Tag Archives: marianna kaplun

Our Fair William

Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce to you an amazing playwright, a genius mind, the greatest bard of the Renaissance period… William Shakespeare! But you already know who is he and what is he famous for? Well, what we know about the most famous English playwright is really a lot and really… nothing. Why? Let me show you…

‘What’s in a name? A rose by any name would smell as sweet.’ (Romeo and Juliet Act 2, Scene 2)

Most of our confusion stems from the author debate. Many playwrights of the time pretended to wear Shakespeare’s crown. The first pretender is the philosopher, essayist and scientist Francis Bacon (1561-1626). The Baconian theory says Bacon wrote the plays publicly attributed to William Shakespeare. He kept it a secret because it might have hindered his rise to high office if it became known he wrote plays for the public stage. This is very interesting and intriguing, but the glory of the greatest playwright is worth taking off the mask, isn’t it?

The second pretender on the Shakespearean throne is the Elizabethan poet and playwright Christopher Marlowe (1564-1593). The Marlovian theory also says he hid under the mask of Shakespeare. The first question is how Marlowe could write Shakespeare’s plays after his own death? Maybe, the answer is in a recent film by Jim Jarmusch Only Lovers Left Alive where Marlowe turns out to be a vampire? Or not. The official Marlovian theory says Marlowe did not die in Deptford on 30 May 1593, as the historical records state, but he faked his death and continued to live and create under another name. (Maybe this name was Francis Bacon? Who knows!) But with such a busy life full of identity adventures, surely he would write novels in the spirit of Dumas, not just sonnets! Maybe, in Shakespeare’s language, the authorship question is just “much ado about nothing”!


‘All the world ‘s a stage, and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts.’ (As You Like it Act 2, Scene 7)

Now let’s look at the other side of Shakespearean heritage. Let’s talk about the theater. The English Renaissance reached the greatest height in theatrical art. Shakespeare’s plays, full of humanism, comedic and tragic plots, were outstanding theatrical achievements of the period. His drama made English theatre an important contributor to the arts.

The most famous theatre associated with Shakespeare was The Globe, built in 1599 and considered the most beautiful theatre of its time. The Globe was a round, open-roofed building that housed approximately 2,000 spectators. Did you know Shakespeare was one of its owners? He adored the theater and was also a good actor. From 1594 on, the acting company variously known as the Lord Chamberlain’s Men (1594-1596, 1597-1603), Lord Hunsdon’s Men (1596-1597), and the King’s Men (1603-1642) exclusively performed William Shakespeare’s plays. And William Shakespeare was a prominent member of this acting company. Maybe innate artistry helped Shakespeare write wonderful plots and create picturesque characters to brighten the stage… and cinema… and television… and everywhere else you see them performed.

 ‘Romeo, Romeo! wherefore art thou Romeo?’ (Romeo and Juliet Act 2, Scene 2)


“Romeo and Juliet” is one of the most popular and famous of Shakespeare’s tragedies. The story of two young star-crossed lovers whose death will ultimately reconcile their warring families still can’t leave any reader indifferent around the world. This romantic plot was not only Shakespeare’s idea. Working on the play, Shakespeare used an Italian tale translated into verse as “The Tragical History of Romeus and Juliet” by Arthur Brooke in 1562 as his inspiration. This retold in prose “Palace of Pleasure” by William Painter in 1567. We know nothing about Brooke’s and Painter’s works, since we all know this plot from Shakespeare’s view. Why? The answer is simple. He had mastery and a talent to tell stories in a way that reflects their essence while making them masterfully fascinating for the stage and for the audience. They ultimately judge the success of a play. Medieval audiences didn’t just watch spectacles, they also decided how the plot developed!

Do you know Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” in the original version had a happy ending? Sounds like “Shakespeare in Love,” right? And John Madden’s film is close to the truth. Because comedy pathos did not appeal to the audience, Shakespeare rewrote the ending. The audience approved of the tragic message. Periodically the theater performed both endings so the audience could choose the one they preferred. (As you like it?) Since Hollywood sometimes change the endings of their films based on audience test screenings, we can see little has changed in the entertainment industry since the Renaissance period. And maybe it’s all for the best.

