The Bard through the generations | Shakespeare Lives


Shakespeare is indeed for all time, but
not in the way you think. Shakespeare’s always the same and yet
always different. My name is Richard Schoch, Professor of
Drama, Queen’s University Belfast. Shakespeare’s plays are not static
entities that simply float through time unchanged. We’re always in a relationship
with Shakespeare, whether we’re reading Shakespeare, performing Shakespeare or
watching a Shakespeare film, and that means the plays change with every
generation, every culture, every different era, because we ask new questions of Shakespeare, and that results in new
readings, new interpretations, and new stagings. The same play can mean almost opposite things to audiences. Let’s take the Merchant of Venice as an example. In the wake of the Holocaust, it’s simply not possible to stage the Merchant of
Venice according to anti-Jewish or anti-Semitic stereotypes. Yet it’s also
true that, during the Second World War, the Nazis in Germany did stage the
Merchant of Venice as a way to exemplify prejudices against the Jewish people. The biggest change is that, in
Shakespeare’s time, women’s roles were played by boys, but it wasn’t until the
Restoration in the second half of the 17th century that women’s roles were
finally played by women, and today in our postmodern 21st century, we have gender-bending: women play men and men play women and it’s all quite confused, and Shakespeare wouldn’t have understood any of it. I can’t think of any place better to study Shakespeare than Britain. In this country, we have the greatest
concentration of Shakespeare talent that you will find anywhere in the world: the greatest scholars, the greatest
actors, the greatest directors. From the Shakespeare Institute in Stratford to the Globe Theatre in London, Britain really is the best place in the world to study Shakespeare.

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