Alternate Shakespeare

Alternate Shakespeare

I live about a half hour from the American Shakespeare Center in Staunton, Virginia, where the spring season opens with interrelated performances of Hamlet and Tom Stoppard’s Rosencratz and Guildenstern are Dead, which features two minor characters from Shakespeare in Godot-like circumstances. If you’ve never seen the Stoppard, there’s a movie version from 1990 featuring Gary Oldman, Tim Roth, and Richard Dreyfuss. (and if you’ve never seen Kenneth Branagh’s Hamlet, get thee hither to Netflix.) Shakespeare, of course, was a great fantasist, and is himself sometimes a character in  reimaginings of his historical period, if not outright fantasies involving a cast of faeries and ghosts.  Harry Turteldove, he of vast historical reimaginings, has a story up at Tor.com which imagines a future acting troupe that is somehow transported to Shakespeare’s time and puts on a performance of Rosencratz and Guildenstern are Dead. It’s an amusing tale that sets you up for a half-expected punchline, but anyone interested in Shakespeare or theater or absurdism will appreciate the jokes.  And, since it is a fantasy, I won’t even complain that Shakespeare would no more understand modern English than the players from the future would be able to converse with true Elizabethan accents.

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