Alas, Dear Benedict. You Hit Me Well – My Review of Sonia Friedman Productions Hamlet

Never have I ever cried throughout an entire performance, because of an emotional attachment to a main character. And it’s not because I have a crush on an actor! That was, until I saw Hamlet at the Barbican Theatre.

I attended the show, with my Drama school, as part of our theatrical understanding of William Shakespeare. Before I went, I heard negative feedback from my peers – not just about Hamlet, but Shakespeare in general, as his writings [according to one] were excluding and difficult to understand. So, I went with high-hopes and I came out of the theatre, still recovering from my tears.

For those who haven’t heard of Hamlet, I’ll narrow the story down for you:

Hamlet’s father, the Old King of Denmark has been murdered by his jealous Uncle, Claudius. Not long after his death, Claudius marries Hamlet’s mother and sits upon his throne. Disgust by his Uncle and depressed by his loss, Hamlet then suddenly becomes addicted to revenge. By doing so, he loses everything and everyone he loves – his friends, fiancée, and even his own family. 

Although the story is timeless, I noticed how Sonia Friedman, the producer of the show cleverly hinted some things about each character and situation in the story. For example, Hamlet playing with his castle and dressing up as soldier. What does it show the audience? Does it represent madness or simply the loss of a Prince’s childhood? They are cleverly delivered and shown in a way that the audience can understand perfectly, if they either have or haven’t seen a Shakespeare play before.


Benedict Cumberbatch as Hamlet, Prince of Denmark

The cast delivered a first class performance, especially Benedict Cumberbatch who made me cry for start to end. Even his version of Shakespeare’s famous “To Be or Not to Be” speech had me in floods of tears, as I mouthed the words along with him. Every time he cried, I cried with him. Somehow, Cumberbatch’s performance has taught me that a true actor must express his emotions. And he has done it well. If it must be, I believe Hamlet is Cumberbatch’s finest performance of his career.

And finally, I want to give a shout out to Es Devlin for his amazing work on the set. It is one of the finest of theatrical sets that you’ll ever see – it’s like an actual, beautiful dining room in a magnificent palace. The set is cleverly detailed, allowing the audience to understand the stability of the Royal family in the play from start to finish. It was breath-taking and very chilling, at the same time.

Overall, I give Hamlet a trillion out of ten. It is a wonderful, creative, well-thought out and emotional performance. I would highly recommend to see and book pretty quickly, because when I saw the show, it was a sold out event. Also, I recommend to bring plenty of tissues and leave them close to you.


HistoricTale Lecture Special: Connections and Truths About Katheryn Parr

Title: The Taming of the Queen

Author: Philippa Gregory

Date of Publication: 2015

Genre: Historical Fiction

Not all historic figures are what we think they are. Described in history books as “good”, “bad”, “mad” or “sad”, its hard to see the truth of their lives, through text and pieces of paper. Historical fiction sets alight on this area; authors may not know the actual, daily lives of famous monarchs or people but they show how hard it is to live in a time of fear and corruption, through pain staking research and powerful imagination. Last night, I was fortunate enough to attend a lecture in Chorleywood, Hertfordshire where on a day before its publication, Philippa Gregory held a lecture at Dr Challoner’s High School, announcing her latest novel, ‘The Taming of the Queen’.


 Philippa Gregory, the author of ‘The Taming of the Queen’. 

About: Story Plot

Katheryn Parr, recently widowed from her second husband is just about to marry the love of her life, Thomas Seymour. However, she catches the eye of King Henry VIII; he falls in love with Katheryn and commands her to marry him. Having no choice, Katheryn accepts and faces danger when the King’s noble subjects turn against her. Will Katheryn Parr survive her ordeal and live to see her marriage to Thomas Seymour? Or will she lose her head? – Video link to ‘The Taming of the Queen’.

How Did Philippa Gregory Come to Write ‘The Taming of the Queen’?

Confessing she didn’t know much about Katheryn Parr, Philippa did a lot of research and grew fond of her, while the book is in development. Philippa said that as she was writing the novel, she developed “a feeling and understanding of Katheryn”.

What and How Did Philippa Gregory Start to Write ‘The Taming of the Shrew’?


Katheryn Parr – the main character for Philippa Gregory’s new novel.

