Roald Dahl and William Shakespeare

Posted by
The Roald Dahl Museum
Posted on
11:00am, 23rd April
Categories
Matilda, Museum, The BFG
Roald Dahl Shakespeare

You might think there’s nothing to link Roald Dahl and William Shakespeare, but there are a few things they have in common…

They’ve both got big anniversaries this year.
2016 marks 100 years since Roald Dahl’s birth, and 400 years since Shakespeare’s death. That means 2016 is a pretty great year for celebrating the lives and works of these two world-famous writers. Why not have a go at writing your own story or play to celebrate, or pick up one of their books and get reading?

They both made up some crackling words
Shakespeare coined countless new words and phrases, many of which have found their way into common usage, including ‘wild goose chase’, ‘laughing stock’, and ‘heart of gold’. Roald Dahl invented quite a few words of his own, especially while writing The BFG – who can forget snozzcumber, gigglehouse and exunkly?

In fact both authors have their very own dictionaries, both published by Oxford University Press. The Oxford Illustrated Shakespeare Dictionary and The Gobblefunk Dictionary (which will be available in June).

Quick quiz! Can you tell which of the following 5 words are Roald Dahl words, and which 5 are Shakespeare words? (Answers at the bottom of the page!)
Babblement, Smilets, Bubukles, Crumpscoddle, Pulsidge, 
Vizaments, Squizzled, Twangling, Bootboggler, Sossel.

They both have links to the Royal Shakespeare Company
Set up in 1875 the Royal Shakespeare Company was established to inspire a lifelong love of William Shakespeare and to produce new plays and productions. In 2010 the RSC’s production of Matilda the Musical based on Roald Dahl’s Matilda, premiered at The Courtyard Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon, before moving to the West End in 2011.  This record-breaking, award-winning musical is still going strong, made its way to Broadway in 2013 and toured Australia in 2015.

They are both loved worldwide
Shakespeare is well and truly international. According to The British Council his works have been translated into over 100 languages (including Klingon), and performed worldwide - Romeo and Juliet has been performed in 24 countries in the last 10 years alone!

Roald Dahl books have been translated into 58 languages including Norwegian, Welsh and Japanese, but not Klingon… yet. During his lifetime Roald Dahl stuck a pin in a world map every time he received fan mail from a new place. Far flung destinations included Sao Paulo, Beijing, Addis Ababa and Windhoek.

Roald Dahl's fan map

Roald Dahl's fan mail map

They are both top ten borrowed authors
Both Roald Dahl and Shakespeare are very popular with library goers it would seem. The Public Lending Right lists Roald Dahl as the number 1 most borrowed classic author in 2015, with Shakespeare taking tenth place. Not bad!

They’re big on the big screen
Many of Shakespeare’s plays have been made into movies. According to the BFI the first Shakespeare film was made in 1899! Since then there have been countless film versions and adaptations including William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet (1996), West Side Story (1961), and 10 Things I Hate About You (1999).

There have been some great film adaptations of Roald Dahl’s books too, Including Matilda (1996), Fantastic Mr Fox (2009), and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971). And most exciting of all,  The BFG is coming to cinemas this July.  Directed by Steven Spielberg and staring Mark Rylance it promises to be magical…

You can visit their home towns
Two places you must definitely visit in 2016 are The Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre in Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire and Shakespeare’s Birthplace in Stratford-Upon-Avon.

Roald Dahl lived in the village of Great Missenden for 36 years and wrote all of his children’s books in his Writing Hut in the bottom of his garden. The Museum is housed in an old coaching inn on the High Street, you can’t miss it – look for the painted BFG on the front.

William Shakespeare lived in Henley Street in Stratford from the time of his birth until he was old enough to marry. Visitors can tread in his footsteps in the house he lived in, for millions of enthusiasts worldwide this house is a shrine. 

Shakespeare's birthplace and The Roald Dahl Museum

Shakespeare's Birthplace (left), and The Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre (right). 

Some of their stories are rooted in folklore
Witches, magic, sprites and mysterious creatures appear in work by Roald Dahl and Shakespeare, and almost certainly rooted in folklore. Roald Dahl’s Norwegian heritage may have influenced his stories about jumbly giants and witches. His first story for children The Gremlins was inspired by RAF folklore which held that little creatures were responsible for the various mechanical failures on aeroplanes. Shakespeare plays feature similar characters: think of Titania in Midsummer Night’s Dream, the sorcere Prospero, or the witches in Macbeth.  Even Hamlet is borrowed from an old Scandinavian tale.

Quiz answers: Roald Dahl = Babblement, Crumpscoddle, Squizzled, Bootboggler, Sossel. William Shakespeare = Smilets, Bubukles, Pulsidge, Vizaments, Twangling