Present-day British actor Benedict Cumberbatch demonstrates the unchanging power of Shakespeare's words centuries after their writing.
"Philip Henslowe, the manager of the Rose Theatre where the Admiral's Men always perform, would ordinarily be happy to debut Marlowe's new script, but the subject—the St. Bartholomew Day's Massacre—is neither pleasant nor neutral, and the play's strongly anti-Catholic stance might inflame hostilities against suspected Catholics and recusant sympathizers, such as some foreign merchants on whom so much of London's trade depends. Should he simply return to the most popular play from last year—Marlowe's The Jew of Malta? Perhaps. But rumors of Marlowe's atheism have begun to make waves among those same London city authorities. A relatively new but accomplished company, the Lord Strange's Men, boasts a young, somewhat successful writer named William Shakespeare, who is said to have several barnburners in the queue. Strange's Men are a good group, and have performed many times, and well, at the Rose before. While Henslowe waffles, the Queen’s Privy Council has agreed to oversee a competition between Lord Strange’s Men and the Lord Admiral’s Men to decide which theater troupe ought to reopen the playhouses. Which troupe is better? Who will most effectively represent the nation's ideals and energies, humor and grandeur? By the end of the game, one troupe will gain supremacy, for primarily literary, but also cultural, religious, and political reasons."
Marlowe and Shakespeare weren't just talented playwrights; they were also skilled poets. Both writers favored the sonnet, a type of poem written in iambic pentameter. The sonnet might seem complex at first glance, but with a little practice, anyone can learn the pattern it follows and write poetry of their own! (image by Wikimedia Commons)