Should we pay more attention to James I before he became King of England?
Thomas Cogswell, James 1: The Phoenix King (Penguin Monarchs series), (Allen Lane: London, 2017)
Studying or teaching Shakespeare’s plays, the figure of Elizabeth looms in the background, like the spectre at the feast.
We see it in the ever-present censorship, in the light of the Treasons Acts in 1571 and 1581, outlawing public discussion of the succession. Or, more positively, in the ‘Gloriana’ cult that produced works like Spenser‘s The Faerie Queen, and flattering nods to Elizabeth wherever you look – like links between her and Theseus in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. We see it in her discomfort with comparisons to Richard II, and the propagandic lionization of Henry VII.
Reading Cogswell‘s short, sympathetic biography has made me reassess the extent to which we / I ignore James until the succession question becomes absolutely critical.
This article was written for a forthcoming in-house newsletter/magazine. First, hopefully, in a series of articles (Cultural Capital) about influential, dare I say essential works that our students need to get under their belts. I set myself a STRICT word-count of 750, including quotations but excluding titles and references, tried to avoid being too professorial, and I’ve prioritised other texts related to what I’ll be teaching as part of the OCR A Level Engish Literature course. If I’m spared 😉
Inferno is a valuablesource of AO1 and AO3, people. This won’t replace you reading the original, but it might at least persuade you to give it a go.
Next up? James I‘s Daemonologie, Machiavelli‘s The Prince or The Book of Genesis: open to suggestions …
[…] Midway on our path in life,
I came around and found myself searching
Through a wood, the right way blurred and lost.
I know the feeling. More importantly, so begins Dante’s Inferno, the sexiest-titled poem no-one’s read.Perhaps only at a certain age do you start asking Really Big Questions:‘What am I doing with my life?What’s the point?What’s left?’Tennyson’s like a dog with a bone on this.Ponytail Shakespeare readers – you’re fed up of hearing this sort of thing from me.
The most important question, though, is surely ‘what’s next?’
WE CANNOT, MUST NOT, WIPE ART WITH ANTI-BACTERIAL WIPES BEFORE ALLOWING THE NEXT GENERATION TO HANDLE IT …
I took this picture – from King Lear – at the Cambridge Shakespeare Festival back in 2012. I often show it to pupils who try to tell me that Shakespeare is ‘boring‘. Or indeed I give them some of the plot details from Titus Andronicus that have caused such concern of late …
It’s taken me a little while to allow this one to sink in to the extent that it became a ‘crime’, but in the Dock, ladies and gentlemen of the Jury, I give you no less than the English Faculty of Cambridge University (or at least some members of that august institution) …
Laura Ashe, Richard II: A Brittle Glory (Penguin: London, 2016)
Emboldened by the excellent ‘Penguin Monarchs‘ volume on Edward II, I looked out which other volumes were available: the first that arrived in the post was this one.
Ashe‘s approach seems different to Given-Wilson‘s on Edward. Where he was reassuringly chronological, she deals with Richard’s reign (and I’ve seen this as a criticism of the volume online) thematically. It has, nonetheless, given me some useful insight into a king who I’ve always vaguely felt I owed a debt: I fell asleep watching Jeremy Irons in the title role – in Stratford, of all places – back in 1986/7. To this day, I blame the large lunch I had before the matinee performance …
Dost thou think, because thou art virtuous, there shall be no more cakesandale? (Twelfth Night)
Allow me to introduce the non-Redditors amongst you to the Democratic People’s Republic of R/Literature. When you get there, it sounds great, doesn’t it?
Welcome to /r/literature, a community for deeper discussions of plays, poetry, short stories, and novels. Discussions of literary criticism, literary history, literary theory, and critical theory are also welcome–strongly encouraged, even.
and yet, all this fancy aspirational stuff doesn’t really mean a thing. Read the following from the bottom up.
This is, in many ways, one of the reasons why I started blogging …