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Shakespeare is a medium-sized rarelit fandom based on the plays of the English playwright, William Shakespeare. As his works are not covered by copyright, there are also numerous derivative works in traditionally published media -- the novel Gertrude and Claudius by John Updike, the play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead by Tom Stoppard and the rom com Shakespeare in Love to name just three. Fanfiction is the most common fannish activity. Online fanfiction dates back to at least 2000. As with many rarelit fandoms, the annual Yuletide exchange has significantly boosted the fandom's profile since 2003. Other fannish activities include icon creation, and more rarely fanart and vidding.
There is a little fanfiction for almost all the plays, but the most popular sources are Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet. Other common source texts include Julius Caesar, Macbeth and Othello among the tragedies and The Merchant of Venice, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Much Ado about Nothing, Taming of the Shrew and Twelfth Night among the comedies. There is also considerable fannish interest in the history plays, such as Henry V. The historical fanworks overlap with historical RPF, although Shakespeare's version rarely follows historical sources. Some fanworks derive from particular adaptations, for example the Franco Zeffirelli film of Romeo and Juliet (1968), the Kenneth Branagh film of Henry V (1989) and the Trevor Nunn film of Twelfth Night (1996). Several pro derivative works have their own microfandoms, notably Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead.
Fanfiction often foregrounds slash and (more rarely) femslash pairings, commonly Hamlet/Horatio, Romeo/Mercutio & Viola/Olivia, and plays with the gender ambiguities inherent in the crossdressing comedies. Het often involves canonical pairings such as Romeo/Juliet. Works cover a huge spectrum, with lengths varying from drabbles and vignettes to complete plays and novels. There is also considerable variation in style. Some authors write plays in iambic pentameter; for example, Ellen Fremedon's Yule Morning, or, Malvolio's Revenge. Others prefer to use a more or less modern prose style; Nifra Idril's Waste Our Lights In Vain has echoes of Shakespearean English, while Shayheyred's The Pirate and the Puritan goes for a hardboiled feel. Some authors take this further and set the story in the present day. Gehayi's With A Cunning Hand makes Orsino a mafia boss, while CJ Marlowe has Ophelia sipping lattes in Before the End of All Things. Gileonnen's Fine Revolution goes still further and has Horatio constructing cyborgs in space.
Crossovers in which Shakespearean events play out in a different universe are common; for example, Una McCormack casts Blake as Caesar in her Blake's 7 story, The Last Days of Roj Blake. A rare example of a true crossover is Mirabehn's Giver of Gifts, in which the Thane of Glamis meets his match from The Silmarillion.
Fanfiction can be found at fanfiction.net, which has a Shakespeare section with nearly 2000 works dating back to 2001. Archive of Our Own and the Yuletide Archive 2003-2008 are good sources. Angevin2 maintains an index of online fanfiction for the history plays.
On livejournal, the rarelitslash community houses Shakespeare fanworks (not just slash). Shakespeare livejournal comms which publish fanworks include bard-slash, shakespearekink and shaksper-random, and thegreatglobe on dreamwidth. Numerous comms devoted to specific plays have sprung up recently, including chameleonsdish (Hamlet), ides-of-april (Greek & Roman plays), thisengland (history plays), unkindestslash (Julius Caesar), we_few (Henry V) and whatyouwill-12n (Twelfth Night). On Yahoo Groups, Shakespeare-Slash, founded in November 2000, was a pre-livejournal venue for slash fanfiction, but appears currently inactive.
In order of publication:
- Servants with Torches, by Jane St Clair -- an influential early prose work dating from 2000, featuring one of the common slash pairings, Romeo/Mercutio
- Waste Our Lights In Vain, by Nifra Idril -- a widely recommended work in a lyrical prose style, one of the earliest fruits of the Yuletide exchange; also Romeo/Mercutio
- With No Less Terror Than the Elements: notes toward uncovering Act IV, Scene ii of Richard II, by Marna Nightingale & angevin2 -- early histories story, with the pairing Richard/Bolingbroke; angevin2 considers this establish[ed] a lot of the themes/tropes that tend to crop up in histories fics
- The First Twelve, by thingswithwings -- a good example of genderbending & crossdressing set in Twelfth Night
- Yule Morning, or, Malvolio's Revenge, by Ellen Fremedon -- this five-act sequel to Twelfth Night is one of the better-sustained works emulating Shakespearean style
- The Arithmetic of Memory, by Assimbya -- widely recommended example of Hamlet/Horatio, perhaps the most common slash pairing
- An Exchange of Favours, by La Reine Noire -- modern AU for Henry VI, which angevin2 writes really kicked off the AU trend in the history plays fandom
- Henry's Journey, by Hyarrowen -- widely recommended novella pairing Henry V with the French Herald
- Wider range of examples required