This week finds me in a sombre, reflective mood. Maybe it’s the continuation of Dry January (day 35 without alcohol, thanks very much). There will, mind, be ‘more cakes and (especially) ale‘, at some stage, but not for a few weeks yet. Apparently, I was ‘more fun’ when I was drinking, so bear with me.
Then, today is my younger son’s birthday: 18 today. If that doesn’t give a man pause for thought on how time passes and how he has spent his life, I don’t know what will.
Which brings me to Morris Palmer Tilley. Until recently a footnote in my life, and possibly that or less in yours …
This is a long read – I say that on a blog where posts often hit 1,300 words, against ‘accepted wisdom’ – so apologies in advance. YOUR blog is your blog; my blog is MY blog, and I write for catharsis and as a kind of journal, not ‘popularity’, ‘followers’, or ‘influence’. I was tempted to temper my words with a gallery of pictures, but that didn’t feel right, either. This post feels a little more personal than most.
In spite of, or maybe because of, constant trawling for Shakespeare-related content, I have only just found this. Last April, Peter Marks wrote a piece for The Washington Post (link below) suggesting that Americans are too ‘intellectually lazy’ to appreciate Shakespeare, and fearing for the future popularity of the plays. My immediate response was ‘you think it’s bad in the US? Try over here, where Shakespeare was born!’
It doesn’t get much more influential than the ‘good book’ in English Literature …
[Second in a series of articles aimed at our ‘A Level’ students, addressing gaps in their general and literary knowledge. Read the previous article, On Dante’s Inferno, here]
‘Good morning [big smile]!
In the Christmas season, who do you think is the greatest gift-giver of them all?’
(this happened to me a few weeks back)
No – don’t slam the door !I’m genuinely not here to convert you.But if there’s just one text that has gifted the most sources of inspiration and allusion to our Western literary tradition, it’s probably the Old Testament Book of Genesis.Estimates vary, but its very strong messages on obedience and patriarchy have been influencing society for about 3,000 years.
This would be the book to choose alongside Shakespeare’s Complete Works when looking for the most influential literary works.
Claiming ‘Shakespeare was this or that’, or worse, ‘Shakespeare did not write the plays’, does NOT entitle you to a mic-drop. It just shows your intellectual bankruptcy …
I’ve written elsewhere about the Rally of Revenge – about my unease that once you abandon all faith in ‘due process‘ or ‘justice‘ (either earthly or divine); once you understand that inequality is endemic, you have nothing left to lose – if you are already losing – so keep raising the stakes until someone has to leave the game. If it’s uncomfortable, perhaps it’s also sometimes necessary, to affect change of a fundamentally broken system. You might not see the benefits yourself. Hey, if you have to leave the game, then so be it: losing can become preferable to playing along, eventually.
There are always other games, other paths, whilst we are still alive – experience has taught me that, even if Shakespeare hasn’t.
And that’s where I find myself, professionally, this weekend. Approaching change, but ready for it, and maybe, in some ways, relieved that an unhappy stasis has broken. There are always other games.
There is a third way – for revenge – I’ve not written about before. The poet George Herbert(1593-1633) suggested that:
Living well is the best revenge.
And I’ll embrace and adapt that, in a ‘standing on the shoulders of giants‘ sense.
Living well equals happiness. LAUGHTER is the best revenge.
Today, I intend to laugh at someone. Long, and hard.
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?’