Shakespeare Season Special - The Immortal Bard
- The panel are all dressed in Shakespearean costumes.
- When David Tennant played Hamlet at the RSC, Tchaikowsky played Yorick's skull. Andre Tchaikowsky, a fond Shakespearean, asked that when he died that his skull should be used in actual performance of Hamlet. This caused some health and safety issues, such has having to order a human tissue license in order for him to appear on stage. Also, the funeral directors thought that cutting the head off the body might be illegal.
- XL: The Scottish play that Shakespeare wrote really is Macbeth. There are several reasons why Macbeth is considered unlucky. The play was often performed when the one before it suddenly closed, as it is the shortest of Shakespeare's tragedies and it usually attracted a good audience. But the specific reason was due to a hoax. In the late 19th century wit Max Beerbohm wrote a review of Macbeth in 1898 and made the story up about the play being cursed. In a 1942 production of Macbeth starring John Gielgud four people died (two witches, Duncan and the scene designer). The set was then redesigned for a comedy and the principle in that died too. The 1930s-1940s actress Diana Wynyard once played Lady Macbeth and thought it would be more convincing in the sleepwalking scene to have her eyes shut. However, she walked off stage and into the orchestra pit.
- Leonard Bernstein's musical version of Romeo and Juliet set in New York was originally called East Side Story. At the time of writing it in the 1940s the musical had gangs of Catholics verses gangs of Jews in the Lower East Side. Five years later, this was changed to Puerto Ricans verses white gangs, who are from the West Side. Other musicals based on Shakespearean plays include Kiss Me, Kate which based on The Taming of the Shrew, The Lion King which is based on Hamlet, and The Boys from Syracuse which is based on The Comedy of Errors. Non-musical modern adaptations of Shakespearean plays include Prospero's Books and Forbidden Planet which are both based on The Tempest. (Forfeit: West Side Story)
- The thing that Sigmund Freud, Mark Twain, Henry James, a loony from Newcastle and the Holy Ghost all have in common is that they did not believe that the plays of Shakespeare were written by Shakespeare himself. Professor Looney wrote a book in 1920 called Shakespeare Identified in which he claimed this. The Shakespearean sceptic movement began in the 19th century, with some people claiming that the plays may have been written by Francis Bacon. An insane American woman called Delia Bacon wrote a 625 page book claiming Shakespeare did not write the plays, but made no reference to Francis Bacon. When she died she claimed she was the Holy Ghost. Other candidates for the authorship include Christopher Marlowe and the Earl of Oxford, Edward de Vere. Freud had an Oedipus complex theory about Hamlet. Looney claimed that after the Earl's death in 1604 (at which point Shakespeare was still alive) he left lots of plays which his servant Shakespeare then produced. More modern sceptics include Mark Rylance and Derek Jacobi. There is however no real evidence to support the sceptics claims. While sceptics claim we know little about Shakespeare, we are also very few Elizabethan people we know more about.
- XL: In terms of words that he wrote, we have very few surviving examples of Shakespeare's actual handwriting. His signature was spelt differently all the time and his handwriting was very poor. It could be the case that Shakespeare dictated the plays and someone else wrote them down.
- Shakespeare is credited as coining over 1,000 new words. Amongst the words that did not catch on include boggler (someone who hesitates), kickie-wickie (an affectionate term for a wife), quatch (someone who is fat) and wappened (corrupt). Words that he used and did catch on include accessible, acutely, assembled, barefaced, beguiling, bewitchment, cloud-capped, critic, even-handed, eyeball, foul-mouthed, football, Frenchwoman, hot-blooded, insulting, hunchbacked, laughable, leap-frog, marriage-bed, moonbeam, mountaineer, neglected, overpower, pageantry, promising, published, radiance, revealing, rose-cheeked, sanctimonious, satisfying, schooldays, silliness, suffocating, time-honoured, three-legged, useful, well-behaved and well-bred.
