“Is black so base a hue?” Aaron, Titus Andronicus, Act IV scene ii …
AF Scott, Witch, Spirit, Devil, (White Lion Publishing: London, 1974)
Whilst Black History Month isn’t celebrated in the UK until October, this is a bit of an international blog: about half of you are visitors from the US, and another quarter or so from elsewhere outside the UK – thank you, by the way!
So now, whilst I’m reading Scott’s book, feels like the time to look at this …
Putting Shakespeare in students’ mouths is often as much fun as feeding a baby – the faces they pull!
A Midsummer Night’s Dream: Act I
Shakespeare’s language lives in the mouth, not the ears or eyes. It needs to be tasted, and one of the advantages of living alone is that I can pace up and down my flat’s lengthy corridor reading tricky lines out loud, or just playing with the inflections of favourites:
I wasted time and now doth time waste me.
I WASTED time and NOW doth time waste me.
I wasted TIME and now doth TIME waste ME.
And so on, like the celebrity skit in the BBC’s Shakespeare400 celebration. You get the picture.
If it needs to be tasted, it also needs, I suppose, to be CHEWED. That’s what we often do in the classroom …
Should we pay more attention to James I before he became King of England?
Thomas Cogswell, James 1: The Phoenix King (Penguin Monarchs series), (Allen Lane: London, 2017)
Studying or teaching Shakespeare’s plays, the figure of Elizabeth looms in the background, like the spectre at the feast.
We see it in the ever-present censorship, in the light of the Treasons Acts in 1571 and 1581, outlawing public discussion of the succession. Or, more positively, in the ‘Gloriana’ cult that produced works like Spenser‘s The Faerie Queen, and flattering nods to Elizabeth wherever you look – like links between her and Theseus in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. We see it in her discomfort with comparisons to Richard II, and the propagandic lionization of Henry VII.
Reading Cogswell‘s short, sympathetic biography has made me reassess the extent to which we / I ignore James until the succession question becomes absolutely critical.
This is a long read – I say that on a blog where posts often hit 1,300 words, against ‘accepted wisdom’ – so apologies in advance. YOUR blog is your blog; my blog is MY blog, and I write for catharsis and as a kind of journal, not ‘popularity’, ‘followers’, or ‘influence’. I was tempted to temper my words with a gallery of pictures, but that didn’t feel right, either. This post feels a little more personal than most.
In spite of, or maybe because of, constant trawling for Shakespeare-related content, I have only just found this. Last April, Peter Marks wrote a piece for The Washington Post (link below) suggesting that Americans are too ‘intellectually lazy’ to appreciate Shakespeare, and fearing for the future popularity of the plays. My immediate response was ‘you think it’s bad in the US? Try over here, where Shakespeare was born!’