20231101 shakespeare
“Shakespeare's First Folio: 400th Anniversary Facsimile Edition: Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories & Tragedies, Published According to the Originall Copies." Image Credit: AP

London: A portrait of English playwright William Shakespeare and a speech from "A Midsummer Night's Dream" have been sent into space in a weather balloon to mark the 400th anniversary of the publication of his first collected works.

Footage of the initiative is included in one of six short films celebrating the four-century milestone by film maker Jack Jewers.

Each film takes one of Shakespeare's most famous poems or speeches and reimagines them for the 21st century.

Subjects touched upon include the impact of Covid 19, the war in Ukraine, space exploration and social justice protests.

The first printed edition of Shakespeare's collected plays, known as the First Folio, was published in 1623, seven years after the Bard's death.

In one of the films, Jewers remotely directs Ukrainian civilians in Kyiv to create a new interpretation of Shakespeare's "Band of Brothers" speech from his history play "Henry V".

Another features "Our Revels Now Are Ended" from "The Tempest" and explores themes of loneliness and isolation caused by the pandemic, as well as the joy of reunions with loved ones.

In another, real footage of migrants at sea is combined with a speech defending refugees from an unperformed play.

Jewers said he chose the subjects for the films to reflect parallels with 1623.

"Everything that has been happening to us in the past few years of upheaval - mass disease, concerns about immigration, protest, conflict in Europe, a growing desire to challenge authority and speak truth to power - was also happening in 1623," he said.

When the First Folio was published, there was an outbreak of plague and English migrants were crossing the Atlantic Ocean in boats to start new lives in North America.

"The parallels are uncanny and Shakespeare's words are fresher now than ever before in their ability to speak powerfully to our own contemporary lives," Jewers added.

The films will be screened in central London on November 8.