Facts About Katheryn Parr 

  • During her time as Queen, Katheryn commissioned her portraits herself.
  • Katheryn’s role as a nurse to the ‘old fat Henry’ were completely false. This goes the same for her first two husbands. Those myths was created by the Victorians, properly because they want to point out what a woman’s role should be when it comes to caring and respecting their husbands. When he was first married to Katheryn, Henry was still a strong monarch and still wanted a son. So, he turned to Katheryn; she was attractive, rich and still able to bear children. In all, she was the prefect choice for Queen.
  • Katheryn kept her initials, when she was Queen. This is her full signature when she signed documents and letters:


  • Katheryn never had a proper education when she was growing up. But that all changed when she was Queen. She taught herself about the reform of Religion and was the first woman to publish books, under her own name. Katheryn didn’t publish until Henry’s death, in case she would face consequences if she did.
  • Katheryn was clever, intelligent and supportive as Queen. She was also a family woman, who brought all of the Royal children back in Henry’s favour, ordering them to restore the right to ascend the English throne. One summer while Henry was at war with France, Katheryn invited Mary, Elizabeth and Edward together to stay in residence with her until Henry returned to England. In that time, Elizabeth and Mary would also watch Katheryn work. Katheryn was especially close to Elizabeth and Edward; responsible for her education, Elizabeth had picked up Katheryn’s skills that helped Elizabeth and proved to everyone that females can rule as monarchs.
  • Thomas Seymour and Katheryn married in secret; their marriage took place four months after Henry’s death.
  • Katheryn was a shoe lover. In her first year of her third marriage, she owned over a thousand shoes.
  • In his previous marriages, Henry didn’t say goodbye to Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard when they were banished or executed. Why? Because he thought it would be awkward to do so. However, he never had any awkward conversations with Katheryn Parr. She was obedient to her husband, and always addresses issues with Henry when she felt they’re incorrect.

What Does Shakespeare’s ‘Taming of the Shrew’ Have to Do With Katheryn Parr?

Most of the conversations between Henry and Katheryn Parr Philippa wrote in ‘The Taming of the Queen’ are based on several resources. All of them are what we refer to as ‘shrew stories’, where women think they are higher than their husbands, but men tame them to switch roles within their wives. But the most notable is William Shakespeare’s ‘The Taming of the Shrew’.

Philippa says that in Katheryn’s lifetime, there may have been a performance of a shrew story in the Royal court. And she may have possibly watched the performance with the King. Philippa also says that as a playwright, Shakespeare did write a play on Henry VIII’s life. But one question hangs in the balance – did Shakespeare write ‘Taming of the Shrew’ and researched Katheryn’s life as inspiration? Did Shakespeare dig into her life and Henry’s as inspiration for his two main characters – Petruchio and Katherina? It could be possible. There’s evidence for this, as at one point, Philippa discovers Henry’s obsession with Katheryn. In public, Henry would tame Katheryn, instructing her to kiss him. She obeys and Henry kisses Katheryn “like a chambermaid, who has just come through the door”. Although ‘The Taming of the Shrew’ is a problem comedy, Katheryn and Henry’s married may have a different matter. Did Henry abuse Katheryn, in order to tame her and get what he wants? We can only guess.


Elizabeth Taylor as Katherina and Richard Burton as Petruchio in the 1967 film version of Shakespeare’s ‘Taming of the Shrew’; the inspiration for Philippa Gregory’s new novel. 

What Questions Did The Audience Ask Philippa Gregory? And What Were Her Answers?

  • Why Did You Not Write a Book About Jane Seymour?

Philippa already has mentioned Jane Seymour in other Tudor novels, including ‘The Other Boleyn Girl’, ‘The Boleyn Inheritance’ and ‘The King’s Curse’. But, she also said that she doesn’t want to write a solo novel for Jane Seymour because she has appeared in many places that there is not much to be said about her. Also, Philippa said that Jane was a “dippy girl”. And that’s were we will leave this question.

  • How Was Katheryn a Tamed Woman and Survived the Ordeal of Henry VIII? 

Philippa believes that Katheryn survived because she was just “jolly clever”. In her lifetime, Katheryn had a spirit, which could never be broken. Henry tired and failed miserably to tame Katheryn, to prove to her that her was right, not only as a King, but as a husband too. Instead, Henry and Katheryn would make up for their beliefs and put their differences onto a shelf and leave at that. Katheryn also used her brains and beauty to lie when she wanted to marry Thomas Seymour. But, you may have to read the book for this one.

  • Who is Your Favourite Historic Queen?

Philippa replied by saying that she has many Queen favourites. Her old favourite was Catherine of Aragon. That was until she discovered Catherine’s treatment to King James IV of Scotland at the Battle of Flodden in 1513. Then, she mentioned a new favourite – King James’ wife, Margaret (who is also one of Henry VIII’s sisters). Going back to the Battle of Flodden, Philippa said that she was on Margaret’s side and it was like “being in a relationship wither her”. Also, she has favourites from the Medieval period; more notability Jacquetta Rivers and her daughter, Elizabeth Woodville from the Cousin War series. In conclusion, Philippa said that her favourite Queen is Elizabeth Woodville. 

