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5 ways to celebrate the Shakespeare Year

Elizabeth Grenier
January 12, 2016

Shakespeare died in 1616. This 400th anniversary is another opportunity for the world to celebrate the legacy of the most famous English playwright - all year round. Here are five highlights among thousands of events.

Actor Benedict Cumberbatch, Copyright:picture-alliance/AP Photo/J. Short
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/J. Short

Another Shakespeare Year? Apparently, the universe just can't get enough of England's national poet: Two years ago, the whole year was consecrated to Shakespeare's 450th birthday, and now 2016 will mark the 400th anniversary of his death, so this can also be considered a Shakespeare Decade.

In any case, among an endless list of events, here is our selection of five promising highlights.

1. Share your Shakespeare 'moment'

To get everyone in a festive atmosphere, a major global program was launched on Twelfth Night (January 5), asking people to post their favorite quote or record themselves talking about something they really like about Shakespeare. It's part of a fundraising camping for the UK charity Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO). Check out the hashtag #PlayYourPart on Twitter and Facebook.

2. 'The Complete Walk'

A highlight in London's celebration of Shakespeare's 400th anniversary of death will take place over the weekend of April 23-24 (he died on April 23).

The event, called "The Complete Walk," will transform a four-kilometer (2.5-mile) stretch along the Thames, from Westminster to Tower Bridge, as 37 screens will be set up to feature 37 short films for each of the English playwright's 37 plays. Commissioned by the theater Shakespeare's Globe, these films were all shot on site - for example "Antony and Cleopatra" was filmed in front of the Pyramids, "Hamlet" in Denmark and "Romeo and Juliet" in Verona.

A skull in a scene from Shakespeare's "Hamlet", Copyright: picture-alliance/dpa
The "Globe to Globe" project will allow people from every country in the world to hear "To be or not to be"Image: picture-alliance/dpa

3. A two-year worldwide tour of 'Hamlet'

Those who cannot travel to the Globe can just let the Globe come to them. The renowned theater has undertaken an ambitious and unique project: "Hamlet" is to be performed in every single country in the world - even the most-war torn or Ebola-affected countries will get to hear "To be or not to be" live.

The "Globe to Globe" tour actually started on April 23, 2014, three days before the 450th anniversary of the Bard's birth, and will be completed for the anniversary of his death on April 23, 2016. The group of 16 people will be playing in Qatar on January 13. Still to come are Liberia, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, among many others.

4. Shakespeare revisited by famous novelists

The publisher Hogarth initiated a series of novels featuring some of the world's most acclaimed authors, including Jo Nesbo, Margaret Atwood and Tracy Chevalier.

The next title in the series is to be published on February 9: "Shylock Is My Name," written by Man Booker Prize-winner Howard Jacobson. The author re-imagined one of Shakespeare's most famous characters, Shylock from "The Merchant of Venice," as a father dealing with his daughter rejecting her Jewish upbringing.

Margaret Atwood, Copyright: picture-alliance/dpa/D.Calabrese
Margaret Atwood, along with several other renowned novelists, will modernize a Shakespeare playImage: picture-alliance/dpa/D.Calabrese

Two more books part of the "Hogarth Shakespeare" series will come later on this year: Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Anne Tyler transposed "The Taming of the Shrew" in modern-day Baltimore, whereas Canadian author Margaret Atwood decided to modernize her favorite Shakespeare play, "The Tempest."

5. Benedict Cumberbatch: from Hamlet to Richard III

Last year, hundreds of people lined up overnight to try to get a ticket to the London Barbican's "Hamlet," starring Benedict Cumberbatch. He also made headlines for his strict intolerance of cell phones used to film theater performances.

This year, people can avoid queues for tickets and will not need to hide their cell phones to see him in another Shakespeare rendition - on TV.

Although a precise schedule has not been revealed yet, the BBC plans to air a three-part conclusion of its award-winning series "The Hollow Crown," which will cover "Henry VI" parts I, II, and III, and end with "Richard III."

Shakespeare defined Richard as an ugly hunchback who was "deformed, unfinish'd," but the character will no doubt get a boost in image, as Cumberbatch - who's a mainstay of various "Sexiest Man Alive" lists - plays the role of the outcast king.

"The Guardian" also indicated on January 1 that it would be involving the actor in its own 400th anniversary project, without revealing further details.

Further listings of public performances, exhibitions, concerts, and other creative events can be found on the website Shakespeare400, as well as Shakespeare's England.

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