Hamlet Isn't Dead, a theater troupe in New York City, brings the works of William Shakespeare to life by performing all his works in the order they were written. The troupe performs the plays with a modern touch, hoping to prove to audiences that Shakespeare really is for everyone. This story is produced by NBC Learn in partnership with Pearson.
Shakespeare, and the Endurance of the Human Character
THISBE: …Full often hast thou heard my moans, for parting my fair Pyramus and me! My cherry lips have often kiss'd thy stones, thy stones with lime and hair knit up in thee.
MEGAN GREENER (Actor, Hamlet Isn’t Dead): Shakespeare requires all of you. It requires your human experience, your knowledge.
PETRUCHIO: …coy and sullen, and now I find report a very liar.
GREENER: It's for everybody. It's dirty. It's angry. It's joyful. It's wonderful.
DAVID ANDREW LAWS (Artistic Director, Hamlet Isn’t Dead): He was writing about love and hate and fear and anger and jealousy.
JAMES RIGHTMYER, JR (Executive Director, Hamlet Isn’t Dead): Right. And even more specifically, he was capturing a feeling that either everybody wants to have or has had one time and wants to have again.
PETRUCHIO: Slow-winged turtle, shall a buzzard take thee?
KATHERINA: Ay, for a turtle, as he takes a buzzard.
PETRUCHIO: Come, come, you wasp, in faith you are too angry.
KATHERINA: If I be waspish, best beware my sting.
LAWS: Hamlet Isn't Dead was founded in 2013. What we do is we are performing all of Shakespeare's works in the order that he wrote them.
RIGHTMYER: We wanted to make great Shakespeare that we knew we could do and that just means we have to do it ourselves.
DEMETRIUS: And this the cranny is, right and sinister, through which the fearful lovers are to whisper.
RIGHTMYER: Wait, wait, can we do that again? Sorry. If you just build to that, so that you’re getting really excited, and then you be more off-text I think. That’s what I meant. And then move on.
PROTEUS: When I was sick, you gave me bitter pills, and I must minister the like to you.
TRAVIS KLEMM (Actor, Hamlet Isn’t Dead): We're a very audience-interactive theater company. So I really enjoy being able to have that interaction with the folks watching and bring them in a little.
MICHAEL LUCA (Actor, Hamlet Isn’t Dead): I think audiences really connect to when the actors are having fun.
THISBE: Oh sweet, oh lovely wall…
THISBE: …that stands between her father’s ground and mine.
LUCA: They're like, ‘I wanna have fun too.’ And Hamlet Isn't Dead really likes to have fun.
THISBE: Show me thy chink to blink through with mine eyne.
GREENER: What Hamlet Isn't Dead has really started honing in on is bringing out the joy and irreverence in any piece.
JULIA: A true devoted pilgrim is not weary to measure kingdoms with his feeble steps.
GREENER: And when we kind of step into the joy and involve other people in it, the joy is there, and then you can't help but get swept up in it.
JULIA: …perfection as Sir Proteus.
LUCETTA: Better forbear till Proteus make return.
LAWS: Shakespeare was writing for his audience, and he was telling them a story, and it was right at them, right for them. And we do the same thing.
PETRUCHIO:Say that she frown, then I'll say she looks as clear as morning roses newly wash'd with dew.
RIGHTMYER: Shakespeare wrote in mostly blank verse. Blank verse is the fancy name for un-rhyming iambic pentameter. Iambic meaning it's written in ba-dum. So it's unstressed followed by stressed. Pentameter means five feet or ten beats to a line.
LAWS: Yeah so it's on the heartbeat. It goes ba-dum, ba-dum, ba-dum, ba-dum, ba-dum. You take a line of Shakespeare and you add it to it, and you get--
PETRUCHIO: O, be thou Dian, and let her be Kate; and then let Kate be chaste and Dian sportful!
KATHARINA: Where did you learn all this goodly speech?
PETRUCHIO: It is extempore, from my mother-wit.
KATHARINA: A witty mother--witless else her son.
RIGHTMYER: You know he'd write many, many lines in that exact same rhythm. Then, every once in a while, he'd throw in a different one.
KATHERINA: If you strike me, you are no gentleman; and if no gentleman, why then no arms.
PETRUCHIO: Oh a herald king.
LUCA: And when you have lines written like that, when they're in succession from each other, and there are changes in that rhythm, you can sense there's a shift in the character.
PETRUCHIO: If she deny to wed, I'll crave the day when I shall ask the banns and when be married. But here she comes; and now, Petruchio, speak.
KLEMM: It's still just people talking. And they don't use the same words that we use. And they don't speak in the same way. But the ideas and the emotions are still, still very human emotions.
ROMEO:He jests at scars that never felt a wound. But, soft! What light through yonder window breaks?
LAWS: We had Romeo and Juliet. We had Romeo seeing Juliet for the first time. It's a very famous piece but, you know, for a reason. It's just this amazing expression of love and of new love and young love.
ROMEO: It is my lady, O, it is my love! O, that she knew she were! She speaks yet she says nothing.
KLEMM: Well, I think the arts, in general, and theater specifically, it holds a mirror up to life. So it reflects things that we see around us. It can make subtle commentaries about the things that we experience on a day to day, but in, in sometimes a more approachable way.
GREENER: Crazy things happen, in contemporary life, every day, of Greek proportion, literally. The fact that Shakespeare has put it down on paper, and things like this keep happening over and over again in human history, it makes him feel, no matter what time period you're in, it makes him feel relevant.
KLEMM: There's a reason the plays have been done for hundreds of years. They're very universal and approachable stories. So he's, he's timeless in that sense.
PETRUCHIO: For I am he, am born to tame you Kate, and bring you from a wild Kate to a Kate Conformable as other household Kates. Whaa!
Synopsis: William Shakespeare was baptized on April 26, 1564, in Stratford-upon-Avon, England. From roughly 1594 onward he was an important member of the Lord Chamberlain’s Men company of theatrical players.