From Juliet to Cleopatra, Judi Dench revisits Shakespeare's legacy in new book

Judi Dench tackled nearly every female role in William Shakespeare's plays, from Juliet to Cleopatra, in her seven-decade career. Along with friend and fellow actor Brendan O'Hea, Dench explores her connection to Shakespeare in their joint book, „Shakespeare: The Man Who Pays the Rent.”

The title is a nod to how Dench and her late husband jokingly referred to Shakespeare.

During the pandemic, while isolated at her home outside London, Dench received a call from O'Hea that set the stage for their book. O'Hea, an actor and director, proposed discussing Tenjin's detailed history with Shakespearean characters.

„We redeemed each other, redeemed each other through Shakespeare,” O'Hea said.

The conversations, which spanned about 120 hours, revisited Dench's illustrious stage career, which began at age 22 as Ophelia in „Hamlet” at the Old Vic.

He followed that up with a role in Henry V. He thought about how tall his co-star Laurence Harvey was, which led to some stage challenges.

„I was trying to get his attention,” Tench said, stretching her neck. „It never worked.”

Some of his famous Shakespeare performances have been preserved on film, although he admits to rarely watching them because of his critical eye.

Tenjin's attempt at film is not straightforward. Although a director once told her she didn't have the face for a movie, she later rose to international fame as M in the James Bond series starting in 1995, making her a global icon. Her portrayal of Queen Elizabeth in „Shakespeare in Love” won her an Oscar.

As she approaches her 90th birthday in December, Dench continues to cherish every moment, which is evident in her decision to get her first tattoo on her 81st birthday. It reads „Carpe Diem”, which is Latin for „seize the day” – or, as Dench prefers, „enjoy the day”.

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