Unlike many writers who never live to enjoy their fame, Shakespeare achieved great recognition during his lifetime. He wrote three types of plays: comedies, tragedies, and histories. He also wrote poems and sonnets. Many acknowledge him as one of the greatest writers of all time. He remains popular with readers around the world. Maybe Shakespeare says it best: ‘Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.’ (Twelfth Night Act 2, Scene 5).


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Marianna Kaplun was born in Moscow. She is candidate of philological sciences specializing in the first Russian drama and theatre of XVIIth century. She’s also a film and TV critic by calling. You can find her essays on her Lumiere page and on her blog.


Remember Who You Are: Shakespeare’s Lion King

Simba, son of the strongest lion king of the animal kingdom Mufasa and his wife Sarabi, will inherit the Kingship of the Pride Lands. But his jealous uncle Scar wants to take away from him what is rightfully his—his family, his kingdom, his pride. After the long years, the Ghost of Simba’s father tries to point him the right way… Continue reading

A Village That Transcends Time


Far, far away in Britain there is a beautiful place called Gretna Green. This small village in the south of Scotland famous for its runaway weddings and romantic wedding traditions dating back over centuries, which originated from cross-border elopements stemming from differences between Scottish marriage laws and those in neighboring countries. So why does this unremarkable village have a wedding capital’s reputation? Let’s try to understand. Continue reading

The Flower of the Orient


I am not a prize to be won!

Far, far away in the kingdom of Agarabah lives beautiful and brave princess, the daughter of the Sultan—Jasmine. She lives according to its strict laws, but with all her heart wants to feel freedom. Jasmine doesn’t know a powerful desert magic waits to be unlocked, ready to change her world forever… Continue reading

Prince Without Fear or Reproach


“Sire? Do you…like yourself?”

“What’s not to like?”

A princess, who is prepared to be wed with beautiful prince, is sent away to New York by an evil queen, where she falls in love with a lawyer.

We all know this story of the wonderful Disney movie Enchanted, but what do we know about the prince? Yes, you heard right, the Prince… who was supposed to marry Giselle, ordained to her by fate. This hero is Prince Edward. Let’s get to know him better.

“Nathaniel likes the way I leap? <…> I’m handsome even when I sleep!”

Edward is a prince in Andalasia and the stepson of former Queen Narissa. He is “very pure, very simple-minded and naive, but innocently narcissistic.” Edward is charming and handsome, athletic, yet goodhearted. He ends up confused with the world of New York once entering it. “Ha-ha-ha! You’ve met your match, you foul bellowing beast!” (Prince Edward, as he stabs a city bus) or “Tell me, magic mirror, what is this awful place? Why is everything so… difficult? Will I ever find my heart’s duet?” (Prince Edward to the television) or “It appears this odd little box controls the magic mirror!” (Prince Edward, upon discovering the television remote). Yes, he is a little obsessed with mirrors. Coincidence?


In Andalasia and the real world, Edward is a large-built, extremely handsome young man with prominent cheekbones and jaw. He has brown hair and blue eyes. Edward is usually dressed in an elaborate royal uniform, with cape and sword, as befitting a Prince. He is notable for his strong singing voice and having an enthusiastic, larger-than-life manner. I would say he is too cheerful for others. Problem? Not for Edward.


“Well, this has been a splendid date! Shall we go? <…> Why, back to Andalasia, of course! To be married, to live happily ever after, forever and ever!”



Our hero strongly believes in instant love (and shouting about it on every street corner). He hopes he and the beautiful Giselle can be together forever (and ever, and ever, and ever). So he tries to find her in a new world for him: New York. “Fear not, Giselle, I will rescue you!”. “What say you, sir? Don’t try my patience! <…> I seek a beautiful girl, my one coquette…the answer to my love’s duet.” (Prince Edward to Arty). And, yes, he really tries to rescue her, because he is determined to marry the woman he loves. But stop! Is it really true? Does Edward really love Giselle or does it just seem like love to him? The fact is Edward just wants to marry someone he loves and who loves him! But he doesn’t really know who is his true love. A little sad for the Prince, isn’t it?


