Nicholl: The Reckoning (review)

Our victim was brash, talented, and stabbed just above the eye before his 30th birthday …

BH the reckoning

Charles Nicholl, The Reckoning: The Murder of Christopher Marlowe (Vintage:  London, 2002)

– – –

‘I am not trying to argue that Marlowe’s death has to have a meaning.  My reading tends only to a more complex kind of meaninglessness than that of a ‘tavern brawl’.

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QotW: 06 August 2018 (#52)

Gifted, abominable, yet capable of producing ‘the mighty line’ …

BH perfume
Ben Wishaw and Karoline Herfurth in Tom Tykwer‘s 2006 film

It’s episode 52 – not a continuous year (the first post is here), but a year nonetheless, so I’m going to indulge myself a little this week.  Will you be able to tell the difference, I hear you ask!

Bear with me whilst I tell you a story:

In eighteenth-century France there lived a man who was one of the most gifted and abominable personages in an era that knew no lack of gifted and abominable personages. His story will be told here. His name was Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, and if his name – in contrast to the names of other gifted abominations, de Sade’s, for instance, or Saint-Just’s, Fouché’s, Bonaparte’s, etc. – has been forgotten today, it is certainly not because Grenouille fell short of those more famous blackguards when it came to arrogance, misanthropy, immorality, or, more succinctly, wickedness, but because his gifts and his sole ambition were restricted to a domain that leaves no traces in history: to the fleeting realm of scent. [a]

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Forensic Friday (#07): Edward II, (iv.15-21)

‘Know your place’, the world of literature seems to scream. ‘Or else …’

BH jacob jordaens phaeton
Jacob Jordaens (1593-1678):  ‘Phaeton Falling’ … careful he doesn’t land on you!

If there’s anything I enjoy as much as anti-heroes, it’s tales of Promethean over-reachers.

Christopher Marlowe belongs in that category, I believe …

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Cultural Capital 07: Tragedy

We loved a fall from grace as much then as we do now …

BH travolta tragedy
For Christ’s sake, can’t you see I’m busy, Ophelia? Get thee to a nunnery!

[this article first appeared in the in-house magazine I edit for our sixth-form English students]

Tragedy!  When the  feeling’s gone and you can’t go on …

It’s not that long ago that I appalled a class by stating that whilst the death of a pet dog might be ‘quite sad’, it definitely wasn’t ‘tragic’. ^

I definitely spend too much time in the late 16th century!

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QotW: 30 July 2018 (#51)

Marlowe probably DID make a hazard of his head by easing his heart …

BH pulp

The more I read about Marlowe, the more I like and sympathise with him – arrogant, frustrated genius, malcontent, morally questionable, and attention-whore as he may have been.  I sense a kindred spirit: my best friend would say the same about me – perhaps with a lot more arrogance and a lot less genius.  As I get older, I like to think that my moral code is finally begining to crystallise, where it was entirely fluid 25 years ago, but then Marlowe never had the opportunity to mellow …

Increasingly, I see Marlowe as the kind of ‘mis-shapeJarvis Cocker sung about in 1995:

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QotW: 23 July 2018 (#50)

For a perfectionist, it’s an opportunity: time to produce something better than ‘good enough’ …

BH here comes the sun
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes …

It seems like years since it’s been here. [a]

So many people seem to resent our summer holiday.  They bemoan having to take responsibility for their own offspring (my favourite pet peeve); whine about the cost of holidays; whinge about the number of tourists clogging their area (without appreciating how their local economy depends on that tourist pound, or how often they are the problem in other parts of the country).

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QotW: 16 July 2018 (#49)

Hot ice and wondrous strange snow: the appetite for articulation …

BH DeLorean_Launch
Destination 1592 … [a]
Frequently, I ask my class to step into the time machine and join me back in 1592.

Why then?

Conveniently, it’s as close as we can get to dating both Richard III and Edward II, my Key Stage 5 texts.  The other plays I teach at the moment – Much Ado About Nothing and Macbeth – follow on from here.

This period was a crucible in which Drama as we know it was being born, alchemically transmuted from the didactic Morality Plays into something fresh and exciting.  With my Marxist critical hat on, if we can understand the contextual elements poured into that cauldron, we can better appreciate and analyse the resultant heady brew.

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