Welcome!  This site has been created to post class materials, useful links and student work, as well as photographs and videos from our Shakespeare Conquest productions.  The site is under construction , and lacking a IT person, so, please be patient with the lazy foot of time as we get it organized.

Who we are

Amanda McCarthy and Liz Kiely, Shakespeare Conquest mentors at Youth Leadership Project in West Hills California.  This is our thirteenth year teaching this class with our muse and mentor, Wm. Shakespeare.  For more information about the class, contact: [email protected], [email protected], or the director of YLP, Shawn Crane at [email protected].

A comment on the name of the site, “mirror up to nature”

This site’s name was created by my daughter Brighid, a former Shakespeare student and a continuing student of human nature. The site takes its name from Hamlet’s instructions to his players about acting:

“Suit the action to the word, the word to the action, with this special observation: To overstep not the modesty of nature: for anything so overdone is from the purpose of playing, whose end, both at the first and now, was and is, to hold, as ’twere, the mirror up to nature; to show virtue her own feature, scorn her own image, and the very age and body of the time his form and pressure.” – Hamlet

Shakespeare would surely agree with all this –  actors take note! But would Shakespeare see eye to eye with his character Hamlet on the purpose of playing? I cannot tell; I think not.

Hamlet’s purpose in putting on “The Mousetrap” is to entrap the king: “The play’s the thing to catch the conscience of the king.” In fact, his purpose is even larger – he hopes to catch the conscience of the entire kingdom – to have his uncle admit to the murder of his father, his mother to admit her depravity, and the whole court to smell the garden going to seed and notice the serpent crawling around.

Shakespeare’s purpose, by contrast, seems to be to release us rather than entrap us.  He doesn’t deliver precepts, moralize on his stories or hoist us with our own petards. He gives us characters – hard-hearted and innocent, weak and strong, careless and thoughtful –  sets them before us with their predicaments and their struggles, and leaves us to draw our own conclusions. Our conclusions are none of his business. But they may be our way out of the mousetrap.

Shakespeare also would not, in my view, go for Hamlet’s idea of using theater to rout out the evils of society, nor would he hold out much hope in the power of a play to catch anyone’s conscience, let alone that of a king. But – and this is the heart of his genius – he would also not fault Hamlet for trying.

“If the playwright is blessed with infinite generosity, if he is not obsessed with his own ideas, he will give the impression that he is in total sympathy with everyone. Beyond that, if there are twenty characters and the playwright manages to invest each one with the same power of conviction, we come to the miracle of Shakespeare.”  – Peter Brook

Amanda McCarthy, Shakespeare Conquest, Youth Leadership Project

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