Shakespeare in Spain

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Scene from stage version of Hamlet.

APRIL 23 is a date laden with emphasis in the literary calendar. It is both World Book Day and the date of William Shakespeare’s death. This year will mark the 400th anniversary since the day and thousands of prose-lovers around the world celebrate the works of the unsurpassed wordsmith of the Elizabethan Age.

The impact Shakespeare has had on the modern British language is phenomenal. So much so, that some quotes have become a part of everyday expression and sentiment, but did you know they derive from Shakespeare’s quill?  For instance: ‘All that glisters is not gold’ and ‘love is blind and lovers cannot see’ are both quotes from the Merchant of Venice. ‘The course of true love never did run smooth’ is from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and ‘Brevity is the soul of wit’ from Hamlet.

In this day and age, everyone can enjoy the complete collection of the playwright’s work with just the touch of a button, numerous apps hold the whole library in your iTunes store. Furthermore, to mark the 400th anniversary of his death, a new app has been launched in London by technology company SwiftKey. The app is designed to allow users to finish their text message in the manner of the great playwright, writing, in effect, in Shakespearean sentences.

However, the Bard has not always enjoyed similar popularity on Spain’s stages. The earliest recorded performance of Shakespeare in Spain took place in 1772, when Hamlet was staged in Madrid, but, after this, there appears to be no significant mention of any Shakespearean presence on the Spanish peninsular until the early 1800s, when his works arrived alongside Napoleon and the French occupation.

What followed were adaptations of various plays, particularly Othello, translated from French, rather than the original English, and altered to the point where the original author was not even mentioned. Later, in 1828, dramatist Ventura de La Vega transcribed Alexandre Duval’s play Shakespeare Amoreux, a play about Shakespeare writing Othello, into Spanish.

The new, Spanish-language play, Shakespeare Enamorado, enjoyed great success and popularity with Spanish audiences, which has endured to this day.

This year, Spain will host a variety of events to mark the anniversary. For instance, the village of Laroles in the Alpujarra mountains in Granada will host the Sudbury Dramatic Society, as they stage an English language production of The Tempest. Part of the second edition of the Me Vuelves Lorca theatre festival, the play is considered to be Shakespeare’s last, and a fitting tribute to honour the anniversary of this death. The festival takes place from July 28 to 31.

Furthermore, the Almagro International Festival of Classical Theatre is bringing Shakespeare to Spain all throughout the summer. On July 13 and 22, commissioned by the British Council, two screenings will take place outdoors and free to the public in Ermita de San Pedro; the first is a series of films which have been inspired by the Bard’s plays, and the second is a version of Hamlet, as embodied by British actress, Maxine Peak.   

These films are part of a global programme entitled Shakespeare Lives 2016, celebrating the cultural and education influence of the great playwright. Additionally, a Spanish language version of Hamlet will be staged on July 29 and 30 by Compañia Nacional de Teatro Clasico, Kamikaze Producciones, at the Antigua Universidad Renacentista in Cuidad Real.

So, whether or not you are an aficionado or a newcomer to the works of William Shakespeare, his influence and mastery is worth acknowledging; ‘T’is true: there’s magic in the web of it….’

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