Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Shakespeare at 450

Today is World Book Night and William Shakespeare’s 450th birthday. We’ve done Shakespeare here before but as the current Banquo Award holder I should add that there are more things in Heaven and Earth than just that column...

As well as prophecies, witches and ghosts in the tragedies, A Midsummer Night’s Dream helped cement the modern image of faeries (and love potions) and The Tempest had a hand in setting the style of wizards as well - Harry Potter needs his wand like Prospero needs his staff.

Both concern characters trapped in a strange place and affected by powerful beings, a solid basis for many an adventure - although the players will probably want to defeat the “monsters” messing with their lives rather than letting them run their course. Find a way to outwit the fae nobles and undo the love curse and donkey head, or persuade Prospero to give up his revenge for Miranda’s sake?

And then of course there’s Shakespeare himself. Elizabethan England and the sort-of-united Jacobean Britain was a wild and dangerous time to live through, especially as a celebrity whose ideas were heard by hundreds every night. He was alive and working around the time of the Spanish Armada and the Gunpowder Plot.

A troupe of actors could make an interesting adventuring party, with access to all levels of society, especially when you mix in some of the fantastical elements of the plays - Kim Newman’s Drachenfels features the Warhammer equivalent of the Bard getting into all sorts of trouble when the villain of his new history play turns out to be slightly less dead than he should be...

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