My experience of Shakespeare’s Rome is the city where Cinna the Poet is torn apart by the mob for his ‘bad verses’ (Julius Caesar, III.iii), and the antagonistic opening to Coriolanus. So, what first struck me as the play opened was just how thin the veneer of civilisation proved to be.
Whilst not one of my true favourites, Lear’s a play I know quite well and which, having a taste for Tragedy more than Comedy, I enjoy. I studied it at University, and I’ve seen at least two stagings before that I can remember. The first, at the Cambridge Shakespeare Festival some years back, was memorable for the blinding of Gloucester, which involved one of his eyeballs being sucked out. I’ve got a great photo of it (with a stretched ‘optical nerve’ leading from eye socket to mouth) which I often use to frighten children who claim that Shakespeare is boring. The second performance starred Derek Jacobi. The most striking things about it were Jacobi’s unsatisfyingly-camp Lear, and the use of strobe lighting to great effect in recreating the storm. Reading it, I’m always struck by Edmund‘s louche sexuality, and that always seems to have been missing. What did I want today? Hubris, wanton cruelty, ingratitude, and ‘the Globe experience‘ …
If you look at my act-by-act commentary for this play, you’ll see that the fifth instalment of my Ponytail Shakespeare read-through wasn’t without its moments.
Nonetheless, I’ve managed to compile a soundtrack album for the play. For the first time, largely because I want to encourage you to look at Lisa Mills‘ video, I’ve added Youtube links for all tracks. Enjoy!
Please get in touch below with your additions or comments.
Peter Saccio, Shakespeare’s English Kings: History, Chronicle, and Drama (Oxford University Press: Oxford, 2000)
One of the biggest problems with being on holiday with non-reading friends is that you become embarrassed by the amount of time you want, no NEED, to spend in bookshops.
So this was a book I could easily have missed whilst browsing a second-hand bookshop in Leominster. I was really lucky to have my other half on hand to find it out for me, because time was running out, and I was beginning to worry about the patience of the friends we were holidaying with, who had already politely wandered round the shop and were now at the ‘waiting outside for you‘ stage ….
‘Good comedy is tragedy narrowly averted’ Jonathan Bate
The Two Gentlemen of Verona: Act V
Over the past year I’ve used the question ‘What’s in a name?’ more than once, dismissing labelling in its many forms, but this feels the best way of articulating my unease with The Two Gentlemen as I finish the play …
You know what an infograph (or infographic) is, right? It’s a chart or other visual depiction of information that is intended to be consumed and understood quickly. There are all kinds, from maps to timelines and more. Some of my favorites, of course, are Shakespeare infographs. Here are three of the many I’ve “clipped” and saved:
My friend (and occasional guest blogger here at The Bard and the Bible) Sue sent this one to me:
And this is one of many efforts to chart the various causes of death in Shakespeare’s plays:
Thus far, I feel like I’ve been quite objective about the play, glossing over the obvious errors about travelling by boat between land-locked cities, etc. I’m not one to lionise Shakespeare (whatever my other half thinks), but nor am I interested in joining the current fad I see online for ‘dissing’ him.
Having said that, Act IV begins with a ‘mote to trouble the mind’s eye‘, though – and more on it later, but Act V trumps even this episode. What am I talking about?