President Obama Visits London’s Globe Theatre To Mark Shakespeare’s 400th Death Anniversary

On his final day in London, U.S. President Barack Obama visited the Globe Theatre to mark William Shakespeare’s 400th anniversary, the BBC reports.

Accompanied by Patrick Spottiswoode, director of Globe Education, Obama was given a morning tour of the Globe Theatre. The majestic theater was designed as a replica of the circular open-air playhouse Shakespeare designed in 1599, which staged many of the bard’s greatest performances. While touring the theater, Obama spent several minutes checking out the structure and asking questions about the seating and the performances.

In celebration of Shakespeare’s anniversary, a company of 16 actors performed onstage, culminating a two-year world tour that started in 2014. After touring the world, the company of actors performed for more than 100,000 people in 197 countries.

While watching the company’s performance of Hamlet, the president was spotted swaying back and forth on his heels in tune with the music. One of the key moments in the Shakespeare play as Obama watched included the famous soliloquy “To be or not to be.” The U.S. president clapped with enthusiasm as the play ended. Shortly after, he was invited to join the actors onstage.

“Let me shake hands with everyone. That was wonderful,” Barack said.

“I don’t want it to stop.”

Barack Obama watching Shakespeares Hamlet
[Photo by Chris Radburn/WPA Pool/Getty Images]

In a 2008 interview with the Rolling Stones, the 44th President of the United States named Shakespeare’s tragedies as one of the top three books that inspired him. The other two books were Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon and Ernest Hemingway’s For Whom The Bell Tolls.

In 2011, the president quoted from one of the William Shakespeare tragedies when he made a toast to Queen Elizabeth II. “To this blessed plot, this Earth, this realm, this England,” the Shakespeare line went.

Dominic Dromgoole, artistic director of Shakespeare’s Globe, honored Barack Obama with a statement.

“At the end of an extraordinary journey all around the world, it is great to return home to the Globe, and to be able to perform a few scenes and to be welcomed back by President Barack Obama,” said Dominic.

“The spirit of ‘Yes we can’ has informed the entire tour, and it’s an honour to meet the man who coined the phrase, and who exemplifies its spirit,” he added.

The celebration of Shakespeare’s life and legacy in London will conclude in a performance of Hamlet at the Globe Theatre on Saturday.

“Shakespeare’s genius captivated and changed the world and men and women across England continue to do that today,” Prime Minister David Cameron said.

“His words about this nation ‘this precious stone set in the silver sea’ remain as potent as the day he wrote them,” Cameron said, quoting Richard II.

Doctor Who actor David Tennant is set to host a BBC live performance entitled Shakespeare Lives on Saturday night at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon. Attendees at the Shakespeare Theatre will include Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall.

Airing on BBC Two at 20:30 BST, Shakespeare Lives’s roster of actors include Dame Judi Dench, Sir Ian McKellen, Dame Helen Mirren, and Benedict Cumberbatch.

Other notable names in the theater performance include Rory Kinnear, Meera Syal, Joseph Fiennes, David Suchet, Simon Russell Beale, Roger Allam, Sanjeev Bhaskar, Harriet Walter, John Lithgow, Anne-Marie Duff, and the cast of Horrible Histories.

Geraldine Collinge, events director for RSC, said that this year’s Shakespeare parade involved more preparation and planning than the ones that came before. She added that the day would be a chance to remember the profound impact William Shakespeare has had on the English language.

“I think in this country we forget so many of the words we use, so many of the expressions and things we talk about have come from Shakespeare, like ‘all that glistens isn’t gold’ or ‘neither a borrower or a lender be’, so some of the things you just say all the time come from Shakespeare,” she said.

“He invented so many new words it was such a creative flourishing time when he was writing, but as well the themes are enduring themes, themes that we’re still agonising over like life and death, beauty and appearance and reality, all the things that he talked about in his plays so well are still things that still concern us in our lives today.”

[Photo by Chris Radburn/WPA Pool/Getty Images]