  • What Were Katheryn’s Feelings Towards Elizabeth When Her Husband, Thomas Seymour Sexually Abused Her?

Katheryn didn’t take this situation too well. According to Philippa, it was common in the Tudor period for a married man to take a mistress if his wife was with child. Katheryn was shocked and heartbroken when she discovered Thomas Seymour’s affair with her stepdaughter.

As for Elizabeth, Philippa said she enjoyed her bed-time romps, cuddles and kisses with Seymour. Before she discovered Seymour’s true purpose, Elizabeth didn’t understand why Seymour was really flirting with her. However, others did; they tried to warn her but she denied them, as well as Seymour. One, new and stunning example of this comes from a letter to Elizabeth from Mary, telling Elizabeth to come and live with her because there was gossip of the affair. Elizabeth refused.

  • Who is Your Favourite Historic Man?

Philippa confessed that she currently has many crushes on men from her novels. They include Thomas Seymour and Henry VIII – when he was a prince and in his early years as King (between his accession to the throne and marriage to Anne Boleyn). Her overall favourite though is John Tradescant from her 1998 novel ‘Earthly Joys’ – ‘I do have a fancy for fictional men’, she concluded.

  • What If Jane Seymour Didn’t Die of Childbirth Fever? If She Continued Living as Queen, Would She Live Happily Ever After With Henry VIII?

‘No’, Philippa said. By the time Jane married Henry in 1536, Henry was already driven into madness. If Jane displeased Henry following the birth of Edward, Henry would have had replaced, with another woman (to become his mistress or his new wife). Then, he would divorce Jane, and either send her to a convert, in exile (like Catherine of Aragon) or have her executed (like Anne Boleyn). These possible positions would certainly disgrace her family and put them to shame.

  • Is There New, Scientific Breaking Research of Henry’s Blood Disease?

Yes. According to Philippa, she has recently discovered (and theorised by accident) a new group of blood disorder while she was writing both her Tudor and the Cousins’ War series. This, X-linked genetic disease is the case for Henry to produce unhealthy children, leading to miscarriages, still-births and illnesses through children, who survive into adulthood. Also in the cases of child bearing with Catherine of Aragon, and Anne Boleyn, Philippa believes that if a pair wants to produce a child; one with a negative gene, and one positive, there’s very little chance that the pair would convince children. If their child/children are convinced, it’s likely that either the children wouldn’t survive before birth, die following birth or die before they could reach adulthood.

This gene that passed down to Henry was through the female line – by the Woodville family. In this, Philippa believes that the disease was through Elizabeth of York, Elizabeth Woodville, Jacquetta Rivers, members of the Baux family and beyond. Also, Philippa believes this disease may have crossed Henry, to make him paranoid, and anxious, and diagnosed with other diseases like Dementia and Obesity, right after his forth birthday.

Philippa wants to have this theory broadcast, but she is still in the process of waiting, hoping to give it the go ahead.

  • What Books Have You Read?

Philippa has read many of the big and English classics from authors like George Orwell. Also, she reads other works from novelists aboard. Her favourite novelist is Elena Ferrante, who is best known for her works including ‘I giorni dell’abbandono’ (The Days of Abandonment) and L’amore molesto (Troubling Love). Philippa highly recommends Ferrante’s novels and guarantees to read them.

Philippa then concludes this question by giving advice to current and future writers. She advises to choose and read good books, especially if they are long. This is excellent for writers’ creative writing skills; through this, writers can collect ideas and decide what style they want to choose for their novels.

  • Would You Consider Writing a Book about Thomas Cromwell

Philippa replied, with a straight forward ‘no’. However, she said that she would love to write a novel on Sir Robert Cecil, who was advisor to Elizabeth I and James I.

  • Do You Believe That Catherine of Aragon and Prince Arthur Had Sexual Intercourse On Their Wedding Night?

Philippa truly believes that the consummation between Catherine of Aragon and Prince Arthur did take place. To make her point, she used her 2005 novel, ‘The Constant Princess’. Philippa explains that Catherine and Arthur were young and very much in love. ‘You wouldn’t travel to Wales and live there for the rest of your life, just to be apart’, she remarked. But there’s more evidence for this. A year after Prince Arthur’s death, one vital source was sent to the Pope, Julius II. This was a dispensation from Catherine’s mother, Isabella of Castile. This dispensation, gave permission for Catherine to marry Henry VIII, who was Arthur’s younger brother. Philippa confessed that Catherine had wanted to be bothered to Henry, so she can ascend to the English throne as Henry’s Queen Consort. She had help from her mother before Isabella’s death in that same year. But to do this, she had to lie her way to Henry’s heart; opposite to Katheryn Parr, who (in ‘The Taming of the Queen’) had to lie, in order to find her way out of Henry’s marriage, and to marry Seymour without losing her possession as Queen or her head.

