21 April 2016

All The Castle’s A Stage

This week sees the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare and to mark the occasion the castle will host S2 pupils from Dunblane High School who will stage their own Shakespearean Festival.

The event is one of many taking place across the country with some of Britain’s top cultural organisations marking ‘Shakespeare400’ with a range of public performances, programmes, exhibitions and creative events.

Visitors to the castle will be treated to performances of classics including Macbeth, Romeo & Juliet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream by some of the school’s aspiring young actors.

Portrait of Macbeth

The pupils have been exploring, celebrating and engaging with the works of the playwright throughout the academic year and will be showcasing their class work and research in the castle’s Great Hall and Chapel Royal.

The setting will be a fitting one for the occasion as records show that an event that was planned for Prince Henry’s christening at Stirling actually featured as a running joke in A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream.

The play draws on a remarkable report written about the baptism celebrations which was published in London to reassure the populace that the man who was soon to inherit the English throne (James VI) was a sophisticated monarch with an heir already in place.

The account records in detail what transpired but also those elements of the celebrations that were planned but not staged for various reasons. Among the latter was the use of a lion to pull a chariot into the Great Hall to serve a course of the banquet. This was not done, according to the account, because it was feared the lion would frighten the people.

One of the Stirling Heads showing Hercules fighting with a lion

The report states, regarding the lion, ‘his presence might have brought some fear to the nearest’. It’s possible that the real reason was the lion was either uncooperative or looked a bit moth eaten.

Shakespeare’s reference to this story suggests the baptism account was well known in London. A Midsummer Night’s Dream got its first performance in a mansion before the royal court as part of a wedding celebration so the jokes including the line “Will not the ladies be afeard of the lion?” may well have been tailored a bit to its well-informed audience.

Dunblane High School’s Shakespeare Festival will take place on Tuesday 26th April 2016 and is included in castle admission.

The Castle’s beautiful Queen Anne Gardens will also be the setting for Chapter House’s production of A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream this July.