When Robert suggested a true love’s kiss would reawaken Giselle from her eternal dream, Edward quickly saved face by claiming he knew that. He leaned in and lightly kissed Giselle, but when she did not stir, tried kissing her again repeatedly, harder and harder (a true prince, really). Just as he was about to panic, a revelation dawned on him. He urged Robert, who he had correctly guessed was now the one meant for Giselle, to kiss her. As Edward stood aside and watched, Robert tenderly kissed Giselle, and she awoke. As the crowd applauded, Edward smiled in joy. Edward is very compassionate for Giselle even when he understands that she is not his “heart’s duet.”  He cared for her so much, he was willing to let another man kiss her in order to save her life. Ah, how romantic and noble!


“Why so sad, beautiful lady? <…> It’s a perfect fit.”

But Edward is true prince and he must have his princess. Edward is a warm and polite person, even to people he doesn’t know. He tries to be heroic and likable, but can come across as pompous. Later, Edward came across a despondent Nancy Tremaine studying a slipper left behind by Giselle. He comforted her, and even placed the slipper on Nancy’s foot. When it was revealed to be a perfect fit, the two instantly fell in love (well, finally). Having already happily accepted the fact that Giselle loved Robert, Edward was now enraptured with Nancy, and so the two returned to Andalasia, where they started to live happily ever after.


Our hero is handsome (yes!), brave (maybe too much), passionate (very much) and kind (very, very much). We have never known such a true and wonderful prince. I will rescue you! Yes, let’s go!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Marianna Kaplun was born in Moscow. She is a philologist specializing in Ancient Russian drama and theatre. She’s also a film and television critic by calling and librarian by profession. You can find her essays on her Facebook page and on Lumiere. She also blogs in English and Russian.

I can’t stand you. I love you



“You think a princess and a guy like me…?” –Han Solo

What do we know about them? Han Solo was a human male smuggler who became a leader in the Alliance to Restore the Republic and an instrumental figure in the defeat of the Galactic Empire during the Galactic Civil War. Leia Organa Solo (born Leia Amidala Skywalker) was, at various stages of her life, a politician, revolutionary, and Jedi Knight of the New Jedi Order. Continue reading

Ghost Stories



Curious thing, but we don’t often hear about happy, friendly ghosts. More often they seem to be unfriendly spirits who cannot rest. In August 1901 one English woman Miss Charlotte Anne Moberley visited France. When she walked through the Petit Trianon, a small château in the grounds of the Palace of Versailles, she saw a woman at the window of a building, which was not there in 1901. Continue reading

Shakespeare’s World: The Globe



All the world’s a stage,

And all the men and women merely players

What do we know about Shakespeare’s theatre? We always associate theatrical Shakespeare’s world with the name of the great English Queen Elizabeth I Tudor. And, definitely, it’s very true. In 1576 Elizabethan drama entered an entirely new era. James Burbage, a prosperous joiner, built a theatre in the style of an amphitheater near Bishopsgate in London and called it the Theatre (the word “theatre” had a meaning “the art of writing and producing plays”). Later, two others theatres opened north of the City of London: the Fortune in 1600 and the Red Bull in 1605. By then, on the south bank of the Thames on Bankside had appeared Rose in 1587, the Swan in 1595 and, finally, the Globe in 1599. Continue reading

Audrey Hepburn: Our Fair Lady



She was a ballet dancer, but never danced in a ballet. She never studied acting yet became one of the most famous actresses in the world. The public loves her. People love her now, years after her death.  They remember her not only for her films, but for her elegance, grace and charm.

Audrey Kathleen van Heemstra Hepburn was born on 4 May 1929 in Brussels, Belgium. Her father, Joseph Victor Anthony Ruston (1889-1980), was a British subject born in Úžice, Bohemia. Her mother, Baroness Ella van Heemstra (1900-1984), was a Dutch aristocrat and the daughter of Baron Aarnoud van Heemstra, who was mayor of Arnhem from 1910 to 1920, and served as Governor of Dutch Suriname from 1921 to 1928. Continue reading