- XL: Dangerous Dan Tucker cleaned up Shakespeare by killing all the criminals living in it and making it a ghost town. Shakespeare, New Mexico, was a lawless town, and then violent Sheriff Dan Tucker came in to clean it up. Before coming to Shakespeare he was city marshal in Silver City. While he was deputy sheriff he killed a drunken man who was standing in the street throwing rocks at people. When he came to Shakespeare, in a few months he shot dead a cattle rustler, killed a man who rode into a hotel riding a horse, arrested and hanged the outlaw Russian Bill Tattenbaum for stealing a horse and hanged Sandy King for, "being a damned nuisance." The people who tried to take out all the rude bits from Shakespearean plays were Thomas and Harriet Bowdler, who published children's editions of the plays. (Forfeit: He took out all the rude bits)
- Shakespeare's Bottom got to Norwich by Morris dancing his way there. Shakespeare had a comedian playing his comic roles such as Bottom and Falstaff called Will Kemp, considered to be the funniest man in England at the time. Kemp had a falling out with either Shakespeare or whoever was running the company, so he left the company and as a publicity stunt Morris danced his way from London to Norwich. It took him three weeks, but over the course of nine days, hence the saying, "a nine days wonder". Kemp thought that he would be the one remembered rather than Shakespeare, but Kemp went to Italy, died in penury, and his gravestone simply reads: "Kemp. A man." After he left, the first play Shakespeare wrote was Henry V in which Falstaff dies offstage.
- A group of Morris dancers is called a "side". Nobody knows where Morris dancing comes from. It may be to do with the Moorish and to celebrate the expulsion of the Moors from Spain. It is not in any way pagan or mystical. The earliest we can date it to is the 14th century. There are 150 sides in the USA, and an Arctic side in Helsinki.
- You can not really best describe Richard III's appearance, but he certainly was not hunchbacked. This was propaganda against him during the Tudor period. One man called Polydore Virgil was a historian who tried to make Richard III as hideous as possible, because ugliness was associated with evil. (Forfeit: Hunchbacked)
- Cleopatra was beautiful in terms of her voice and charisma rather than her looks. She may have had a long, pointy nose.
- Christopher Marlowe died from being stabbed in the house of Mrs. Eleanor Bull by a man called Ingram Frizer, whom he spent the whole day with and then had an argument over a bill. The place in question could have been a brothel, but it certainly was not a tavern. The information was discovered in 1925 when the documents came to light. (Forfeit: In a tavern brawl)
- The thing that made Lord Byron limp was his withered leg, not a club foot. Byron hated his limp and was very athletic. He swam the Hellespont, he boxed and was worried about his weight (he could have been anorexic). He also spent a lot of money. He ordered batches of two dozen trousers which he wore only once, and ordered silk handkerchiefs in batches of a hundred. Each handkerchief cost nine guineas, which was the same as the average annual male wage at the time. He had to leave England because of a possible sex scandal involving his sister. He also kept a bear while he studied at Trinity College, Cambridge, which he was allowed to keep on the grounds that it was wild, not domesticated.
- The thing that the Queen can do that an idiot cannot is vote. The Royals do have the power to vote, but they choose not to. Lunatics can only vote during their lucid periods.
This special episode formed part of the BBC's "Shakespeare Unlocked" season.
- Friday 27th April 2012
- BBC Two
- 30 minutes
Cast & crew
|Stephen Fry||Host / Presenter|
|Alan Davies||Regular Panellist|
|John Mitchinson||Question Writer|
|Justin Pollard||Question Writer|
|James Harkin||Question Writer|
|Molly Oldfield||Question Writer|
|Andrew Hunter Murray||Question Writer|
|John Lloyd (as John Lloyd CBE)||Series Producer|
|David Morley (as Dave Morley)||Executive Producer|
|Ruby Kuraishe||Executive Producer|
|Jonathan Paul Green||Production Designer|