When it comes to contemporary mass appeal, “Hamlet” may not be “The Hunger Games.” But judging from the number of stagings and adaptations happening every day around the world, Shakespeare’s views on life and love somehow still resonate. Why do works written over 400 years ago in blank verse and iambic pentameter continue to endure in the Internet age?

Bruce Avery, professor of English at San Francisco State University
Philippa Kelly, resident dramaturg with the California Shakespeare Theater and author of "The King and I (Shakespeare Now)"
Carey Perloff, artistic director for the American Conservatory Theater
Hugh Richmond, professor emeritus of English at UC Berkeley

  • Timothy Doyle

    I love his sonnets. They are a play in 14 lines.

  • nancy384

    My son sings in Ragazzi Boys Chorus, and last month their concert included a song from “Midsummer Night’s Dream” that the fairies sing.  It was beautiful, and I thought a great way to use Shakespeare in modern day without performing a whole production.


  • Tim Doyle

    Harold Bloom is a very entertaining fan of W.S.

  • Michaelj Mckinnon

    As a past student of professor Avery’s English lit survey course, I can speak to his previously described method of group reading where the entire auditorium stands and reads a text like beowulf or Lear while divided into two teams each reading a different part of the line. It created a raucous call and response vivacity to an otherwise implicitly private soliloque. The resulting vivacity of this technique is something I’ve applied to other classes and otherwise difficult to access texts, often assigning my reluctant girlfriend a part in the text.

  • Rachel86

     I saw a play at Foothill College, called All Shook Up.  It was full of Elvis songs, and I found out after that it was based on Twelfth Night.  I never would have thought of mashing together Shakespeare and Elvis, but it was great!

  • Elizabeth

    Very curious to hear about Philippa Kelly’s work with Shakespeare in prisons, including San Quentin…?

  • Steve

    Some time ago Terry Gross interviewed Leslie Nielson on Fresh Air.  The subject of Nielson’s early pre-switch-to-comic-actor leading romantic role in the seminal 1956 science fiction film Forbidden Planet (for which the famous Robbie the Robot was created).  Either the interview never moved in the right direction, or else neither of them realized, but Forbidden Planet is largely an adaptation of The Tempest.  Robbie is Ariel, and the monster from Walter Pigeon’s Prospero’s subconscious is Calaban.  The movie is a surprisingly deep rerendering of Tempest.  Although I saw it as a 7 year old, and although terrified by the monster, I understood the Freudian interpretation of Tempest.

  • Ralph

    On the ornate language of Shakespeare, I’d suggest that just as a blind person compensates by developing enhanced hearing and smell, so in an illiterate society where books are rare, the common man develops a stronger mastery of the spoken word. In addition, if you’re living in a poor environment run by a king or queen who can kill anyone on a whim, the value of bold talk, rigorous plotting and characters based on contemporary figures is greater, drawing in a bigger audience.

  • Tim Doyle

    Shakespeare was almost Italian! 

  • Peter

    Would your guests comment on the qualities of the plays that are known to be  co-authored and also on the work of language and theatrical qualities of work by contemporaries of the bard, Jonson and others, as to their unique or common qualities in contrast to WS’s work?

  • Tim Doyle

    Lear Act Three scene 3 I love Kent’s loyalty and trying to get him out of the rain and wind. 

    • Tim Doyle

       Correction: it was Act 3 scene 4. “KENT

      Here is the place, my lord. Good my lord, enter.

      The tyranny of the open night’s too rough

      For nature to endure.”

  • Momat32

    To respond about Shakespeare at San Quentin:  One of our local treasures, actor Aldo Billingslea, who teaches at U of Santa Clara does a program in which his students  and inmates together create a Shakespeare performance: 

    Aldo is playing Othello in a stellar production directed by Jasson Minidakis now running at Marin Theatre Company in Mil Valley.  Jasson (founder and former director of Cincinnati Shakespeare Company) and Aldo would have been a great additions to your guest list for today’s show.  Aldo calls this role the “Mt Everest of his acting career”.  A must-see show for all bay area Shakespeare lovers.

  • Runner_8063

    Great show.  Thanks to all.  I believe one of these guests also appeared in a recent CommonWealth Club broadcast.  If interested, surf over to their website and download the audio.  It’s very interesting if you are a Shakespeare fan.

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