Almost nothing seems to have changed in 400 years … as usual …
subtitled, ‘Food for powder‘
Matthew Beaumont: Nightwalking: A Nocturnal History of London (London: Verso Books, 2015)
My recent article on Gayle Rubin‘s important Feminist work, ‘The Traffic in Women’ touched upon what has been historically expected of women, especially working class ones. Rubin takes a look at the Marxist position before developing it into a gender rather than class-specific argument: the commodification of women in the marriage market. It’s an excellent read.
And we see Rubin’s position everywhere in Shakespeare and the EMP, where women constantly struggle against the social imperative to marry a man who ticks boxes for their family / parents, love coming as an unexpected bonus. Even comedies such as The Dreamfeature the tension between ‘kinship‘ and ‘companionate‘ marriages.
To say nothing of the pressures Elizabeth I was under, of course …
In my article, I dipped into Beaumont‘s book for a supporting quotation, but it’s been weighing on my mind. I think it needs to be considered on its own merits.
In this I was egged on by Cedric Watts, though I needed little encouragement, in truth. Still, it’s convenient to blame him for my prurience. If my answer is the same as Watts’: ‘of course!’, it begs a second question on which we differ:
Being overwhelmed with books is a problem I’ve had to get used to …
Today, I looked EVERYWHERE for a book that I wanted to quote from and couldn’t find it …
I know you’re in here, somewhere. You were a Christmas present; when I got back from my second home in Wales I put you down when I unpacked. You’ve not left the flat. The only place I didn’t check was the kitchen: it’s got no windows and I don’t go in there if I can help it.
Act III places us at the game table, jostling Shakespeare for a view of the goings-on in that VERY busy wood …
A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act III: with apologies to Albert Einstein 
On reflection, it seems odd that as a child experiencing / undergoing / suffering a Catholic education, once a year, on our ‘Saint’s Day’ – St Martin de Porres: 03 November – we were treated to a film in the school hall which was invariably a Ray Harryhausen epic.
Not that I want to complain. I loved them, and still do.
They fostered an appetite for the ancient world – for Perseus, Theseus, Hercules, Jason … any number of heroes and their associated monsters. And, like the Book of Genesis, they’ve proved to be invaluable in teaching Literature.
“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.