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05/06/2005 - Brush Up Your Shakespeare

Last night I went to the theatre to see "The Shakespeare Revue"-a witty, irreverent take on the Bard of Avon spiced with satirical song and dance. One number is based on Shakespeare in the movies and the many actors/actresses who've spoken the master's immortal iambic pentameter. Another is a send-up of Shakespeare as opera.

Think of it-from Julie Taymor's direction of the rarely seen Titus Andronicus to Leonardo Caprio's Romeo to Lawrence Olivier's and Mel Gibson's Hamlet, the silver screen is as much Shakespeare's home as the Old Globe theatre. His short scenes, woven together by characters that are often in differing locales, are ideally suited to the big screen and film's intercutting style.

There is spectacle, treachery and battle scenes. His memorable characters, even the minor ones, are vividly drawn.

The language, although from another time and place, still resonates with simple words well-wrought:
"To be or not to be-that is the question."
"Is that a dagger I see before mine eyes?"
"I'd rather bear with you than bear you."
"Foul is fair and fair is foul."
"Lord, what fools these mortals be."

Monosyllabic. Plain-spoken. Yet conveying such depth. The man could write tragedy, comedy and history. The man could flat-out write.

So what is the point? Even though you're a screenwriter, it wouldn't hurt to crack open your hefty, "Complete Works of Shakespeare" and immerse yourself. You're sure to learn about screenwriting, even though it's from a guy hailing from the 16th century.


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