Bardstardising Shakespeare


bastardise  ˈbɑːstədʌɪz,ˈbast-/ verb  1.  corrupt or debase (a language, art form, etc.), typically by adding new elements
Bardstardise 1. to corrupt and/or  improve upon the language and works of William Shakespeare
What might have been barred from the Bard’s work? 

In celebration of Shakespeare’s 400th anniversary, Goodreads asked six authors to write deleted scenes from some of Shakespeare’s plays.  Read their efforts here to be inspired to write your own.  Notice how they adhere to, but also break with, conventions.  This is often for comic effect.

Your turn.

Imagine a deleted scene from Shakespeare’s Macbeth.  Now write it.  Can you evoke the language and rhythm (iambic pentameter) of Shakespeare?

Consider how you might utilise:

  • setting and placement of scene (where in the narrative: eg. Act 1, Scene 8?)
  • characters, their status, their language (verse or prose?), what they know or don’t know yet, how they would address each other (‘dearest chuck’, ‘my lord’, ‘dark spirits’ etc)
  • A soliloquy or asides
  • key ideas and how to develop them: ambition, fear, inner conflict, deception…take your pick!
  • imagery and figurative language: how to lend power to your words and message (let’s face it, there’s more than a little Shakespeare in the dramatic language of say ‘Game of Thrones’etc)
  • foreshadowing and dramatic irony

Plan, write and edit it in a Word document or equivalent.  We will workshop your writing in class.  Finished copy and an accompanying written explanation of your authorial choices will be posted on the blog.

View the ‘Macbeth Creative’ assessment sheet (on Compass via the Resources tab) to remind yourself of the skills you need to demonstrate.  Or borrow your gran’s glasses to decipher the copy below:


Due date: Thursday 12 May

Questions? Post them as comments below and I will endeavour to answer them for the benefit of all.




How do we attribute what we find and use online?


Image source: Craig R. Kirkby on Flickr

When we write and use other people’s ideas we should always attribute these to the source. This is the expected, ethical use of what we’ve read elsewhere. It’s a good idea to get into that mindset and learn procedures as early as possible because it’s expected in higher education and part of the assessment.

In blog posts we do the same – we attribute ideas, text, images, videos, sound files, etc. to the source of where we found these, but instead of adding footnotes we hyperlink back to the source.

Hyperlinked citations are much more than an attribution of cited sources; they are also:

  • a direct link the the source itself
  • a solution to wordy explanations which interrupt the flow of the sentence
  • a dense and complexly charged way of writing

Here’s an example from The Joy of Swimming: An Illustrated Celebration of the Water as a Medium of Bodily, Mental and Spiritual Movement by Maria Popova on the blog, Brain Pickings.

“The truth is an abyss,” Kafka asserted in contemplating the nature of reality. “One must — as in a swimming pool — dare to dive from the quivering springboard of trivial everyday experience and sink into the depths, in order later to rise again … to the now doubly illuminated surface of things.” Alan Watts once explained the tenets of Taoism through swimming. More than a philosophical metaphor, the swimming pool is a place of great psychological potency — Oliver Sacks saw swimming as an essential creative stimulant for writing.

Not only is this hyperlinked method of citation a new way of writing, but it’s also a new way of reading. You might say that the writer has done the work of bringing in the textual background for his ideas, but the reader also has to do the hard work of going to the sources and reading for understanding. Although, in the above example, Maria Popova links to her own blog posts, this is exactly the way you would link back to online sources you have quoted or paraphrased.

Footnotes? Why have these at the foot of the page when you can embed them directly?

Why isn’t my blog post showing up?


Photo by Dennis Koehoorn on Flickr

A few students have been frustrated by the fact that, despite publishing their posts, they don’t actually show up in the blog. Hmm…. This is part of working with technology, but I’m happy to try and help. Usually I just google the problem and set the ‘search tools’ for ‘any time’ to ‘past year’ so that the answers are current.

An easy fix recommended by some was to change the theme to eg. twentysixteen because some themes are buggy. If that doesn’t work….

Another suggestion was that you have created a static front page which is what people sometimes do if they want the front face of their blog to be the same regardless of posts coming in. If you have done that and want to stick with it, go to Customize > Static Front Page. You will need to define a page for posts to go to.  Read about doing this here.

