Shakespeare Meets European Football

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Jim Wilson has just sent in details of a new project that links Shakespeare with the UEFA Cup. I was intrigued and asked him to tell me more, so here goes…

He writes:

‘I read in The Observer recently that The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and the University of Birmingham are seeking to have Shakespeare adopted as the European laureate for 2016. What a great project – and it immediately resonated with me because of an idea I recently had which I posted to my blog,

My idea is definitely a bit bonkers: an attempt to promote Shakespeare’s plays by “linking” them to our most popular pastime’s premier competition: the UEFA Champions’ League (must be careful about copyright laws here!) The aim? To find out which play would top the League.

But how do you compare a play to a football team? Well, bear with me.

Let’s look at (or “analyse” as they say on Match of the Day) what makes a good team – oops! – play. Like a team, a play needs Large Characters, the kind which win Cup Finals for you. All good teams also have good workhorses, the ball winners – we’ll call these Small Characters. Central to a play are Great Scenes and Great Speeches. You could argue that Plot is an integral part, but that wasn’t Shakespeare’s strongest point. He left Plot to other coaches – like youth development. He put his teams – or rather his plays – together in the transfer market.

So, Prospero-like (or even Jose Mourinho-like) we can rank each play after analysing those key components. This gives us our starting grid – our League Table.

But here comes the interesting bit – at least I think so!

I’ve then imagined that all of the plays “contest” football games to see who would come out top in a knockout competition. The bottom six plays in the ranking system would be discarded and the other 32 drawn against each other at random (“the first ball drawn out of the bag will be the home team…”). The winners of each “match” would go through to the next round where they are again drawn at random. And so on until we get to the final and find a winner.

Yes, I know, it sounds completely nutty.

At the moment the rankings are on the website, but the only “matches” which are visible are the very brief first round games. First drafts of all the other matches, including the final, have already been written by me and are waiting to be uploaded – “transmitted” if you like – preferably during the same evenings as the actual UEFA Champions’ League games are played – using the same real-time blog format that currently exists for reporting such games.)

But I need others to get involved so each “match” can be commented upon as it happens – sport lives on feedback! It would also be great if others could comment on the rankings – maybe even suggest their own. Maybe we can construct a Shakespeare Birthplace Trust League Table of Shakespeare Plays! And how about trying to get schools across the land involved in the rankings as we approach the anniversary of Shakespeare’s death in 2016? We might just introduce a new (young) readership to the Bard.

Click here to find out more.’

Thanks, Jim, for a fascinating and entertaining idea. I wonder which Shakespeare character will score the most goals?

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Author:Paul Edmondson

Head of Research and Knowledge and Director of the Stratford-upon-Avon Poetry Festival for The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. Follow Paul on Twitter @paul_edmondson
  • Marjorie Daw

    Please leave Shakespeare and his writings as a football-free zone. There are precious few of them left!

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