50. “Exit Pursued by a Bear:” The Nobleman Antigonus, the Banishment to Sicily, Being Eaten Alive by A Bear, the Sky-Darkening Storm that Kills the Mariners, and the Clamors, Cries, and Roars

Perhaps, the most famous stage direction in the Shakespeare canon occurs in The Winter’s Tale and involves the doomed character Antigonus. He leaves the play abruptly after abandoning the banished baby Perdita on the shores of a distant land: “Exit pursued by a bear,” reads the stage-direction. We soon discover that Antigonus doesn’t survive, andContinue reading “50. “Exit Pursued by a Bear:” The Nobleman Antigonus, the Banishment to Sicily, Being Eaten Alive by A Bear, the Sky-Darkening Storm that Kills the Mariners, and the Clamors, Cries, and Roars”

49. North Marked the “Description of Sorrow” in his “Dial” That He Used in “Romeo and Juliet”

In North’s own copy of his translation of the 1582 edition of The Dial of Princes, the translator adds a marginal note highlighting the “description of sorrow (Fol. 296 in 1582 edition; 475 in 1619 ed.) The passage describes how people act when they are depressed: they crave solitude, hate the day, love the night,Continue reading “49. North Marked the “Description of Sorrow” in his “Dial” That He Used in “Romeo and Juliet””

43. In 1592, North Underlined and Wrote Out the Subtitle to “Arden of Faversham” (1592)

North’s note-writing begins early in this copy of Dial of Princes, even in the prologue and table of contents. Importantly, out of 13 pages of table of contents listing 177 chapters, North only adds notes to three of those listed chapter-titles. All three chapters and their titles are relevant to his plays –and two ofContinue reading “43. In 1592, North Underlined and Wrote Out the Subtitle to “Arden of Faversham” (1592)”

5. North’s “Dial” and Caesar’s Speech on Death and Cowards

As is well known, Caesar’s speech that “Cowards die many times before their deaths” was hinted at in North’s Plutarch’s Lives. But previously, it was believed that Shakespeare took that hint and then refashioned it himself with many new details. Yet, as we see both above and below, the specific words and notions of theContinue reading “5. North’s “Dial” and Caesar’s Speech on Death and Cowards”

4. Romeo’s Sorrow

In North’s own copy of his translation of the 1582 edition of The Dial of Princes, the translator adds a marginal note highlighting the “description of sorrow (Fol. 296 in 1582 edition; 475 in 1619 ed.) The passage describes how people act when they are depressed: they crave solitude, hate the day, love the night,Continue reading “4. Romeo’s Sorrow”

3. The Miseries of Hecuba and Hamlet’s Play to Catch The Conscience of a King

After Hamlet watches an actor perform a tragic description of Hecuba’s agonies caused by the “tyrant Pyrrhus,” he expresses astonishment at the actor’s abilities to fake such deep sorrow: “For Hecuba! / What’s Hecuba to him, or he to Hecuba, / That he should weep for her?” (2.2.558-60). In this same speech, the Prince thenContinue reading “3. The Miseries of Hecuba and Hamlet’s Play to Catch The Conscience of a King”

1. Iago’s Speech on He Who Robs Me of My Good Name

Thomas North would publish his first translation, The Dial of Princes, in 1557, seven years before Shakespeare was born. And we do not even complete its first page before we come across something that sounds suspiciously Shakespearean — specifically, a passage that reads much like Iago’s speech on the thief of reputation in Othello. North’sContinue reading “1. Iago’s Speech on He Who Robs Me of My Good Name”

Wouldn’t Someone Have Complained About Shakespeare’s Use of Old Plays? (They Did!)

Another question I often hear is: “Why didn’t anyone complain about this? Why didn’t people at the time mention that Shakespeare was just working from old plays?” I always respond that many people did complain about it—and many of these complaints are well known. Literary insiders repeatedly bemoaned the fact that Shakespeare was getting tooContinue reading “Wouldn’t Someone Have Complained About Shakespeare’s Use of Old Plays? (They Did!)”

Why Didn’t North Publish His Plays?

“Why would anyone write an Othello or a Macbeth and then not publish them so they could get credit for them and people could read them?” This is perhaps the most common question that I hear, and it is an excellent one. My response is always the same: While this may seem strange from today’sContinue reading “Why Didn’t North Publish His Plays?”