A multiple choice question for the adults. Or for my students, who sat their Shakespeare exam on Monday just gone. You sit an exam where you have a choice of two questions. One question appears to make no sense. Do you:
For someone who almost famously doesn’t watch TV, I’m a remarkably big fan of the BBC. What I DO spend is an awful lot of time listening to the radio – for news, sport, and entertainment. I’m always dazzled by the quality of the drama they produce, and I really enjoy their Science Fiction adaptations – another obssession of mine.
But, it’s also an absolute treasure trove of radio programming about Shakespeare … both factual stuff and performances.
‘I am the first person who owns the body portraying the man. It’s hugely exciting for me.’
I’ll read or listen to almost anything about Richard III, and chanced upon this today. I’ve not seen the programme, but some of you will recognise Mat Fraser from American Horror Story: Freak Show. For those of you who don’t know him, he describes himself as a ‘thalidomider’. He’ll soon be playing Richard in Hull …
‘When ignorant men are overwhelmed by forces totally beyond their control and their understanding it is inevitable that they will search for some explanation within their grasp. When they are frightened and badly hurt then they will seek someone on whom they can be revenged. […] What was needed, therefore, was a suitable target for the indignation of the people, preferably a minority group, easily identifiable, already unpopular, widely scattered and lacking any powerful protector.’
Philip Ziegler, The Black Death, (The Folio Society, London: 1997) Cover image: Francis Mosley
The plague was too immediate, too visceral, for Shakespeare to include more than a passing reference to it in his plays.In Romeo and Juliet it’s a factor in the tragedy, but at a safe distance.