Today marks the beginning of one of the most eagerly anticipated parts of the school year … the final summer half-term. The countdown’s on, for teachers at least: 7 weeks; 35 working days; a maximum of 28 lessons with each of those classes.
Elizabeth I looms in the background of Shakespeare’s early-to-mid work like the spectre at the feast.
It isn’t solely the question of censorship: she is, I think, the yardstick for every depiction of monarchy, leadership or indeed of strong women. Remember, too, that after a frantic period when the monarch (and ruling religion) changed every few years, she assumed the throne before Shakespeare was born, and was perhaps one of the few constants in that dangerous, fluid age, until she died in 1603.
She was also a real anachronism – a woman ruler in an incredibly patriarchal society. But was she a feminist? Should she be regarded as a feminist icon now?
Where Marlowe went when he should have been at Uni …
George Carleton, A Thankfull Remembrance of God’s Mercie (1630)
Much as I’d like a copy of this on the Boar’s Head Bookshelf, I’ve been playing with a facsimile copy I got from www.archive.org. I think it was mentioned in one of the episodes of BBC’s wonderful Shakespeare’s Restless World – which I recommend to anyone remotely interested in Shakespeare, Marlowe and their contemporaries.
As usual, I have one eye on anything that could be interesting or useful to my A Level students, so whilst I’d like to dwell on some of the pretty hilarious vitriol this man of the cloth (Bishop of Winchester, to be exact) reserves for the Catholic faith, I’ve something a little quotable for the students of Marlowe.
Henry VI part III, Act III
RICHARD: ‘I can add colours to the chameleon,
Change shapes with Proteus for advantages’ (III.ii.191-192)
I’ll come back to Bowie’s song when I finally hit Richard III in August, because when I revisited the lyrics, I couldn’t avoid staring thoughtfully for a while. I will remind Richard that:
‘And every time I thought I’d got it made,
It seemed the taste was not so sweet.’
Like Bolinbroke in RII, like Macbeth – like almost everyone in Shakespeare, let’s face it – the anticipation, the chase, is far better than the conquest, when it comes to the crown.
In the meantime, nothing seems to stay the same in Act III …