Updated: Mar 27, 2021
The Elizabethan Evening
My love of words and my passion for theatre reached its zenith when I was first introduced to Shakespeare a very long time ago. I suspect Shakespeare means more to all of us than we may even realize. Shakespeare invented over one thousand and seven hundred of our common words so that the way in which we speak and think inevitably reflects the spirit of Shakespeare. The image of Shakespeare has always had pride of place in my classroom and in the English department, of which I was HOD, as every year of High school the students had the opportunity to explore a Shakespeare text.
Shakespeare can no longer be said to belong to England or to the English only as Shakespeare is performed all over the world from England to Japan to our very own Umabatha, the Zulu Macbeth that toured the world. Shakespeare has been translated into more than 80 languages – clearly the language of Shakespeare is universal. Once the Matric Literary afternoon was firmly established as an annual event I began to plan a new event that would honour Shakespeare in a special way and so in 2012 our Elizabethan Evening was born.
By 2014 it had evolved into a much beloved and cherished annual event – more than fitting to celebrate the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth. Students and teachers alike arrived decked out in Elizabethan garb. As student Julian Yeates put it, “through the power of imagination and creativity it was discovered that anything is possible, even time travelling.” And, indeed, the Elizabethan evening was truly magical as it transported students, teachers and guests back in time to an Elizabethan Market place in the square.
Stalls were set up offering tantalizing tastes from Egypt to Italy to England -offering snacks from ancient, foreign lands but one could also feast on the knowledge of the history or the relics and artifacts of the time whist being drawn in to the tempting taverns and indulging in the “tantalizing high teas and brewing bakeries lined the market square” as student, Julian Yeates put it. “While the food transported the taste buds back in time, the bright and flamboyant costumes and scenery truly engaged all the senses.”
In addition the Renaissance artists, the likes of Da Vinci, Michelangelo and Raphael may be spotted at these events or one may even glimpse Queen Elizabeth l with her entourage and her musicians, pause for a moment to lend an ear to the performance of Hamlet, Coriolanus, Henry V or Macbeth, graciously distributing gifts to the most worthy actors or occasionally even a knighthood in exceptional cases. Student, Julian Yeates , described: “Hamlet making his debut -or should we say her debut- with skull in hand of course! Othello, Desdemona, Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet were the usual mood setters on the scene. But this year, unfamiliar faces peeped out from the shadows; magical beings like Prospero, Puck and Ariel escaped their supernatural realm to make their appearance at the Elizabethan Evening.”
In the shadows one may hear the evil plotting of Iago glimpse the ghost of Hamlet’s father or tremble at the sound of his frightful warnings. Indeed, one may witness sword- fights in the square or even hear and view “sonnets and soliloquies delivered with such vibrant emotion that the town square may come to a halt.”
Ultimately student, Jayde Polley felt that “this educational yet irreplaceable evening inspired the love of Shakespeare in all of us like never before. It was an unforgettable experience.”
Written by Patrizia Fanucchi
The mad Ophelia
Macbeth - the three witches
The adjudicators include Queen Elizabeth and a Peasant woman as well as teachers.
A montage of the Elizabethan Evening
Tasty Elizabethan fare in the market place.
Cleopatra from Antony and Cleopatra
A duel fought in the square.
Midsummer Night's Dream - Hermia and Helena in the background and Ohello and Desdemona in the foreground
Othello and Desdemona
Othello and Macbeth
Midsummer Night's Dream: Hermia and Helena.
Mime artists in the square.