was going to ask about shakespeare being catholic and the times, but the gentleman asked the question, so i want to ask about the theory of shake peer's authorship -- shakespeare's authorship which i think has no validity, but i would love to have these scholars on this day debunk the conspiracy theater -- >> host: debunk away, michael witmore. [laughter] >> guest: well, there have been many candidates since the 19th
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century that have been selected as the secret author of the plays. we have no reason to doubt that he was anyone but the man from stratford, the son of a glover, who moved to london, who learned this fabulous craft of being in the theater, who succeeded and then went back and retired. but i think the interest in shakespeare and our fascination with his abilities and his outsized influence has led us to ask how could anyone be capable of creating that kind of legacy? >> guest: uh-huh. >> guest: you know, even francis bacon who was so educated or another candidate who's been suggested, queen elizabeth i, what level of education would it take to get you to the point where your stories are repeated 400 years later? i think it's very, very tough to explain that. and so we've always wanted to know. sometimes we've hoped that knowing who he was would tell us how to read his plays, but i
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think what we know about great art is that it defies the basic experiences of the writer, and it reaches far out beyond that. i would, though, say as a director of the largest shakespeare collection in the world, we don't swear people to allegiance to one with candidate or another -- [laughter] and, frankly, the search for the other writer has led to many interesting discovers. discoveries. you can find out interesting things even if you're searching for the wrong guy. [laughter] and so we welcome qualified scholars and people who need to use this collection, because there is more to learn about this writer. >> guest: and i just say on the mar love january theater, one handy way of debunking that one is just to point out that marlo is one of the -- or marlowe is one of the few people about the period including the fact that he died in a bar brawl in 1594 which would cut off a huge swath
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of the shakespearean canons unless he somehow wrote these plays and stored hem in a magic box before his death, which seems unlikely. >> host: high school number 223 in the bronx, i just want to say happy birthday, that i really enjoyed twelfth night. and cecilia in tennessee, happy birthday, shakespeare. i love your work. my first play acting as ophelia in hamlet opened my eyes. william's in greenbush, michigan. you on booktv -- you're on booktv, go ahead. >> caller: first of all, congratulations, mr. witmore, on a wonderful celebration of the 400th anniversary of the death of william shakespeare. i too request a question on the identity issue -- request on the identity issue. i kind of believe he was the 17th early of oxford, as you've learned.
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many famous people including charlie chapman, sigmund froild, mark twain and others have also raised issues regarding shakespeare's true identity. and given the fact that bartlett's quotations, for example, has more quotations from shakespeare than from the king james bible, is it -- regardless of whom shakespeare might have been, francis bacon, christopher marlowe, you make the list up, could it possibly have been the work of one man only? and if it were another candidate, if we look at the body of his work, the book has been -- [inaudible] rather than the picture. would a rose by any other name smell as sweet? would a shakespeare by any other name read -- >> host: all right, william, i think we got the point. mr. witmore?
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>> guest: i think we actually know the names of his collaborators. we now believe he collaborated on up to 30% of his plays. so thomas middleton, george wilkins, fletcher, at least three playwrights who he worked with. and it was a collaborative art form in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. you said, well, who's really good at opening seens? well, let's get fletcher over here. [laughter] and so the more we learn about how theater worked, the more we realize that some parts of these plays that we credit to shakespeare you were co-written. simply, shakespeare may have written parts of other parts of plays, for example, sir thomas moore. there is a page which really looks like it's by shakespeare, it may even be in his handwriting. but i think your question is a really good one. how can one person have such reach? the answer partly is that he, in addition to being a
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fantastically talented person, was part of a collaborative art form in an urban environment that was rapidly getting contact with trade and other cultures. science was coming online. so all of that including printing, which means that his words get to last beyond the performance, come together. and that's what helps us get shakespeare. it's a convergence of circumstances. and i would just add that alongside the fact that he probably was a remarkable person. >> host: we have somebody here in the audience. >> hello. my name is eva are mcnabb, i'm the daughter of the man who was just at the mic. [laughter] so as you said, i'm a lilley mckee fellow here at the folger, very pleased and honored to be one. like father, like daughter. i was also thinking about how we assume the things are autobiographical or we assume that or are thinking about is
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this really him, are there other people working with him. and for fun i want to know if in your research and study of shakespeare that assumptions that you've had about shakespeare have been debunked or that you found out something about shakespeare that you wouldn't have expected to find out. >> guest: wow. that's a lovely question. i think, actually, i thought bree adams' presentation was great on this front, in the sense that i'll have a standing reading of a play. and as i age and feel my mortality more tightly gripping me, my position relative to that play in lear is a fantastic example. it will shift, right? and i will come to believe that shakespeare's actually much more interested in a different character n a different not or subplot than i had here heretofe thought. and it's one of the great joys of being able to reencounter his work. it's a great professional privilege and a great joy of my
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life that i get to sort of experience this myriad of beliefs about him. and one of the great things about knowing little about him is that interpretation, literary interpretation is a scaffolding that we erect around a play with always the understanding that, you know, it's contention. it's variable. we'll stack things on and take things off and try out new things. and that's part of the beauty of the work in the same way that performed adaptations are rich and wonderful. maybe they don't bring across everything that we felt was valuable in the play, but they'll harp on something that we haven't seen before. criticism works the same way, so it's highly variable. so i would say, yes, all the time my conviction about where shakespeare's heart is in a given play or given sonnet will shift over time. >> host: let's see if you can source this quote by jeff in ames high school. even though some might think you're a luxurious mountain goat, you're still my bro. happy birthday.