  • Also, Do You Believe That Anne and Boleyn Had Sexual Intercourse, So She Can Produce a Son for Henry VIII?

Again (like Catherine of Aragon with Prince Arthur), Philippa believes that Anne Boleyn did commit incest with her brother, Lord Rochford. After her last miscarriage, Anne was desperate to convince an heir for Henry. Anne believes that Henry was weak to father another, healthy child and knew she had to take action. Since she wanted a boy, Anne properly trusted her brother to help her convince a child. Philippa also thinks that Anne had possible, multiple lovers – more than historians thought originally she had.

  • Do You Set A Timeline For Your Books?

Philippa trained as a Historian and has a passion of writing Historical novels. While she was studying, Philippa had to attend libraries for research. Now with access to the Internet, Philippa finds her research really easy.

Following this question, Philippa said that she publishes one novel, within half a year – she spends one year doing research and spends six months writing, before publishing her work.

‘The Taming of the Queen’ is out now. For more about Philippa Gregory and her novels, visit:

What is the Meaning of Love?

This is another Valentine’s/Single Awareness Day poem I’ve written in my spare time. I had written this poem a long time ago, while I was entering for a competition where I had to write a poem/poems from the point of view of a character from one of Shakespeare’s plays; this is one is based on the view of Juliet from “Romeo and Juliet”. I hope you enjoy it; if you have ideas to share to write into poems, please let me know in the comments section below. I would love to hear from you. 🙂

Forget about violence,

And the hatred we see;

Let’s focus on our love

And my devotion to thee.

I know your name,

And it means everything to me,

Your kindness heals my pain,

Making me alive again.

What is love,

If it’s not a part of you and me;

Is it not a word I speak out loud,

Or a feeling that I cannot express?

Let me ask you a question

And answer me if it’s true,

For I cannot fight no more;

Swear and say “I love you”.

Don’t listen to the world and these lies;

Rescue me from my life and take me into yours.

For, I owe you my heart.

You can be my Romeo

And I can be your Juliet.

© 2015

Broken Hearts

This is another Valentine’s/Single Awareness Day poem I’ve written in my spare time. I had written this poem a long time ago, while I was entering for a competition where I had to write a poem/poems from the point of view of a character from one of Shakespeare’s plays; this is one is based on the view of Beatrice from “Much Ado About Nothing”. I hope you enjoy it; if you have ideas to share to write into poems, please let me know in the comments section below. I would love to hear from you. 🙂

I was a victim of l’amour

And I fell under your spell;

You stole my heart away,

But, I see you were a fool.

I see your face,

I frown at your looks

I hear your voice, I snarl in reply,

I stare at your lips and my taste buds start to tingle.

Oh, how I loathe you!

You left many broken hearts,

From the lovers you have kept

But you won’t keep mine

Cause I’m no longer a woman in love.

I’m sick and tired of the life I have,

While my heart aches with sorrow;

Because of you, I will never marry

And I want it that way!

© 2015

How to Speak Proper Shakespeare

I wrote this poem in 2012, but I have updated it because I had rubbish grammar back then. XD

I was in Sixth Form at the time, and I was studying an acting exam and participating in a local theatre production, involving Shakespeare’s sonnets. So, it was pretty a big thing for me. However, this is completely fictional; I made it up just for entertainment purposes only. Hope you enjoy this poem; I promise to upload more soon.

How to Speak Proper Shakespeare

Reader, reader who is keen to know,

To learn Shakespeare’s words, written long ago.

Sit down, relax and chill,

And I’ll guide you through the text, with a feathered quill.


Let’s start with the plays; easy and hard,

Remember the phrase “iambic pentameter” and your part.

“Romeo and Juliet” and “The Merchant of Venice”,

“’Macbeth’ is complicated”, says my friend Dennis.


Next, try the Sonnets. All one hundred and fifty-four of them,

These are tricky, however, they reveal Shakespeare’s life story.

Judge yourself; fact or fiction,

Cause some of them are a mystery.


Don’t panic if you cannot pronounce or spell,

Try a spelling test, it’ll be the best to tell.

Within days or weeks, you’ll get them right

Just as long as you’re English teacher doesn’t bite!


Reader, reader who was keen to know,

You’re now ready and set to go.

Good luck, and keep your “Shakespeare Faith”,

But don’t lose it and be unwise like Henry the Eighth!

© 2012/2015