The American Shakespeare Center wants to see your fan fiction. As Vox reports, the theater company in Staunton, Virginia is in search of “companion pieces” that tell stories that are about, inspired by, or otherwise involve the Bard and his work. And they’re paying.
Jim Warren, the center’s artistic director, is looking for plays that “vibe off Shakespeare,” as he explains in a press release. This is how he describes what they’re looking for:
We’re not looking for a retelling of Shakespeare plays. We’re looking for partner plays that are inspired by Shakespeare, plays that might be sequels or prequels to Shakespeare’s stories, plays that might tell the stories of minor characters in Shakespeare’s stories, plays that might dramatize Shakespeare’s company creating the first production of a title, plays that might include modern characters interacting with Shakespeare’s characters, plays that will be even…
In December 1794, a young man in London named William Henry Ireland brought his father, Samuel, a devoted collector of antiquities and curiosities, a parchment document sealed with wax. After carefully opening up the parchment, Samuel was astonished at what he saw: a mortgage deed dated 1610, signed by William Shakespeare and John Heminges, an actor in Shakespeare’s King’s Men troupe of players.
At the time, only a handful of signatures were known to have survived from Shakespeare’s handwritten records, so to have a personal document like this was an extraordinary coup. William Henry explained that the document was one of dozens like it he had found while rummaging in an old chest belonging to a rich gentleman whom William Henry describedonly as “Mr. H.” The gentleman wished to remain anonymous to avoid being bothered, William Henry explained, but had assured the young man that he had little interest in the documents and could take whatever he liked.
Eager to figure out whether the documents were real, Samuel Ireland contacted the College of Heralds (an organization devoted to coats of arms and genealogical research), who determined that the documents were genuine, although they were unable to identify the image on the Shakespearean wax seal. Fortunately, Samuel’s young assistant Frederick Eden was an authority on seals, and he decided that the impression on the seal looked like a quintain—a revolving target used by knights in jousting practice. A tenuous association with actual “shaking spears” was all Samuel needed: These documents must indeed be Shakespeare’s own, he decided, and he promptly put them on display in his curio-filled home on London’s Norfolk Street. Before long, A-list literary types were queuing up to take a look—and still young William Henry continued to unearth ever more impressive examples.
At a time when interest in Shakespeare’s work was at the highest it had been since his death almost two centuries earlier, the Irelands had seemingly unearthed a gold mine of Shakespearean memorabilia. Handwritten IOUs, love letters to his future wife “Anna Hatherrewaye,” signed actors’ contracts, theatrical receipts, and even a bizarrely cartoonish self-portrait all found their way out of William Henry’s seemingly boundless document chest and into his father’s display. But that was just the tip of the iceberg. Books from Shakespeare’s library with his own annotations in the margins also soon emerged, as did a first draft of King Lear hand-prepared by Shakespeare, and perhaps most significant of all of the Irelands’ discoveries, an entirely new play, Vortigern and Rowena.
The literary world was suitably shaken up. Although never a fan of Shakespeare (and despite saying he thought its script was “crude and undigested”) Irish playwright Richard Brinsley Sheridan was impressed enough to acquire the performance rights to Vortigern and Rowena, which he planned to stage at his newly expanded Drury Lane, then the largest theater in London. Even more impressed was James Boswell, biographer of lexicographer and noted Shakespeare fanatic Samuel Johnson. Aging and in poor health, Boswell arrived at the Irelands’ Norfolk Street home and was ushered into Samuel Ireland’s study. A glass of warmed brandy in one hand and the documents in…
William Shakespeare devised new words and countless plot tropes that still appear in everyday life. Famous quotes from his plays are easily recognizable; phrases like “To be or not to be,” “wherefore art thou Romeo,” and “et tu, Brute?” instantly evoke images of wooden stages and Elizabethan costumes. But an incredible number of lines from his plays have become so ingrained into modern vernacular that we no longer recognize them as lines from plays at all. Here are 21 phrases you use but may not have known came from the Bard of Avon.
1.“WILD GOOSE CHASE”: ROMEO AND JULIET, ACT II, SCENE IV
“Nay, if our wits run the wild-goose chase, I am done, for thou hast more of the wild-goose in one of thy wits than, I am sure, I have in my whole five. Was I with you there for the goose?” — Mercutio
2. “GREEN-EYED MONSTER”: Othello, Act III, Scene III
O, beware, my lord, of jealousy! It is the green-eyed monster, which doth mock the meat it feeds on.” – Iago
Before Shakespeare, the color green was most commonly associated with illness. Shakespeare turned the notion of being sick with jealousy into a metaphor that we still use today.
3. “PURE AS THE DRIVEN SNOW”: HAMLET, ACT III, SCENE I and THE WINTER’S TALE, ACT IV, SCENE IV
“Be thou as chaste as ice, as pure as snow, thou shalt not escape calumny. Get thee to a nunnery, go.” — Hamlet,
“Lawn as white as driven snow.” — Autolycus
Though Shakespeare never actually used the full phrase “pure as the driven snow,” both parts of it appear in his work. For the record, this simile works best right after the snow falls, and not a few hours later when tires and footprints turn it into brown slush.
4. “SEEN BETTER DAYS”: AS YOU LIKE IT, ACT II, SCENE VII
“True is it that we have seen better days and have with holy bell been knolled to church, and sat at good men’s feasts and wiped our eyes of drops that sacred pity hath engendered.” –Duke Senior
The first recorded use of “seen better days” actually appeared in Sir Thomas More in 1590, but the play was written anonymously, and is often at least partially attributed to Shakespeare. We do know Shakespeare was a fan of the phrase; he uses “seen better days” in As You Like It, and then again in Timon of Athens.
5. “OFF WITH HIS HEAD”: RICHARD III, ACT III, SCENE IV
“If? Thou protector of this damnèd strumpet, talk’st thou to me of “ifs”? Thou art a traitor—Off with his head.” – Richard III
The Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland wasn’t the first monarch with a penchant for liberating heads from bodies. Her famous catchphrase came from Shakespeare first.
6. “FOREVER AND A DAY”: AS YOU LIKE IT, ACT IV, SCENE I
“Now tell me how long you would have her after you have possessed her.” — Rosalind
“Forever and a day” — Orlando
We have The Bard to thank for this perfect fodder for Valentine’s Day cards and middle school students’ love songs.
7. “GOOD RIDDANCE”: TROILUS AND CRESSIDA, ACT II, SCENE I
“A good riddance.” — Patroclus
Where would Green Day be without Shakespeare’s riposte? In addition to acoustic ballad titles, “good riddance” also applies well to exes, house pests (both human and insect), and in-laws.
8. “FAIR PLAY”: THE TEMPEST, ACT V, SCENE I
“Yes, for a score of kingdoms you should wrangle, and I would call it fair play.” — Miranda
Prospero’s daughter never would have been able to predict that “fair play” is used more often now in sports than it is for the negotiation of kingdoms.