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Shakespeare touring in Tolkien

To mark the 450th Anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth, The Globe is starting its world tour of Hamlet in a ship named “J.R. Tolkien”.

The group of 12 actors from Shakespeare’s Globe have embarked on a 2-year tour with the aim of performing Hamlet in every country on earth. The first leg of their journey takes them to Amsterdam in the “J.R. Tolkien” schooner. The ship was built in 1963, but was renamed the “J.R. Tolkien” in honour of the author in 1998. You can read more about the ship here and here.

There is a irony as, of course, Tolkien was not a fan of Shakespeare’s works. On the 28 July 1944 (Letter 76, The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien), Tolkien wrote to his son:

the only event worth of talk was the performance of Hamlet which I had been to just before I wrote last. I was full of it then, but the cares of the world have soon wiped away the impression. But it emphasised more strongly than anything I have ever seen the folly of reading Shakespeare (and annotating him in the study), except as a concomitant of seeing his plays acted. It was a very good performance, with a young rather fierce Hamlet; it was played fast without cuts; and came out as a very exciting play. Could one only have seen it without ever having read it or knowing the plot, it would have been terrific.

In a letter to W.H. Auden on the 7th June 1955 (Letter 163, The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien), Tolkien also spoke of Shakespeare in his experience at school:

I went to King Edward’s School and spent most of my time learning Latin and Greek; but I also learned English. Not English Literature! Except Shakespeare (which I disliked cordially)

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