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[laughter] >> guest: that's one of the late plays. .. yesterday from henry viii was a piece from fletcher. philip is in richmond, california. hi, philip. to answer one of your questions, one of the things i discovered is now that we can fully search 60,000 books printed from 1473, and 1700, i now know that shakespeare did not invent 1700 words. what we will learn over time is that number is going to come way down. lexicographers at the oxford
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english dictionary went for the first book they read when they wanted to use the word first, shakespeare borrowed things all the time and it is no bad thing to say he likes to borrow. that made him a great writer. this works here. look at this. >> three words attributed to william shakespeare. >> oh my gosh. let me think. he has a lot of negations. on house -- on household. i am trying to think. certainly have encountered them in the past. >> michael whitmore. >> this is a phd qualifier. >> stump the professor. >> the answers are all down spirit. used as a verb in macbeth is
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definitely shakespeare but it is also said he created words like bedroom, marketing, lonely used in a particular sense. if shakespeare invented the modern meaning of lonely my heart breaks, i think that is amazing. >> the phrase harmonious, charmingly, which i love in "the tempest," a strange syntactical construction, very indicative of the inventiveness i like best about shakespeare, pooling from language we know but messing with it. >> another tweet sent to the folger library, happy birthday you swag master. words in sacramento, california, we are listening, you are on booktv, go ahead. >> shakespeare is a very personal thing to me.
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i went through the normal high school education which was terrible about it and turned me off completely, but my wife insisted i go with her to the oregon shakespeare festival in ashland, oregon, one year and we started sitting through henry vi part iii which i found pretty dreadful until i got to the end and the character names gloucester came out who i absolutely fell in love with completely. i love politics and i love you lenny in politics and i finished -- i would love to see more of that guy. there is a whole play about him. we have got to come back for that next year. every year since 1982 my family had an annual summer visit to ashland, i have a daughter in washington dc and another at purdue and every year the one absolute family thing is everybody flies back in august and we drive to ashland for a
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week, i was involved in a case with the supreme court, we walked up the night after the argument to watch a hilarious thing about 12 night. in the last two days i keep posting quotes from shakespeare i have randomly collected including last night the eulogy from cymbeline for shakespeare's death which is a better eulogy than the one on his gravestone, but anyway, since you are asking a lot of trivia questions i had when i would put to the panel because this is one that we debate. >> let me say we perform shakespeare's plays here in the first elizabethan theater in north america throughout the year except the summer months. when you think about a road trip you should come to washington and see the first folio and see shakespeare performing this beautiful tutor theater. >> when i am in dc i go to the folger every visit.
