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In what ways are Shakespeare’s plays accessed around the world today?
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In what ways are Shakespeare’s plays accessed around the world today?

In this video Rachael Nicholas talks to Dr Sarah Lewis about accessing Shakespeare's works in the 21st century, and the cultural construction of 'live
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Hello, everybody. So far on this course, we’ve been thinking about what we know about Shakespeare as an individual, Shakespeare the man. And we’ve also been thinking about the creation of Shakespeare as a national icon. Today, we’re going to be thinking about the different ways in which we access the plays themself and particularly the performance of those plays in the 21st century. And I’m here with Rachael Nicholas, who is actually a former graduate student from King’s. She took the Shakespearean Studies MA with us last year. I think that’s right. Yes. And she’s now undertaking doctoral research, which explores Shakespearean production today and live broadcasts of Shakespeare in the 21st century.
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So I wonder if we can start, Rachael, by thinking about those basic questions, I suppose firstly, how do people access performances of Shakespeare today? And also, why is it important for us to think about the different ways in which people engage with Shakespeare’s plays? Yeah, so while Shakespeare is performed in theatres frequently across the world, especially in UK, it’s likely that many people have never seen a production of Shakespeare live. And that includes people who are potentially doing this course. Yes. There can be many barriers for why people may not have seen a Shakespeare play in the theatre, the main one being cost, usually. Yes, of course. So the cost of tickets can be really high.
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And the cost of travel to theatres may also be a consideration and also available travel to theatres. Some people live in really remote locations. Yeah. Those tend to be the main reasons. But others can be social reasons. So your social background might not include people who go to a theatre regularly or would even consider it as a kind of activity or thing to do. Yes. It is likely, however, that most people will have seen a production or part of a production of a Shakespeare play on a screen of some sort, so a kind of television production– so The Hollow Crown recently got a million viewers, I think– film adaptations, of which there are plenty of Shakespeare film adaptations– Yes.
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–and more recent kind of on the internet or on YouTube, for example, which are kind of remediatised those kinds of TV and film often. So it’s really important, because it can often be a kind of screen adaptation that you encounter first. Yeah, your first way into Shakespeare. Yeah, your first way into Shakespeare. So especially in the UK, which Shakespeare is compulsory, I think at GCSE and actually at lower levels as well and A-level especially. So for example, my own experience of A-level Hamlet was completely kind of taught through Kenneth Branagh’s version. So that was the way that I understood Shakespeare and the way that we were taught it.
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And therefore, that particular production really shaped your understanding of what the play was and what it was about. It definitely shaped my understanding of the play until I went to university and found out that there were different kind of versions of Hamlet. So I think it’s really important– these screen Shakespeares have a huge cultural responsibility in a way in that they can challenge and they can reinforce these perceptions of Shakespeare that we have. And they can put you off Shakespeare for life. They can really ignite your love and passion for Shakespeare and can determine sizes of audiences for productions in the theatre for future Shakespeare adaptations. It’s really important how people do access these promotions.
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And I suppose it’s important to think as well about the individual’s experience as audience member, because obviously, that’s very different in the theatre from how it might be if you’re watching in the cinema or if you’re watching something online with a friend or online on your own. It creates a very different audience member. Yeah, and it has huge implications. So some people might, for example, if they had gone to a theatre, feel really out of place. That kind of experience is alienating for some people. Whereas, watching something at home by yourself on your laptop can be really involving for certain types of audience members. Some people feel really at home in a theatre, and that’s great.
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But it’s important that there’s different ways of accessing Shakespeare for different audiences. Great.

Why is it important to think about the ways in which people access Shakespeare’s plays? In this video Rachael Nicholas talks to Dr Sarah Lewis about accessing Shakespeare’s works in the 21st century, and the cultural construction of ‘liveness’.

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Shakespeare: Print and Performance

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