#Shakespeare400: (America is) Such Stuff as Dreams Are Made On…

We are such stuff
As dreams are made on; and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.
      The Tempest Act IV.iv. 155–158

The Tempest is one of Shakespeare’s last plays, generally dated around 1611, about the time of the establishment of the American colonies in Virginia (1607). Shakespeare was well aware of the nascent colonies in this “brave new world”, and the play often focuses on the dramatic tension of native vs. foreigner through the characters of Ariel and Caliban as contrasted with Prospero.

The relationship between native vs. foreigner was a topic in Shakespeare’s time. Colonization offered opportunities to develop commercial enterprises, and to expand the breadth of the British kingdom (not quite an empire….yet!)

In England,  ship records (290) from the early 1600s indicate multiple regular trips across the Atlantic; an estimated 7100 families were relocated.

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A selection from a larger database  recording ship travel across the Atlantic the year The Tempest was offered in London; credit to Anne Stevens did the work.

AmericaWhile The Tempest references the “stuff that dreams are made on” there could be an argument made that Shakespeare presupposed that “stuff” of imagination would be the force that would drive independent minded pilgrims to our American shores.

What better way to end the month of this year’s 400th anniversary of Shakespeare-Britain best commodity- than by celebrating his ability to anticipate our American Dream?







#Shakespeare400: Six Sloppy Signatures

Penmanship or the art of handwriting, is not being taught in most schools today. As a result, when the students do have to sign their names to documents (like the SAT or ACT), they scribble, they scrawl, or they scratch. Their longhand is illegible, a quality they may not know that they share with famed poet William Shakespeare.

Just how bad was Shakespeare’s signature? There are only six surviving signatures of Shakespeare that have been authenticated, all of them on legal documents: a deposition, a house purchase, mortgage, and his Last Will and Testament (3 times).

What is interesting about these signatures is that each one is spelled differently:Screen Shot 2016-04-06 at 7.27.04 PM

  • Willm Shakp
  • William Shakspēr
  • Wm Shakspē
  • William Shakspere
  • Willm Shakspere
  • By me William Shakspeare

Bad handwriting? Bad spelling? Looks like Shakespeare has more in common with today’s high school student than simply being the topic of an assigned essay.

#Shakespeares400: April Fool-ish Gifts

April is poetry month, and this April 2016 is even more poetic because the poet William Shakespeare’s 400th anniversary will be celebrated.

Based on the enthusiasm for the event, it is clear that Shakespeare is one of England’s greatest commodities. Put his portrait -any portrait- on any item, and some fan will snap it up. Put a line from one of his plays or sonnets ,and what was once a simple T-shirt, slip of paper, or rock, suddenly carries the wisdom of the Bard. No matter how ridiculous the  item, the imprimatur of Shakespeare legitimizes the purchase.

Since the month begins with April Fool’s Day, let’s begin with a few foolish items  for the Shakespeare fanatic, and yes, everyone of these items is for sale….just click on the links!

First, there is the Shakespearean Insult Baby Bodysuit…(Why would a baby insult anyone? Conversely, why would anyone insult a baby? )

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Alas and anon, there is the small puppet, Hamlet the Hamster , a much classier rodent than his chipmunk cousins, Simon, Theodore, and Alvin.

Hamlet the Hamster

There are the Writer’s Block, a literal representation of a figurative term (Shakespeare is all about the figurative language).

Writer's block

For those who feel an intimate personal relationship with the Bard, there is little concern about attending to bodily functions under the watchful eyes that decorate this  Shower Curtain:
Shower curtain

Finally, for those who spent hours with Cliff Notes, Spark Notes, Monarch Notes trying to figure out why Hamlet would know the difference between a hawk and a handsaw….OR for those who were forced to listen to a fellow student read aloud and stumble through Friar Lawrence’s speech about herbs….OR for those who ,instead of writing about the theme of revenge in Othello, would rather take a more satisfactory revenge….there is the Shakespeare Dartboard

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Happy Poetry Month! Happy 400th, Shakespeare! Happy April Fools!