A school party in commemoration of W. Shakespeare’s birthday
There sounds the music of the 17th century. Two schoolgirls recite the sonnet “Let me not to the marriage . . .” (in English and in Russian).
The music is turned down and there appear two “Shakespeares”.
I. Good afternoon, my dear friends. I’m heartily glad to greet you here, at my birthday party. By the way, it’s not the 23rd of April today, but this doesn’t matter much at all, as I myself am not quite sure of the exact date of my birthday. So we are here just to have a good time; and I hope that this will be so.
II. And now it’s my turn to speak. I daresay, I’m his “alter ego”. What am I here for? Sometimes it’s rather difficult for a person to speak about himself, my task is to help him now and then.
I. Would you like to know something about my native town? I wish you had visited it: Stratford-on-Avon . . . What a marvellous place! I was born there and I went back there to die. It was well-known for its markets and fairs, and it had contacts with the outside world. The Avon, a pretty river with grass and trees along its banks, runs through Stratford.
II. Well, but it’s time to speak about your parents. You seem to forget about them.
I. Why? With pleasure. My father . . . not much is known of my father, John Shakespeare. But he was considered to be a man of some importance in Stratford, one of the town officers, an alderman, next to the major. You see . . .
II. The third child in the family was Willie. He was a boy of a free, open nature, much like his mother, who was a woman of a lovely character.
I. That’s just what I was going to say. My mother’s name was Mary Arden, she was the youngest daughter of a rich farmer. And their farmstead may still be seen.
II. There was a free grammar school at Stratford. At that school William learned to read and spell, and was taught his first Latin.
I. Well, it was not easy to learn at that time. Reading was taught as learning by heart. And schoolmasters kept discipline according to the proverb: “Spare the rod and you spoil the child.”
II. “Пожалеешь прут – испортишь ребенка”.
I. However, it would be a mistake to suppose that my boyhood days were dull and lifeless. There was plenty of fishing and hunting. Every season of the year had its festivities.
II. William was still a boy when he began to write stage and produce plays. Here he was free to show his wit.
I. Why didn’t you mention that on leaving school I began to study foreign languages? My father had an Italian in our house. He taught me Italian, and helped me brush up on my Latin. In our secret studies we learned the poetry of many Latin, Greek and Italian authors.
II. Along with his first plays, his first poems appeared. He met and fall in love with Anne Hathaway. They both expressed their feelings in verse. Am I right?
I. Just so.
Anna: And proud thy Anna well may be
For queens themselves might envy me
Who scarce in palaces can find
My Willie’s form with Willie’s mind.
I. When we got married I gave her a golden ring and a poem. (Puts the ring on Anne’s finger)
Within this golden circlet’s space
Thy ivory fingers formed to clip
How many tender vows have place
Sealed at the altar on my lip.
II. But they say that the marriage was not a happy one.
Anne: And how could it be, when William left me and our three children and went to London for many years? We spent some time together in London; but what of it? I had to wait and wait for many a year.
I. But the life in Stratford became intolerable for me, there was no work to earn money, so I decided to go to London and try myself as an actor or even a playwright.
II. Uncertain of the future, Shakespeare walked forth towards London. London had many playhouses. The first of them appeared in Queen Elizabeth’s reign. A playhouse which was called the Theatre was erected by John Burbage in 1576. Yes, this theatre was not a bad one. But it had so happened that we had to erect a new playhouse. Our company, The Lord Chamberlain’s Men, as we were called, had many difficulties, and we planned to build our own theatre. It was built in Maiden Lane near the river and was called the Globe. It was a summer theatre, the building was round, small bridges led to the entrance. The galleries and the stage had a roof over them, but the pit was open to the sky. The Latin words read: “All the world is a stage.”
I. Who do you think is speaking to you? Richard Burbage, the great old friend of mine, a famous actor, he was the first to play Hamlet, King Lear, Othello, Richard III.
II. But not only an actor, he was also an excellent painter, who made one of the best portraits of William. And in fact, nobody else can speak better of the Globe. Shall I speak on? With pleasure. Our plays were announced with trumpets and drums. It was really an exciting moment when the theatre was full of men eating apples or nuts, drinking ale, smoking, playing cards. It’s interesting to know that very few women visited theatres in Elizabethan time. If a lady went to see a performance, she wore a mask.
I. You forgot about a flag flying at the top of the theatre building during the performance. It was really a golden age of the Globe.
II. Yes, one can call it your “Star Hour”. Most of William’s plays were first performed at the Globe until 1613, when it caught fire during the performance of a play and was burnt to the ground.
I. Within an hour nothing was left of the stately Globe, but its foundation was used when the new Globe building was being erected. It was said to be the most beautiful theatre that had ever been built in England. But I had little to do with it.
II. Just so. The little group of friends began to thin out. Some of the actors died. But the most awful blow was dealt to the company in April 1616 when Shakespeare himself passed away. It was really a terrible loss. He had been the delight and the wonder of the stage.
I. I had lived in London for 5 years. And I daresay, they were the best years of my life. I wrote and I couldn’t do without writing.
(Music again. The sonnet “Some glory in their birth . . .”)
II. The last few years he spent in Stratford. He died on his birthday 52 years later. His tomb is in Old Parish Church. Four lines are inscribed on it, and are said to have been written by himself.
I. Good friend, for Jesus’ sake,
To dig the dust enclosed here;
Blessed be he that spares these stones,
And cursed be he that moves my bones.
II. That’s why Shakespeare’s body was left at Stratford and was not taken to Westminster Abbey where tombs of many famous English writers and poets are.
I. But, still, life is goes on. And I invite you to our theatre. The actors are waiting and there is much in store for you.
Some scenes from “Hamlet” were shown (taken from the book “School Stage in England”). And, as it was a joint Literature-English party, some scenes were also offered in Russian.
By Irene Kuzmina