Bard at the Box Office

Shakespeare in the 21st Century

William Shakespeare: the Lord of…Misrule??

The Lord of Misrule…well, with all the sex jokes in Shakespeare, I think I can see Will getting along with most any “lord of misrule.”

So, in keeping with the Shakespearean Christmas theme (and in order to give myself a break from writing a paper and grading 20 more), I thought that it would be fun to elaborate on one of the most fun British Christmas traditions out there, the Lord of Misrule (and there is most definitely a connection to Shakespeare aside from the time period on this one, trust me). 

Now then, the Lord of Misrule was a commoner chosen by the people to handle the various festivities of Christmas. This means that the Lord of Misrule would have been in charge of the games that I talked about earlier, but he had an even more important duty: choosing the plays and other entertainments that would take place over the course of the twelve days between Christmas Eve and Epiphany.

Okay, trivia time…what, of all Shakespeare’s plays, has a title that would hint at it being originally chosen for a play during the Christmas season? *cue Jeopardy theme*

Had enough time to figure it out? It’s Twelfth Night. The title sure sounds like it would be put on around that time, doesn’t it?Although there is no record of Shakespeare acting as a Lord of Misrule, I would personally love to see what the various things would be that he would come up with for his own festivities. Mostly, I wonder whether he’d choose to put on one of his own plays (he does work a few shameless plugs into his plays), or would he choose another play that was written by one of his contemporaries, as a way to give himself a break from having to write a play, get together the actors, and organize rehearsals on top of attending to his other duties as the Lord of Misrule?

Plays were a huge part of the Christmas festivities during the time of Shakespeare, which does explain why he would be asked to write a play to be put on during that season.

Now, I know Shakespeare doesn’t slip in many references to Christmas itself, and the time of year that the play takes place could really be any time at all.

But those things don’t take away the fact that the play is absolutely hilarious with the right actors and the right direction. And really, isn’t Christmas the most well-known time to ‘make merry’? I don’t know about you, but I’d be merry if I got the opportunity to see a Shakespeare play at Christmas (in the rural midwest, and living on something of a shoestring budget, chances to see a Shakespearean play at any time are few and far between).

I’m not sure about most families, but my family’s “Lord of Misrule” is actually a “Lady of Misrule,” namely, for my parents and myself, it’s my mother who generally handles the festivities, and in my extended family, my aunt is the reigning Lady of Misrule. What about your Christmas traditions? Who takes charge of the festivities in your family or your group of friends? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

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