What it is: the known works of W.S., reconstructed, line by line, into a new tragedy, starring Hamlet, Juliet & Romeo, Iago, Macbeth, The Queen, Three Weird Sisters, Rosencrantz & Guidenstern, and the Ghost of the King.
The story: Hamlet goes to war for Juliet, the daughter of King Lear. Having captured his bride—by unnecessary bloodshed—Prince Hamlet returns home to find that his mother has murdered his father and married Macbeth. Hamlet, wounded and reeling, is sought out by the ghost of his murdered further, and commanded to seek revenge. Iago, opportunistic, further inflames the enraged Prince, persuading him that Juliet is having an affair with Romeo; the Prince goes mad with jealousy.
The issues engendered: War, parody, the question of what is authorship, sex and exploitation, the current Shakespeare fracas, the long history of Shakespeare adaptations, Shakespeare and Hollywood, the Public Domain, the literary canon, the state of contemporary letters in relation to “great” works, the creative future we bequeath our children.
SCENES FOR ACTORS
The endnotes are organized by act and line number, as keyed to the Penguin/Plume edition. They reference the provenance of each line, notable meter, and scene locations. (Please email questions or comments on the footnotes.) Many thanks to Ken Murray for transferring these to a practical document.
There are currently four quarto versions, cut for the stage. Lengths (at 10,000 words per hour):
5,000 words: selection
8,000 words: selection
14,400 words: Quarto 3
17,400 words: Quarto 1 (10,000 words shorter than the Penguin/Plume edition).
Course description: Shakespeare in our day. What draws us to Shakespeare? What draws us to a language and society far from our own? That Shakespeare can be a riveting stage force is demonstrated time and again, from the most humble small town production to New York’s Broadway. But where is our time in the world of Macbeth, Hamlet, Othello, Romeo and Juliet, King Lear and Henry V? What characters come away from those plays to deliver a message to the contemporary world? And what do they say? In this course, we’ll read six plays by William Shakespeare (as named above) and view theatrical and cinematic performances. All The World’s A Grave: a New Play by William Shakespeare (Penguin Books 2008) by contemporary author, John Reed, will serve as our gateway, back to Shakespeare’s time, and then, back to our own. Course requirements: memorization of one Shakespeare Sonnet, one in-class presentation, and a final paper.
Please email requests for the syllabus, endnotes or Quartos, and queries regarding rights, to john[@]johnreed.org
Reed has brought music's remix culture to literature with stunning results.
—David Gutowski, largeheartedboy
All the World’s a Grave alerted the world to a timbre of postmodern genius never before seen in American letters.
—Rami Shamir, Evergreen Review
This send-up of the bard is both new yet familiar; by using a literary form of montage, Reed plays with our understanding of some of the best known characters from Shakespeare's oeuvre and creates a work that is eerie in its timeliness.
—Finn Harvor, Rain Taxi
Reed has managed to take a dated masterpiece ... and revive it for the odd, casino-like social and political world we're mired in today; in the process he's created his own masterpiece.
—John Grooms, Creative Loafing, Charlotte
The language is Shakespeare's, but the drama that unfolds is as fresh as the blood on the stage.