Category Archives: William Shakespeare

Macbeth – William Shakespeare

Hey lovelies!

Hope you’re all well and enjoying the spring sunshine which has decided to appear today. It’s been a glorious day!

Today, I wanted to take this opportunity to review one of my favourite Shakespeare plays: Macbeth. I’ve had the opportunity to teach this a lot over the years which is quite a privilege, opening the doors one of Shakespeare’s most popular psychological thrillers to the next generation.

Also, this post was prompted by managing to get my hands on a ticket to see the RSC’s new production staring Christopher Ecclestone and Niamh Cusack. It’s sold out until July so I’ve been quite lucky really. I’m so looking forward to seeing this! (Information about this production and tickets here. )

 

What’s it all about?

Set in Scotland, the play opens with three witches planning to meet Macbeth after he has finished fighting in a great battle on behalf of King and country. The audience hear how amazing and heroic Macbeth is through the Captain.

‘For brave Macbeth!’

Once the battle has finished, Macbeth and his best friend Banquo come across the witches. They offer Macbeth three predictions: that Macbeth will become Thane of Glamis, Cawdor and King of Scotland. They predict that Banquo’s sons will become king. Whilst Banquo is very suspicious about this, Macbeth is completely enraptured. He lies when Banquo later asks him about them.

‘I think not of them.’

King Duncan decides to reward Macbeth for his bravery in battle and gives him the title of Thane of Cawdor. Macbeth writes a letter to his wife, Lady Macbeth to tell her the good news. She’s just as pleased as he is. After all, it means she will get a crown too.

‘They met me in the day of success: and I have learned by the perfectest report, they have more in them than mortal knowledge. When I burned in desire to question them further, they made themselves air, into which they vanished.’

A messenger then tells Lady Macbeth that King Duncan is on his way to their castle for a banquet to celebrate. Lady Macbeth calls on the evil spirits to help her kill King Duncan. After all, that title has been promised to her husband and he is in the way!

‘Stars, hide your fires; Let not light see my black and deep desires.’

Macbeth, however, doesn’t seem convinced. Nevertheless, he is talked into it by his wife. Alas, Duncan is killed and Macbeth is crowned king. Duncan’s sons, Malcolm and Donaldbain, flee in fear.

‘Look like the innocent flower, But be the serpent under it.’

There is a great sense of unease within Scottish society. No one quite feels safe. Yet, now that Macbeth is king, he knows that his predictions have come true. This evokes a ringing in his ears (metaphorically) about Banquo’s prediction for his sons.

Surely Macbeth hasn’t done all this work for Banquo’s children to become king? He decides that Banquo is the enemy and decides to kill him and his son Fleance. He hires murderers who successfully kill Banquo but his son escapes.

‘Thy bones are marrowless, thy blood is cold.’

At another banquet, Macbeth believes he is going mad as, in his eyes, he sees the ghost of Banquo. He shouts out and creates a scene in which Lady Macbeth has to cover for him and smooth over alarm from the guests.

Lady Macbeth is furious. Macbeth decides to call upon and visit the witches. After all, they will tell him what happens next. Three new prophecies follow, mainly focusing around Macduff. Macbeth sinks deeper and decides to kill Macduff’s wife and children.

‘Blood will have blood.’

What is fascinating is Macbeth still believes he is safe despite the fact that the witches prophecies come true, one by one. It is Lady Macbeth who struggles immensely with guilt. She can’t stop thinking about Duncan and the other murders her husband is involved in. She sleep walks, confessing everything and dies.

‘Out, out, brief candle! Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.’

This is the beginning of the end for Macbeth. Macduff is absolutely furious and gathers an army together to fight Macbeth. They use the branches of Birnam Wood to disguise themselves and approach Macbeth’s castle. The play ends with Macduff killing Macbeth, bringing his head in on a spear and Malcolm being crowned king. Harmony in Scotland is restored.

 

Overview

This play is awesome. It’s full of ambition and tension. The rise and fall of a character. The circular structure leads us to know that Macbeth is doomed as he is given the title of Thane of Cawdor – the original Cawdor is killed for treason. Lady Macbeth is my favourite character. She’s just incredible. She persuades and charms her husband but inevitably the guilt destroys her. I’m genuinely so excited to see this on stage. Bring. It. On.

Big loves all xx

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Filed under Book review, Play, RSC, William Shakespeare

Shakespeare’s New Place

Hey guys! 

Today’s post comes from a recent trip to Shakespeare’s New Place in Stratford upon Avon. As you know, I always feel incredibly proud to be from here; to have this as part of my heritage. 

Back in 2016, work started on transforming this incredible garden. A massive 6 million pounds was spent. It ran behind schedule and a year later, I have finally managed to visit. It was incredible. 


A brief history:

New Place was Shakespeare’s family home from 1597 to 1616, when he died. It was decided in 1759 that the house would be demolished to make way for a garden to commemorate the site and to allow visitors to make their own connection with Shakespeare. 

Features of the original property are marked out and preserved, such as the family well. Some of these features were only unearthed once work began on the gardens. 


