For God’s sake, let us sit upon the ground, and tell sad stories of the death of kings …
PTS read-through:Richard II, act III (part ONE)
Witnessing the utter disintegration of a human being – even a fictional one – is, I’d suggest, an uneasy, distressing experience.And yet …
Voyeuristic shame accompanies the compulsion to keep spectating what is usually such a private affair.My first experience of this type of slow-mo car-crash literature was Hardy’s The Mayor of Casterbridge, when I was about 12.It scarred me – I’ve never quite been able to revisit Michael Henchard’s self-induced immolation; it also, I think, gave me my first seductive bittersweet taste of tragedy.Like that initial stolen underage drink, whilst I wasn’t quite sure I liked it, I wanted another – just to be certain.
All’s far from well for Richard, and a facility with words isn’t helping …
PTS read-through: Richard II, Act I
The lengthy gap since I finished posting about A Midsummer Night’s Dream has everything to do with volume of work, and absolutely nothing to do with what I’m about to confess you now.But we ought to get it out of the way, or it will cloud all my posts about Richard II …
On today’s journey to the late 1590s, let’s take a detour via 1987 …
John Gielgud, ‘Richard II’ in Charles Ede (ed.), Introductions to Shakespeare, (London: Folio Society, 1977) p.59
[and a small celebration of this as my 201st post]
The Wheel of Fortune moves inexorably away from Edward II at school (which students will have to compare to Tennyson‘s Maud in their exam – easy peasy, whatever they may think, if they work hard and LISTEN between now and then), and in terms of the Ponytail Shakespeare read-through, to Richard II.
I can’t be the only one to reflect that the two plays are remarkably similar. Indeed, I’ve chosen this week’s quotation as an intrigiung bridge between them.
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.
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.