Just how authentic are Shakespeare’s Welsh characters?
‘if you can mock a leek, you can eat a leek’ 
Wales is my second home: my girlfriend is Welsh. I lived there for a while, and visit frequently. It’s a place I’ve come to know reasonably well, and to like very much. One of the highlights of each year is watching the England vs Wales rugby union match – you simply haven’t tasted real passion and love of country until you’ve watched it on a big screen in a packed pub in North Wales (avoid wearing white, if you can). They have a national anthem that genuinely moves me every time I hear it: inexplicably visceral and patriotic in a way that ‘God Save The Queen’ can never, ever be. Take 90 seconds out of your life to watch this, below:
All this love doesn’t stop me from massively enjoying any opportunity to ‘mock the leek‘, but in an affectionate way …
Claiming ‘Shakespeare was this or that’, or worse, ‘Shakespeare did not write the plays’, does NOT entitle you to a mic-drop. It just shows your intellectual bankruptcy …
I’ve written elsewhere about the Rally of Revenge – about my unease that once you abandon all faith in ‘due process‘ or ‘justice‘ (either earthly or divine); once you understand that inequality is endemic, you have nothing left to lose – if you are already losing – so keep raising the stakes until someone has to leave the game. If it’s uncomfortable, perhaps it’s also sometimes necessary, to affect change of a fundamentally broken system. You might not see the benefits yourself. Hey, if you have to leave the game, then so be it: losing can become preferable to playing along, eventually.
There are always other games, other paths, whilst we are still alive – experience has taught me that, even if Shakespeare hasn’t.
And that’s where I find myself, professionally, this weekend. Approaching change, but ready for it, and maybe, in some ways, relieved that an unhappy stasis has broken. There are always other games.
There is a third way – for revenge – I’ve not written about before. The poet George Herbert(1593-1633) suggested that:
Living well is the best revenge.
And I’ll embrace and adapt that, in a ‘standing on the shoulders of giants‘ sense.
Living well equals happiness. LAUGHTER is the best revenge.
Today, I intend to laugh at someone. Long, and hard.
Ponytail Shakespeare: The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Act II.
If The Taming of the Shrew was about disguises, William C Carroll is right in considering The Two Gentlemen as a text about metamorphosis in the tradition of Ovid.
Before we look at these transformations, though, a word on Silvia. It drives me mad every time I hear or read someone preface some ill-informed remark with ‘Shakespeare was …’ More on this at regular intervals, I suspect. But for the moment, let’s take a small nibble at ‘Shakespeare was misogynist‘.
… as The Bossmight remark. A guy who, perhaps appositely in the light of this post, I admire for his authenticity as much as his music.
The Taming of the Shrew: Act III
By now, I wonder if anyone is who they say they are in this play. Poor old Christopher Sly‘s been conned into thinking he’s a Lord with a young, beautiful wife, remember: and that was BEFOREthe play properly started … When I see the Stage Direction:
“Enter LUCENTIO [as Cambio], HORTENSIO [as Licio] and BIANCA”
(who I suspect is not as pure, dutiful, or even as nice as she seems), my heart sinks a little.
(with apologies to Cole Porter. This is my all-time favourite bit of Shakespearean fan fiction – take a look here to see why …
It turned out that as well as simply bringing along the June 2017 Ponytail text – Two Gentlemen of Verona – I had packed the Complete Works with me for my trip, in my mind, at least. The plays haunted me wherever I went, fighting tooth-and-nail (if you’ll pardon the pun) against the constant impulse to declaim lines from Dracula in my best Bela Lugosi Romanian accent, to make even worse puns than the one I’ve just used, and to call my other half ‘Nadia’ (until she lost patience).