Crimes Against Shakespeare 008

WE CANNOT, MUST NOT, WIPE ART WITH ANTI-BACTERIAL WIPES BEFORE ALLOWING THE NEXT GENERATION TO HANDLE IT …

BH CSF blinding of Gloucester
‘Out, vile jelly’:  the blinding of Gloucester …

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) …

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What Would Shakespeare Say?

BH lego WWSS
Photo by me …

I think I might finally have achieved critical mass.  One of my students (thanks, Struckers) pointed out today that I’ve got a Shakespeare quotation for every occasion.  That pleased me quite a bit, in the way that only an unabashed nerd can take pleasure from their weird obsession being recognised by others (even if they are being gently mocked) …

What was this occasion?

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Quote of the Week: 16 October

BH brittle gloryLaura 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 …

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The Bookshelf just keeps growing …

Books in the vault, Deck C, Folger Shakespeare Library, 9/11/09
image courtesy Folger Library

Soon there won’t be much room for customers at The Boar’s Head.

… although it still isn’t keeping pace with my book buying.  Buying books and reading books operate in entirely different dimensions, as my overflowing bookshelves will tell you.  When I hit 100 books, which isn’t far off, if you include the Arden Third editions of the plays themselves, I may have to employ an orangutan to take the bookshelf into L-space.  (GNU  Sir Terry Pratchett)

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Quote of the Week: 09 October

BH penguin mornarchs edward iiChristopher Given-Wilson, Edward II:  The Terrors of Kingship (Penguin Monarchs series), (Penguin:  London, 2016)

This series of books have been on my radar for a while, but it took a recommendation from an ex-student (thanks, Jay!) to finally push me into buying one.  These are absolutely ideal for A Level students (who NEED the context for their final exams:  hint, hint to both my classes) or people who wanted a potted history without getting too bogged down.

Given-Wilson‘s writing style was pitched just right, I thought – dryly academic without being off-putting, clear without being condescending to those of us who don’t need (or want) words of one syllable.  It’s certainly inspired me to buy some more from the series: naturally, I’m now forced to wait until March 2018 for the Richard III volume, sigh …

This week’s quote of the week, is the final paragraph from the book, which sums up my views on Edward as presented in Marlowe‘s play.

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PTS 07/041 The Bitch Is Back …

BH elton john bitch is back
I entertain by picking brains
Sell my soul, by dropping names (Elton John, 1974)  Photo:  Terry O’Neil

Richard III: Act I, Sc iii (Ponytail Shakespeare read-through)

Richard has been a part of my life, a surprisingly large part, for about six years or so.  In fact, we might call him part of the ‘soundtrack of my life’, since I turned 40.  So whilst I try and inevitably fail to do the play justice in these posts, one of the things that’s already settled is the Shakespeare’s Jukebox ‘Soundtrack Album’ that I publish at the end of my amble through the play.  Some songs have been ringfenced, so that I don’t use them for any other play … this is one.

If there’s a decidedly ‘camp’ flavour to the jukebox, in fact to these posts (I mean:  Mercury, Hasselhoff and now EJ?), it could be down to two factors:

  • I’m teaching Edward II, to two classes, at the moment (conspiracy theorists, and I like one as much as the next person, will note that these two plays were probably written within months of each other, if not simultaneously); and
  • this is a camp play.  At some stage I might get stuck into the relationship between Richard and Buckingham (a personal theory that causes wide-eyed incredulity in my classes, more often than not)

I’ve often described it as a pantomime for grown-ups.  Ironically, because a child’s pantomime is possibly the worst way I can think of spending an evening. Perhaps this takes on board the criticisms of those who favour other, more mature or ‘intellectual’ plays.  Richard is gleefully childish and petulant, at least until he becomes king, and there are several times where I want to shout:

He’s behind you!

or similar, at members of the cast:  Clarence, Hastings, the young Duke of York, the hapless Burghers of London, at the very least.

But … having ambled through the HVI plays for the first time this year, I have a completely different understanding of and respect for this play.  The Bitch is back in Act I scene iii, and there can be only one Bitch (capitalisation intended), as we saw in The Hollow Crown

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Quote of the Week: 02 October

BH john julius norwichJohn Julius Norwich, Shakespeare’s Kings (Penguin:  London, 2000)

I like this book very much, and as I’m currently teaching Edward II to two separate groups of sixth-formers, I thought I’d look out a quotation for them regarding our hapless king.  Despite Edward not being one of Shakespeare‘s kings, Norwich doesn’t disappoint …

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