Google+ A Tangled Rope: Shakespeare and Commercialism

Friday, February 22, 2013

Shakespeare and Commercialism

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‘The isle is full of noises’. As most people know Elizabethan spelling was more a matter of individual choice rather than adhering to any standard, so Shakespearean scholars have often overlooked the fact that here the bard meant aisles rather than isles as yet again he was working under commercial commission, something which today’s Arts Council subsidised theatricals would regard with abject horror, seeing their precious bard sullying himself with commercial concerns. However, those were very different times when Kings and governments pissed money away on endless pointless wars against each other rather than keeping a bunch of luvvies in breakfast champagne.

The Tempest as any historian of the time well knows was one of the more successful Elizabethan supermarkets well-know for its BOGOF offers on a surfeit of lampreys and its take-home sacks of sack. However, he supermarket had been losing market share to the somewhat slightly more upmarket Marlowe’s which had outlawed religious feuding on its premises and was therefore a much more pleasant shopping experience for the gentry.

However, in an inspired marketing exercise Tempest hit back, hiring Shakespeare to create a play which hinted at all the wonders available in their aisles and their magical product range, and – of course – hinting that the then CEO of Marlowe’s, Arthur Caliban, son of the famous Right-wing political leader Margaret Sycorax, was up to no good with all manner of schemes set up to fool his customers.

As with any advertising or marketing scheme which involved Shakespeare the whole enterprise was a massive success, allowing Shakespeare at long last to retire from the theatre business and to buy both a new bed and a much better new pair of gloves.

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