Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Giving Thanks in Shakespeare's Plays

            My name is Samantha Smith, and I am delighted to join the Atlanta Shakespeare Company as the Education and Development Coordinator.  I first became a Shakespeare fan when I was eleven and saw Macbeth at Vancouver’s Bard on the Beach and since then my love of seeing Shakespeare’s plays performed has taken me from Stratford, Canada to Stratford-upon-Avon, England.  I’ve had the great pleasure of seeing nineteen separate Shakespeare plays performed, and I’m thrilled that I will have a chance to see many more performed on the Shakespeare Tavern Playhouse stage.  Although I have spent most of my life in Memphis, Tennessee, I am coming to Atlanta from London, where I earned my master’s degree in Shakespeare Studies from University College London.  I am passionate about encouraging students to investigate and enjoy Shakespeare’s plays through watching and participating in performances, so I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the work of the Education Department here at the Atlanta Shakespeare Company.

            Gratitude is a common theme around Thanksgiving so in the spirit of the holiday I investigated how Shakespeare’s characters express thanks.  Characters give thanks to the heavens and to other characters quite frequently in Shakespeare’s canon; variations on the word “thank” appear a whopping 489 times in the plays (Open Source Shakespeare).  Often, the characters expressing gratitude speak much as we do now, saying “thanks” (All’s Well That Ends Well 2.3.77), “I thank you” (Cymbeline 4.4.33), and, in a more Elizabethan phrase, “I thank ye” (Henry VIII 5.5.70).  Sometimes, they illustrate their thanks more simply, commenting that they “humbly thank” someone (All’s Well That Ends Well 3.5.97) and offering “a thousand thanks” (The Taming of the Shrew 2.3.84).   Perhaps the prettiest expression of thanks comes from Sebastian, speaking to Antonio in Twelfth Night:  “I can no other answer make but thanks,/And thanks; and ever thanks” (3.3.14-15).  We at the Atlanta Shakespeare Company would like to say “ever thanks” to our patrons, donors, and many students who investigate and celebrate Shakespeare’s plays with us.  Happy Thanksgiving! 

Works Cited
Bevington, David, ed.  The Complete Works of Shakespeare.  London: Longman Publishing,
2004. Print.

Open Source Shakespeare.  George Mason University.  2015.  Web.  19 November 2015.   

Submitted by Samantha Smith, Education and Development Coordinator

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