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Spirits from the Vasty Deep | Rhapsody of Words

By October 29, 2014 No Comments

While he never drank a pumpkin spice latte, Shakespeare referred to “pumpions” in The Merry Wives of Windsor. All Hallows’ Eve and All Saints’ Day were celebrated in Christian Europe from the 9th century, and traditions involving ghost stories and sweet treats were well-established in England before Shakespeare’s lifetime. Seizing on this seasonal theme, the CW network has just announced a new show, produced by Mark Harmon, that will pit a young Shakespeare against witches.  Expect Reign-style corseted teenaged hijinks and corset-defying décolletage with a breezy approach to Elizabethan history and a spooky, supernatural element.

Hankering for All Hallow’s entertainment a little more literary than the Monster Mash? West Michigan’s  Pigeon Creek Shakespeare Company is throwing a party featuring spooky performances, live music, silent auction, food, and other surprises throughout the evening of Friday the 31st at Seven Steps Up in Spring Lake.  Portland, Oregon’s Milagro Theater presents a Day of the Dead-themed play written by artistic director Olga Sanchez. In O Romeo!, playing through November 9, an ailing Shakespeare writes the story of a Spanish priest and an Aztec maiden, and in so doing brings together the Old World and the New, the living and the dead. A diverse cast and crew use music and improvisation to bring Shakespeare’s characters to life as they come back with his dead son, Hamnet, to confront the playwright.

English readers have a wide variety of entertaining and educational options for this holiday half term. The Potteries Museum in Stoke-on-Trent in Staffordshire, UK is putting on a Hubble, Bubble, Toil, and Trouble event on Halloween afternoon, featuring a pleasantly ghoulish interactive exhibit on  Elizabethan science and history.  The Shakespeare Birth Trust offers several family-themed events: a ghost walk around Stratford, a hunt for goblins in the Shakespeare home, and an All Hallows’ celebration on Mary Arden’s farm.  Children of all ages are invited to learn the origins of jack o lanterns, bake a soul cake, or make a plague charm.

If your All Hallow’s Eve plans don’t include travel or theater tickets, the internet offers reliable entertainments. Check out this Mental Floss list to find out whether you might have qualified as a witch in Shakespeare’s time.Feeling more scholarly than scary than scary? John Ciccarelli’s OnStage blog entry on Shakespeare’s ghosts  features insightful and accessible analysis of ghosts in Julius Caesar.   The first recorded use of a skull as a theatrical prop dates to early performances of Hamlet.  Elizabeth Williamson’s “Yorick’s Afterlives: Skull Properties in Performance” is a detailed and meticulously researched look at the theater’s most famous memento mori.  If you’re inspired to host your own Shakespeare-themed All Hallows’ celebration, this guide  to dressing up as Juliet will render you  as dewy and luminous as Olivia Hussey in Franco Zefferelli’s 1968 film.

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