• I didn’t realise I was going to be missing was the first of Francesco da Mosto’s two-part series on Shakespeare in Italy. His interest in Shakespeare is genuine:Among Italians, Shakespeare is certainly the best-known foreign writer. It’s interesting for us to see how he describes Mark Antony, and how his Octavius resembles Machiavelli’s Prince. But the most important this is the way he described emotions that are universal. It hits you like a punch in the stomach.

    • … he talked about Shakespeare and the universal emotion of love, but the one going out this Thursday looks at the political landscape, visiting Venice’s Jewish ghetto, Rome and Sicily which the Radio Times confidently assures us was the setting for The Tempest. Really?
    • In The Merchant of Venice, Launcelot Gobbo gives deliberately confusing directions: “Turn up on your right hand at the next turning, but at the very next turning of all, on your left…turn of no hand but turn down indirectly”. This, the programme suggests, is recognisable as Venice with its maze of alleyways, as if Venice was the only city with a complicated layout.
    • On returning to Stratford I wandered into the Royal Shakespeare Theatre to find a little pamphlet discussing Shakespeare’s life, entitled Alas Poor Yorick, or What if Shakespeare fell off the wall?, written by Peter Brook.
      I was quite surprised to see Peter Brook joining the fray surrounding the authorship question, but as the most important figure in theatre in the second half of the twentieth century, nobody is better qualified than he to point out the impossibility of an imposter being able to pass himself off as the author of the plays:
      Who was this man, acting, rubbing shoulders in rehearsal, sitting for hours talking to all and sundry in the taverns without anyone suspecting he was a fake! An actor says to an author – “Can’t you change that line?” or “I haven’t enough time for the costume change — could you write a soliloquy or a little scene on the forestage to help?”No one smelt a rat amongst all those spiteful and jealous rivals? I’m sorry academics – if you’d been part of any rehearsal process you would think differently. Even today, imagine a phoney writer. The cast would begin to notice and gossip about the fact that every time you ask something, the author slips into the wings with his cell phone.

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