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Shakespeare 101

At Freewill, bringing the immortal words of the Bard, William Shakespeare, is at the forefront of our work. We also believe that Shakespeare is meant to be performed and it is one of the best ways to experience his work. That said, we don’t expect everyone to understand and we want to help you have an enjoyable experience no matter your knowledge of Shakespeare’s works.

Welcome to Shakespeare 101, your go-to guide for all things Shakespeare and getting ready to make the most of your time at Freewill this summer!

William Shakespeare, born in April of 1564, in Stratford-Upon-Avon, is now known as one of the greatest playwrights of all time, his works being translated into over 100 different languages. Although well over 400 years old, his plays are still being dissected, acted, revered, and enjoyed. Here at Freewill, our productions are set in innovative, stylised words which work to translate the plays to a more modern audience. We are also working to challenge the preconceived notions of Shakespeare as ‘too highbrow’ or ‘archaic’ by highlighting the aspects of the plays that remain relevant to a modern audience, remaining true to the original text and spirit while creating shows that audiences can find enjoyable, entertaining, and accessible.

What in the world is Early Modern English?

It is the term for the type of English Shakespeare wrote in. His work is more poetic and features a unique rhythm and pacing. 

Don't worry if you don't fully understand!

It can take some work to get the nuances of his language but you don’t need to get every word to understand what’s happening. His plots can be complicated but with costumes, acting, and context, it can help you understand what's happening. Also, the more you watch it, the easier it is to understand!

Shakespeare just hits different.

Every language is fluid and when you invent new words or use neopronouns, you have Shakespeare to thank in helping language look like it is today. In his life, Shakespeare is known to be the first recorded example of over 1,700 words. From words like jaded, questioning, monumental, and majestic to phrases like “a piece of work,” “in a pickle,” and “good riddance,” Shakespeare is a big reason why English has continued to evolve. Keep inventing new words and join in the tradition!

It's not meant to be read.

Sorry to all the English teachers out there but Shakespeare, himself born to illiterate parents, made these shows as entertainment for all classes of people, especially those who were also illiterate. That’s not to say he isn’t worth studying, but, we highly recommend speaking and seeing Shakespeare too. We promise, it helps! 

Grab the popcorn!

A Freewill favourite, popcorn is the perfect treat to enjoy when watching the show, but is also a historical reality! Archaeologists have found evidence of various fruits and even chicken bones in the ground where Shakespeare’s shows were performed, meaning it’s been a tradition for hundreds of years!

No standing is required at Freewill.

At the Globe Theatre in London, for one penny, you could see Shakespeare live. The only catch? You have to stand the entire time. These people, known as ‘groundlings’ were often lower class folks and helped create a rowdy and entertaining audience for the shows.

A queer icon!?

As with all history, reading between the lines is quite common in queer history. Historically, all roles were played by men and romantic bonds between men were common in Shakespeare’s plays as well as in general society were quite common. Shakespeare’s works, even without historical confirmation, can easily and beautifully be representative of queer relationships and at Freewill, we’ve interpreted several productions from this angle. 

Want to learn more about Shakespeare or The Tempest? Check out all these additional resources!

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