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In 2008, a troubled Vietnam veteran turned struggling actor named Hamilton Meadows became obsessed with a question: What did William Shakespeare’s English sound like when the Bard and his actors spoke it? Others had asked the same thing before—the quest to piece together the pronunciation of Elizabethan English, the language as it was spoken during Shakespeare’s lifetime, has captivated English scholars, theater directors, and romantic adventurers for two hundred years.
But if Meadows wasn’t the first such seeker, he was undoubtedly the least likely among them. Thrice-divorced and drinking too much, he was living off of military disability checks aboard a derelict yacht. For Meadows, staging the first-ever professional “original pronunciation” production of Shakespeare’s work in New York City would become one last shot at redemption after a lifetime of tragedy.
Praise for Finding Shakespeare:
“While I read this remarkable piece, I was perched on the edge of my chair, hoping against hope that its damaged hero would mount a successful production of Twelfth Night, with the actors sounding something like Elizabethans. Daniel Fromson made me curious, made me sad, made me care.”
—Anne Fadiman, author of The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down
“Fromson has conjured a new genre—the tragifarce—with this epic tale of a man obsessed with the authentic Shakespeare. What begins with a protagonist resembling ‘Lear at sea’ comes to shore as a near fiasco of a comedy. The last act is a masterpiece of madness: Imagine James Franco, in full performance-art pretension, overtaken by the spirit of Falstaff (half drunk) directing a cast of wary actors. Brilliantly observed and a total blast.”
—Jack Hitt, author of Bunch of Amateurs: A Search for the American Character