A celebration of the life, work and legacy of the world’s most famous playwright
I’ll send to one in Mantua,
Where that same banished runagate doth live,
Shall give him such an unaccustomed dram
That he shall soon keep Tybalt company.
Romeo and Juliet (3.5.88-91)
2016 is a year of double festivities: not only Festivaletteratura is celebrating its twentieth edition but there is an extraordinary series of events, programmes, exhibitions and creative events underway in celebration of the life, work and legacy of the world’s most famous playwright, William Shakespeare. This year, some 400 years after his death, the Festival will play its part in saluting the Bard with three events exploring how modern audiences continue to interact with his plays in this anniversary year.
Patrizia Cavalli has translated four of Shakespeare’s works (Twelfth Night, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Othello and The Tempest) for the stage and she will enlighten the audience on how she tackled such imposing source material, reading and ‘performing’ some of her translations, which have recently been reprinted and collected in a single anthology, which are written in an incredibly current yet faithful key.
Shakespeare’s remarkably enduring popularity is celebrated by Jeanette Winterson and Howard Jacobson, both taking part in the Shakespeare 400 festivities, where a series of renowned authors reimagine Shakespearian plays in a modern idiom, taking them from the stage to the page. Winterson’s The Gap of Time is a ‘cover version’ of The Winter’s Tale, which for her has always been ‘a talismanic text … having worked with it in many guises over the years.’ Winters will discuss her protagonist, Leo, a reinterpretation of King Leontes of Sicilia as high-flying Londoner struggling to handle the baggage that comes with modern life, and other aspects of her novel with Luca Scarlini.
Jacobson, who will be in conversation with Lella Costa on Sunday, retells The Merchant of Venice in his Shylock Is My Name, where the title character is transformed from an objectified ‘other’ in the play to a complex protagonist, in a novel which expands into a broader investigation of modern Jewish identity. This was not Jacobson’s first choice of play, as he told BBC Radio 4, he originally wanted Hamlet but seeing as it had already been taken by another author, he decided to take on Shakespeare’s troublesome ‘Jewish play’, updating the setting to affluent, present-day Cheshire.