Now I can relate to this because I spent a lot of time growing up in Stratford. I used to spend many a summer afternoon reading or seeing friends in the original gardens here. I was excited about what changes would have been made. But, I was worried that I wouldn’t feel my personal connection with the new greenery there. 

Since I’ve been, I can honestly say I was worried about nothing. I felt so inspired in that garden. It’s hidden behind new incredibly impressive gates with a number of awe inspiring sculptures. 



What I love:

First is a sculpture of the deeds to the house. ‘Murder’s shadow lifted. Shakespeare has the true title to his house.’

My favourite sculpture is by Jill Berelowitz and is called ‘His Mind’s Eye’. Cast in bronze, the sculpture shows the world nod a large tree. The interpretation is that the tree is Shakespeare (his influence) and the smoother side is visually showing the impact that Shakespeare has. The more bumpy side is yet to be influenced by Shakespeare. What do you think? 

I also really liked the representation of Shakespeare’s chair and desk. This was amazing because you can cast your mind back, hundreds of years ago, to imagine Shakespeare writing such plays like The Tempest. I was convinced to have my photo taken. Not sure it’s my finest pose! 

There are numerous sculptures around the garden depicting a range of Shakespeare’s plays. One of my favourites: Macbeth. I don’t claim to be knowledgable about sculptures. However, I do like to think about what elements are being shown. This intrigued me immensely; the merge of faces in particular. 

Finally, the Knot Gardens are really quite lovely. They feature a rose in the middle with a variety of flowers outside. They smelt wonderful: the epitome of a summery day. 

The couple of hours I spent here made me feel incredibly calm and at ease. This hidden gem really needs to be visited. I bought myself a year pass because I want to see the flowers change, the colours develop and deepen, the leaves fall and make a carpet on the floor, new life forming next year. I just had to share one of my great loves with you all. 


Big love xx

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Filed under Gardens, Stratford upon Avon, UK, William Shakespeare

Shakespeare Celebrations: 400

Wow! What an incredible weekend. Firstly, my apologies for not being around, but I’m sure you’ll forgive me once I’ve told you all about this magical weekend celebrating the greatest playwright of all time.

William Shakespeare: legend. April 23rd 1564 – April 23rd 1616. 400 years since he died. Aged 52. What an inspirational legacy that has been left behind…

So, being a Stratfordian (how my students cringe when I say that!) I had to take part in the celebrations, and naturally Stratford upon Avon threw an incredible event. There was the parade, performances, floral tributes, fireworks and even a visit from royalty! The worlds media was there as was I. I feel honoured to have been a tiny part of it.

There were 10,000 of these…and everyone who littered the streets wore them. 


The parade was, dare I say it, a roller coaster of emotions. It began with the funeral bells from Holy Trinity Church and the marching of a mini coffin and floral tribute. We were to throw rosemary as it passed. The streets smelt wonderful after this. 


We had visitors from all around the world come to pay their respects. The sun was shining and the flags were waving proudly. 


There were some beautiful national dress… 


And an incredible jazz band from New Orleans… 


King Edward Grammar School opened its doors to the Guild Hall and Shakespeare’s classroom. It’s really beautiful. The picture of Shakespeare hangs proud. Such humble beginnings. 




And from past history, to making new history. Shakespeare is still inspiring millions today. A project for the children outside Shakespeare’s birthplace. 


The parade marched to Holy Trinty Church where all the flowers from the parade were laid at Shakespeare’s grave. I honestly don’t have the words to describe the smell. It was heavenly and so fittingly decorated. 


Finally, the RSC did a live production which was streamed all around the world, with a star studded cast. There was only one way to finish this off: fireworks. 


So, thank you Stratford for being so beautiful. I’m so proud that this is my heritage. Thank you Shakespeare for transforming the lives of millions by the power of the written and performed word. How staggering it is that it makes as much sense today as I did back then. But, most of all, thank goodness that things like this are still celebrated. Here’s to the next 400!


To close, one of my favourite Shakespeare quotes:

“This above all: to thine own self be true,

And it must follow, as the night the day,

Thou canst not then be false to any man.”

Hamlet.


Big love x

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Filed under RSC, Stratford upon Avon, William Shakespeare

New William Shakespeare Statue: Stratford upon Avon

Hey guys! 

So, it was the last day of my holiday today and I had a lovely lunch with my Momma at the RSC Rooftop Restaurant. Whilst we were there, I made her come and see the new Shakespeare statue. He is a real beauty. With the sun shining (hence the squinting expression!) in front of him, it was the perfect excuse for a photo moment! 

 

The position outside the theatre on Bancroft Gardens is perfect. He is welcoming all to our wonderful town.

He was created by Lawrence Holofcener who wanted to make this to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the death of Shakespeare later this month. He was given to the town to mark this historical event. There’s a number of events coming up for the anniversary, including a visit from Prince Charles. 

The statue was unveiled on February 23rd, the 90th birthday of Holofcener. What emotional and wonderful timing. Also, what a really thoughtful gift. Stratfordians love him! 

If you get chance, make a visit. He’s waiting for you all…

Big love x

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Filed under Stratford upon Avon, William Shakespeare