PTS 11/066: Alas, poor Richard …

For God’s sake, let us sit upon the ground, and tell sad stories of the death of kings …

bh-hollow-crown-rii-beach.jpg

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.

Richard’s collapse is the most devastatingly beautiful in Shakespeare, perhaps in the wider canon: it begins here, spanning three poignant acts. 
Continue reading “PTS 11/066: Alas, poor Richard …”

PTS 011/064: I wasted time, and now?

All’s far from well for Richard, and a facility with words isn’t helping …

BH jeremy irons richard ii b
image:  RSC

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 …

Continue reading “PTS 011/064: I wasted time, and now?”

Quote of the Week: 05 March 2018 (#31)

They could be twins … NOT the authors!

BH marlowe shakespeareJohn 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.

Continue reading “Quote of the Week: 05 March 2018 (#31)”

Cultural Capital 03: Marx and Engels: The Communist Manifesto

Prepare yourself for a glorious improvement in your AO5 skills, comrades!

(For non-students, this is part of a series for my A Level students looking at important secondary texts which will assist their studies.)

BH Marx 1

 

 

‘I am not a Marxist’ – Karl Marx

‘Reading The Communist Manifesto does not make you a Communist, any more than reading the Bible makes you a Christian’

says Nigel Cawthorne in the introduction to my copy.  This reassuring sentiment is only slightly undermined by his point that:

‘While reading The Communist Manifesto, it is as well to remember that millions of people have shed blood over this document.’ As they have, to be fair, with last month’s text …

THIS is the power of ideas and words, people. Continue reading “Cultural Capital 03: Marx and Engels: The Communist Manifesto”

Cultural Capital 04: Gayle Rubin, ‘The Traffic In Women’

Who gives this woman away?

bh-woman-power

(For non-students, this is part of a series for my A Level students looking at important secondary texts which will assist their studies.)

Gayle Rubin, ‘The Traffic in Women:  Notes on the “Political Economy” of Sex’ (1975)

An [If] you be mine, I’ll give you to my friend;

And you be not, hang, beg, starve, die in the streets,

For, by my soul, I’ll ne’er acknowledge thee

(Lord Capulet, Romeo and Juliet, Act III, sc v)

and

I beg the ancient privilege of Athens,

As she is mine, I may dispose of her:

Which shall be either to this gentleman

Or to her death, according to our law.

(Egeus, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act I, sc I)

Not much fun, being a teenage girl in Shakespeare’s day, was it?  These intelligent, independent and emotional young women must often have felt like second-class citizens …

Continue reading “Cultural Capital 04: Gayle Rubin, ‘The Traffic In Women’”

Quote of the Week: 12 February 2018 (#28)

Should we pay more attention to James I before he became King of England?

BH cogwell james i

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.

Continue reading “Quote of the Week: 12 February 2018 (#28)”

Cultural Capital 02: The Book of Genesis

It doesn’t get much more influential than the ‘good book’ in English Literature …

BH blues brothers
Do you see the light?

[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]


 

Jehovahs Witnesses‘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.

Continue reading “Cultural Capital 02: The Book of Genesis”