William Shakespeare knew all about the deadly effects of disease. When he was only 11 weeks old, in 1564 an outbreak of the bubonic plague wiped out a sixth of the population in his hometown, Stratford-upon-Avon.
He knew about theatre closures too. When he was just getting going as a playwright in London, the theatres were told to close because of the plague. He ‘self-isolated’, and wrote two magnificent narrative poems, the wittily erotic Venus and Adonis, followed by a “graver labour” The Rape of Lucrece.
The Globe had to bolt its doors again in 1603, for over a year. And there were sporadic outbreaks throughout the rest of Shakespeare’s career. During a 1609 closure, he pulled together the sonnets that he had written throughout his adult life and published them.
Here at the RSC, as we all face this period of prolonged closure, we have turned to those same sonnets for inspiration and invited our acting companies to record the sonnets.