A few numbers for you:
Broadly 100 posts a year …
Just short of 200,000 words …
Plays read for the first time: 9 (of varying quality) …
Here I am, 300 not out!
… is that the job is, frankly, shit. And that you have to be a shit to do it successfully.
PTS read-through: King John, Act IV.
If you’re not ‘born great’, if you want to achieve greatness, you have to put in the hours, right? Just think of the graft involved: wheeling and dealing; equivocating; making and breaking alliances; sucking up; marrying well (not, alas, for love); adding colours to the chameleon; changing shapes with Proteus; and generally setting the murderous Machiavel to school.
And for what?
February 1570: in the blue corner, Elizabeth I; in the red corner, Pius V …
Commence au festival, as the Joker might say.
Ponytail Shakespeare read-through – King John, Act III
there is an vpstart Crow, beautified with our feathers, that with his Tygers heart wrapt in a Players hide , supposes he is as well able to bumbast out a blanke verse as the best of you: and being an absolute Iohannes factotum , is in his owne conceit the onely Shake-scene in a countrie. [a]
Stop and think for a moment – the more you read, the less you find that is truly original. *
If there’s anyone more maligned than Greene who wasn’t actually a serial killer or worse, I’m struggling to come up with a name.
Although it increasingly appears to have been abandoned in the twenty-first century, conscience is everywhere in the late sixteenth. Hamlet, of course, blames it for his cowardice; Margaret curses Richard III with it; and it seems almost a rule that if you hire two thugs to carry out some dastardly act, one of them will prove reluctant …
It is also, it seems, only for the poor and the base – much like its cousin, Patience. Even in moments of classic anagnorisis, I’d suggest we scarcely see it in our tragic heroes – a subject for another post, perhaps.
Anyway, to Robert Greene …
I mentioned the other day that I was coming into King John blind, apart from the Disney film and a vague notion of the Magna Carta. The little I am beginning to accumulate through secondary reading and the play itself is startling.
My fears for Arthur Plantagenet were more or less realised as Act II began, universally patronised with the soubriquet, ‘boy’ and a quasi-contemptuous ‘thy’ by his father’s killer, Austria. And I still sensed that the real quarrel is between Arthur’s mother, Constance, and Eleanor – otherwise why would she come along? Never mind Iron Maiden‘s ‘Bring Your Daughter (to the Slaughter)‘ – how about ‘Bring Your Mother’?
King John, Act I
Having broken out of my Romeo and Juliet-induced enervation, I approached King John with a sense of excitement bolstered by my positive experiences with the Henry VI plays. Unusually, maybe impatiently, I skipped my Arden’s introduction and got stuck in after finding these hopeful signs elsewhere:
“a neglected play about a flawed king” [a]
“King John has all the beauties of language and all the richness of the imagination to relieve the painfulness of the subject.” [b]
So, what did I make of Act I?
There’s an irony that the PTS read-through project has significantly slowed when dealing with the plays I know best.
Mostly, I think it’s because I’ve had too much to say, and been unable to stick to a post-per-act; a post-per-scene is a killer.
So, at least for the moment, I’m moving on from Romeo and Juliet: there’s plenty of room for future posts if I want to revisit it, but I’m hungry for my next new play.
That leaves one thing to do before I move on, and that’s produce the now-traditional soundtrack album.
The eternal question is, of course: WHAT’S MISSING? Drop me a line and let me know …