BOTTOM: I will discharge it in either your straw colour beard, your orange-tawny beard, your purple-in-grain beard, or your French-crown-colour beard, your perfect yellow. [a]
Although The Guardian confidently proclaimed we’d reached ‘peak beard’ two years ago – in fact exactly two years ago today [b] – I stopped shaving before Christmas. I’m far from a fashion victim: this was initially sheer laziness (I loathe shaving); now increasingly compounded by curiosity about exactly what I might grow. After nearly thirty years of a more-or-less maintained goatee, I’ve gone wild.
It’s a work in progress (and had to survive a pre-Portugal pruning by She Who Must Be Obeyed), but I’ve ended up with a hybrid: think the hirsute love-child of Hemingway and Fidel Castro … the addition of a very disreputable cap during my Easter hols jolly to the Algarve has added, I like to think, a revolutionary aura to the whole thing. Plus, some students have given it a name of its own, like a stray dog. So, the beard is staying – for now.
Naturally, this started me thinking about beards and the Bard …
Niccolò Machiavelli: The Prince, (transl. George Bull, ed. Anthony Grafton), (Penguin Classics: London, 2003). e-book ISBN: 9780141912004 (£2.99)
– – –
Niccolò Machiavelli … the name has a seductive musicality, like all the Devil’s best tunes, and in Italian, ‘Il Principe’ uncoils like a snake, before hissing and then biting. This, his most famous work, has insinuated its way into our psyche until ‘Machiavellian’ has become part of a sinister cabal of authorial-adjectives including ‘Orwellian‘, ‘Lovecraftian’ and ‘Kafkaesque‘.Yet how many people appreciate its true meaning, having read ‘The Prince’?Is its reputation merited?Is it a useful, topical read, or a dusty, centuries-old curiosity?
To buy, or not to buy? A completely rhetorical question when it comes to books …
“The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.” Albert Camus (1)
Consider Sisyphus … (2)
A mythical king condemned to spend eternity atoning for his lifetime sins by pushing a boulder up a mountain in Tartarus, only to have it roll to the bottom overnight: as a result, he was obliged to start afresh each morning.
I like to think he is the patron saint of English teachers. If you are struggling to work out why, the answer’s at the foot of the post.
Bogdanov (and Shakespeare) on the corrosive effects of real life on the soul …
Michael Bogdanov, ‘Richard II: The skipping King’, in Shakespeare : The Director’s Cut (Capercaillie Books: Edinburgh, 2005)
I picked this startling book up from Waterstones in Gower Street, London on Saturday – remaindered at a measly £5-99. Scuffed but basically sound, it seemed destined for the upper slopes of my ever-growing Mount Tsundoku – about which I’m bound to post at some stage, recently becoming familiar with the term.
Either way, as I often do with new Shakespeare-related books, I ambled through the Introduction. Not properly knowing who Bogdanov was in truth, I wanted a sense of who I’d invited to share my bookshelves. I’m at my parents’, and despite the TV blaring at a volume only a practically-deaf father can justify, I became completely immersed.
Bogdanov died almost a year ago, at 78 (a little older than my father is). If we’d been contemporaries, and moved in similar circles, I reckon we would have been drinking buddies …
This week’s quotation is from: Charles R. Forker, ‘Introduction’, in William Shakespeare, Richard II (Arden Third Edition), (Thomson Learning: London, 2002)
A recent Reddit thread discussed the extent to which the History plays critiqued the monarchy. To be honest, I didn’t want to get involved, because it looked like a straight request for homework help, and yet, it was hard to resist such a fascinating subject …