Happy William Shakespeare’s Birthday!

STC 22273 Fo.1 no.01, title page

If he hadn’t gone and died on us, William Shakespeare would be 449 years old today, April 23, 2013. A few years ago, in the course of an informal talk Harold Bloom gave at the Classic Stage Company in Manhattan, he made an observation that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.  “I don’t believe in God,” he said, then added, “Shakespeare is the only god who makes sense.”  That’s exactly how I feel.  So I’d just like to say, “Happy 449th birthday, God!”

Here’s a clip of the great Roger Allam doing one of Falstaff’s best speeches.  How I wish I could have seen him do this live!  At the Globe Theatre, where this performance took place, the majority of the audience stands — only those in the boxes have benches.  This particular speech comes late in the play — Act IV, Scene 3 — by this time, most of the audience has been standing for three hours or even longer.  Yet listen to the complete silence whenever Allam takes a pause . . . As Moms Mabley used to say, “You could hear a rat piss on cotton.” To command an audience’s complete attention after they’ve been on their feet for three hours is an almost miraculous feat.  It takes a talent like Roger Allam and a genius like William Shakespeare to pull it off.

Here’s another scene from the Globe’s “Henry IV, Part I.”  I’m well disposed toward Jamie Parker, who plays Prince Hal — he was excellent in “The History Boys” — but I’m afraid he’s much less good in this.  One of my brothers complained that Parker’s habit of spreading his arms and spinning while he talks reminds him more of Zorba than of Prince Hal.  I’m afraid I must agree.  Still, he’s a likable presence and he has good chemistry with Allam’s Falstaff. Barbara Marten as Mistress Quickly is hilarious.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.