Personally, I would probably undo the static front page and just have the posts appear in chronological order. I wouldn’t muck around with the customisation. Read about how to do that here. Basically, you just switch the radio button back to “Front page displays posts” instead of static front page.

Don’t despair! Try these suggestions and please come and see me, Ms Sheko, or email me, if you are still having problems.

How TO BE: Tim Minchin gets told

There’s never been a better demonstration of how open Shakespeare is to interpretation than this skit.  Watch as Tim Minchin is joined by an array of heavy-hitting actors who weigh in on the matter of how to deliver Hamlet’s famous lines: ‘To be or not to be, that is the question.’

The matter is settled by an unexpected guest.

Speaking ‘Shakespearian’

Before you respond to your next reading of Macbeth with, ‘it’s all Greek to me’, pause: you may know more ‘Shakespearian’ than you think you do.

Reknowned linguist David Crystal estimates that modern readers already know about 90% of the 20,000 words Shakespeare used and that there is little case for modernising the texts.  Perhaps the plays are not as inaccessible as schoolboy rumour might have them.  Listen to David Crystal as he reassures us that what we hear in Shakespeare’s plays is not too dissimilar to what we do ourselves when we . And how Homer Simpson is a modern day Hamlet.

Listen to comic and actor Rob Brydon reassure you that you are often quoting Shakespeare without even knowing it, via The Telegraph‘s celebration of 400 years of Shakespeare’s anniversary.

rob brydon


Which witch? Interpreting the instruments of darkness

The opening scene of Macbeth sets an ominous mood for the play: the witches are ending their meeting and we get only a glimpse of them before they disappear.    The natural world is evoked through the references to the wild weather: ‘thunder’, ‘lightning’, ‘rain’ and ‘fog’.  The world of man is in conflict and turmoil as the witches anticipate their next meeting with Macbeth: ‘When the hurlybury’s done.’   It will be on a heath: wild and open to the elements.  Their equivocation: ‘fair is foul, and foul is fair’ hovers through the ‘fog and filthy air’ and over the rest of the play to come.

Later in the play, Banquo and Macbeth are greeted by three witches. From the University of Pennsylvania , this illustration is the one that Shakespeare would have seen in his source for Macbeth, Holinshed’s Chronicles. (Read more here.)   He took some artistic licence, here.  In the true story, Banquo joined Macbeth in killing Duncan but of course it was not politic to include this, given that King James I was a direct descendant of Banquo’s.

Read about the origin of the three witches in Macbeth in Wikipedia

Interpreting the text

There are many layers of interpretation in drama.  In the case of Macbeth, we have Shakespeare’s reworking of an historical tale; the director’s interpretation of the text; the actor’s interpretation of their character; the audience’s interpretation of the performance.  A director of Macbeth will have an overarching vision of the way the play can reach an audience and have an impact. As you view the following interpretations of the witches, think about why the directors have made particular decisions.  Some things to think about:

  • casting
  • lighting
  • staging
  • movement
  • costume
  • appearance
  • props
  • music
  • setting
  • cinematography

The Witches on Film

Act 1 Scene 1 of Macbeth from 3 different film versions: 1. directed by Roman Polanski (1971); 2. directed by Geoffrey Wright – Australian (2006); 3. directed by Rupert Goold (2010)


Macbeth: Witches Scenes from Miroslaw Rogala on Vimeo.

About Miroslaw Rogala

A scene from Michael Fassbender’s Macbeth (2015) where Macbeth meets the witches and they share with him their prophecies.

Throne of Blood (蜘蛛巣城 Kumonosu-jō?, literally, “Spider Web Castle”) is a 1957 Japanese film co-written and directed by Akira Kurosawa. The film transposes the plot of William Shakespeare‘s play Macbeth to feudal Japan, with stylistic elements drawn from Noh drama.[1] 

Taketoki and Miki come across one witch in Kurosawa’s adaptation of Macbeth. Watch the scene here.

Read about The Throne of Blood here. (Source: Wikipedia)

The Witches on the Stage

Click here to view the Everyman stage production, starring David Morrissey, which is available for viewing digitally.

Watch the slideshow below

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Which Witch?

Now that you’ve had time to digest a range of interpretations of the witches, is to your taste?  Are there any that are not particularly effective or are noteworthy in their originality?  Do you have any firm opinions about how the witches should be played?

Look at the way at least two representations work dramatically.  Compare and contrast them.  You should reference one film clip and one still image minimum.


Photo source: Barnbrooks