QotW (#77): 20 May 2019

elizabeth essex film poster

When you teach Richard III you almost inevitably touch on the idea that ‘history is written by the winners’, as Orwell said in 1944 (and again, of course, so horrifically in Nineteen Eighty-Four). [a]

Who were victorious over Robert Devereux, second Earl of Essex in the end?  Would he have recognised the history they wrote for him?

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[book review] Tracy Borman: The Private Lives of the Tudors

borman tudors cover

 

Tracy BormanThe Private Lives of the Tudors: Uncovering the Secrets of Britain’s Greatest Dynasty (Hodder & Stoughton: London, 2016)

A salutary warning for would-be 21st-century celebrities?

Francis Bacon calls it correctly, as he so often does:

Men in great place […] have no freedom; neither in their persons, nor in their actions, nor in their times. It is a strange desire, to seek power and to lose liberty: or to seek power over others, and to lose power over a man’s self. [a]

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QotW (#70): 04 March 2019

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Elizabeth I looms in the background of Shakespeare’s early-to-mid work like the spectre at the feast.

It isn’t solely the question of censorship: she is, I think, the yardstick for every depiction of monarchy, leadership or indeed of strong women.  Remember, too, that after a frantic period when the monarch (and ruling religion) changed every few years, she assumed the throne before Shakespeare was born, and was perhaps one of the few constants in that dangerous, fluid age, until she died in 1603.

She was also a real anachronism – a woman ruler in an incredibly patriarchal society.  But was she a feminist?  Should she be regarded as a feminist icon now?

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QotW (#67): 11 February 2019

“this it is, when men are ruled by women” – or at least by their groins …

Claudius & Gertrude

Although I’m never going to end up on stage, I often compare teaching to acting.

Non-teachers, think for a second: up to six performances a day, with audiences who require subtly different characterisations from you.  (My timetable goes from Y12 to Y7 without interval on a Friday afternoon, for instance).  That plus the teacher persona you can only shrug off when you’re safely indoors (because even walking down the street you end up intervening when you see pupils in uniform mucking about).  To say nothing of the range of people you have to be – in five minute chunks – at Parents’ Evenings …

No wonder I’m perpetually exhausted.

But if I were asked to play a Shakespearean role, what would be my top three choices?

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PTS 13/081: The Curse of Kings

… is that the job is, frankly, shit. And that you have to be a shit to do it successfully.

big mac
Excuse me?  I ordered a kingdom like I saw in the advert …

PTS read-through:  King John, Act IV.

If you’re not ‘born great’, if you want to achieve greatness, you have to put in the hours, right?  Just think of the graft involved: wheeling and dealing; equivocating; making and breaking alliances; sucking up; marrying well (not, alas, for love); adding colours to the chameleon; changing shapes with Proteus; and generally setting the murderous Machiavel to school.

And for what?

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PTS 13/080: Remind me: who’s in charge here?

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OK, I want a good, clean fight …

February 1570:  in the blue corner, Elizabeth I; in the red corner, Pius V …

Commence au festival, as the Joker might say.

Ponytail Shakespeare read-through – King John, Act III

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QotW (#63): Monday 14 January 2019

king john donald trump
image: Mashable [a]
I mentioned the other day that I was coming into King John blind, apart from the Disney film and a vague notion of the Magna Carta.  The little I am beginning to accumulate through secondary reading and the play itself is startling.

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