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i try to see a show if it is there. i remember seeing the 12 night because we were exhausted from a supreme court argument and that was our way of getting over that exhaustion. let me ask you this. which play is most performed, richard iii or hamlet, and who has more lines, hamlet or richard iii? >> hamlet has the largest number of lines. >> hamlet has the most lines in a single play but met margaret has the most lines. >> in multiple plays -- i would bet for the most performed it is richard iii, hamlet is a long and demanding play, you need a fabulous actor to play that role and handle all those lines. i know the internet will answer this question. >> maybe not correctly. >> what is your advice to high
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school teachers? >> i respect high school teachers who teach shakespeare a tremendous amount and i want to send out all my praise and affection to them because once they come to me they are already interested. they are already oriented to shakespeare because of the great work teachers are doing. my advice to high school teachers is as much as it is possible and not only school board will allow it in this way, to allow students to come at shakespeare at any level from any perspective from any side, to pick up any piece of the play, because those kind of encounters that come from curiosity are the best way to learn, to find a point of access. in the past, the prior age in which it was thought to curate shakespeare and try to keep the saucy bits out of children's years, that doesn't work. i think understanding
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shakespeare as someone who tries to address the full range of human experience is crucial in bringing children and high school students and middle school students and junior high students into a really robust and pleasurable experience with the play. >> lee is a teacher in maryland, happy birthday, shakespeare, my life in my classroom would not be the same without you. catherine in albuquerque. >> hello. this has been a delightful experience. i had trepidation but i will tell you it is organic and will would have loved it. i have discovered an international national treasure in michael whitmore which was a delight and i do have a question for doctor mckay. >> before you ask that question why did you have trepidation?
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>> i am a spoiled child of a certain era where i had professors like professor mckay so i have been in this desert, no pun intended, you don't have conversations like this regularly and the children of today have been shortchanged certainly in their literature, all of the fun whitmore had with all the things he learned, this wonderful great mind, we don't encourage children to have that kind of mind. we don't have literature at their disposal. >> in junior high school, junior high school teachers and high school teachers are the gateway to the arts and humanity. if you arrived in college and had a great professor there is something that happened before that and we realize that which is why we want every child who
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has an experience with shakespeare before they are 18 to have a fantastic experience because those doors are going to open and that is where you get great professors like the people here on the stage. that is the place and we really love those teachers. >> catherine, please go ahead and ask your question. >> i want to start a thespian group called whitmore mckay thespians is a celebration. can you think of a better gift to give the bard than to have a bunch of thespians in a little troop and we live in a place where we can develop them because we have no competition. i thought a little thespian group named -- my question was about the bible and the
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translation. do you feel shakespeare was a great listener? >> oh yes. that is an easy one. absolutely. what michael said, that he was pulling out of the air this convergence of cultural phenomenon, religious change, scientific revolution, the emergence of rapid promulgation of prints and of course in this period the auditory experience is pronounced. in london you will be walking past open-air pulpits where people are sermonizing and your attention will be drawn to words from all directions and all walks of life. that is what we see richly embedded in the plays, a range of characters and the social positions they occupy perfectly replicates the life of england at the time he happened to be alive. >> hillary, hill valley high
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school, alabama, shakespeare, hit me up on twitter because it is your birthday and i am throwing you a party. >> i am a huge shakespeare fan. i am -- when i heard about folger shakespeare doing translations of shakespeare into modern english i was kind of torn because i thought maybe it is good because it gives some sort of accessibility to shakespeare but i am also thinking maybe it is dead because does it take away the magic, the beauty, the mystery of coming to shakespeare and learning more about it, as you come back to it throughout your life. i wanted to know what your opinion was or do you have to be politically agnostic about it? i am wondering what you think about it. >> i think if it turns out to be great art and people love it
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that is fantastic. i think shakespeare is a writer who launched 1000 ships and if this is 1001, that is terrific. i also think we don't -- we probably don't have to defend shakespeare as a great writer because he is so successful. even if you go to see these play that you see something new because you grasp some part of the plot you never got before, it is going to be hard to keep you away from the original. i always go with the fact that we keep coming back to this writer. we would certainly want to collect the script from this initiative in oregon because we are the library of record for shakespeare and we want to know about the legacy but we don't have to handicap shakespeare, he will be just fine. >> final word. >> i was thinking in response to
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that question i was born in england, multiplied by canada. shakespeare is a bilingual national poet, multilingual national poet and i think his poetry, his language is phenomenal and it sticks with us and if we are lucky enough to be born into english-speaking language, have this great privilege of accessing him in his language of origin but also there is fantastically gorgeous and wonderful about encountering him in translation too. i really feel there should be no handcuffs in the approach to shakespeare you want to take. he is doing just fine. he will be all right. his plays are still around, we can find a language with no difficulty. i kind of feel, bring it on. >> our time is up.
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happy birthday, will, thanks for making me use my brain. emily in indiana, such mortals be that do not celebrate -- oh. thank you, we want to thank the folger library in washington for their help in setting this up. everything we have aired today will air tonight at midnight eastern time, 9:00 pm on the west coast, thanks. booktv now continues, thank you. >> thank you all for being here today. we are the ones who were here when we did it. [applause] ♪


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