QotW (#43): 28 May 2018

Manners maketh the man, it seems …

Elizabeth I of England

It wasn’t till I got to University that I came across Malcolm’s ‘king becoming graces’ in Macbeth.  I thought them startling – an almost impudent challenge to James I about what the country expected from their new monarch, in a play which, I’m increasingly convinced, is all about what it means to be a ‘man’:

As justice, verity, temperance, stableness,
Bounty, perseverance, mercy, lowliness,
Devotion, patience, courage, fortitude,  (IV, iii) [a]

But what of those in the level below?  What were the expectations placed on nobles and courtiers?

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Cultural Capital 06: Bacon’s Essays

Not, repeat NOT, Shakespeare in disguise, thanks very much …

BH bacon.jpg
[part of a monthly series aimed at my Sixth Formers, and the texts they are currently studying]

First things first – we need to be clear which Francis Bacon we are talking about!

Perhaps reluctantly, we need to steer clear of the 20th Century Irish Existentialist artist whose ‘screaming popes’*, amongst other works, are so disturbingly brilliant.  That Francis is part of our ‘cultural capital’ too, but less useful for your studies.

Instead, let’s turn to the man perhaps best known as the ‘father of the scientific method’.  In other, crazier, circles, it’s also muttered that he was, in fact, the ‘real’ William Shakespeare.  Try to avoid those people – they also tend to wear tin foil hats, believe that the world is flat, and that climate change is a myth … 

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A Restless Ecstasy …

Here’s looking at you, H …

BH RIII I i 1.001

So.

It’s been a long, hard, day.  No, really!  In amongst the pre-school meeting; the marking; the trying to keep your errant Year 11s just on this side of hysteria, given they have their second English Lit exam on Friday; the data (two classes’ worth, by lunchtime, thanks very much); the lunchtime storytelling club for younger pupils; the broken photocopiers; and the almost insignificant matter of actually teaching,  you need an oasis of calm.

Or two …

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PTS 06/037: Don’t Push It

BH rambo don't push it
Titus:  Don’t push it … don’t push it or I’ll give you a war you won’t believe.  Let it go.

Titus Andronicus, Act V

(subtitled, far too obviously for the UK football fans amongst us, ‘who ate all the pies?’)

I warned you!  I WARNED YOU!  Did I warn you?

Yes, I did.  And so did Francis Bacon.  And Jonathan Bate.  And Fredson Bowers.  We all said that revenge was likely to spiral out of control, because once you lose your faith in the law, and in divine justice too, all bets are off. And because every stroke in the ‘rally of revenge‘ is that much harder, has that much more spin on it than the last.  Let’s mix our metaphors again: in this particular poker game, someone, eventually, is going to see your stake and raise you with everything they’ve got, not caring any more whether they win or lose. The chips, and what they represent, are suddenly and utterly unimportant …

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PTS 06/036: Losing My Religion

BH old man yells at cloud

Titus Andronicus, Act IV

Secular authorities had (and still have) every investment in discouraging revenge.  If citizens perceive that the law no longer serves them, then we get the kind of situation that Francis Bacon famously warned of:

‘Revenge is a kind of wild justice’

And this is a point that Jonathan Bate develops, quoting Fredson Bowers:

Private action undermines the authority of the state:  Elizabethan law felt itself capable of meting out justice to murderers, and therefore punished an avenger who took justice into his own hands just as heavily as the original murderer.  The authorities, conscious of the Elizabethan inheritance of private justice from earlier ages, recognised that their own times still held the possibilities of serious turmoil; and the were determined that private revenge should not unleash a general disrespect for law.

Act IV however adds the dimension of the breakdown of DIVINE justice to the individual’s decision to subvert the legal process.

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PTS 05/030: There’s nothing ill …

BH mirror mirror
Mirror, mirror, on the wall …

The Two Gentlemen of Verona:  Act IV

Thus far, I feel like I’ve been quite objective about the play, glossing over the obvious errors about travelling by boat between land-locked cities, etc. I’m not one to lionise Shakespeare (whatever my other half thinks), but nor am I interested in joining the current fad I see online for ‘dissing’ him.

Having said that, Act IV begins with a ‘mote to trouble the mind’s eye‘, though – and more on it later, but Act V trumps even this episode. What am I talking about?

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O strange men! That can such sweet use make of what they hate …

BH thinkmcfly-hello-anybody-home-think-mcfly-think

(Helena:  All’s Well That Ends Well, Act IV)

What the hell is going on?

This started as commentary on the furore surrounding the staging of Julius Caesar featuring a Trump-alike, but based in England, I can’t help reflecting the fact that things have been overtaken here by the insane events near Finsbury Park Mosque in London

At what stage does it become acceptable for people to use the kind of methods they vilify – demonise, actually – in others to advance their own agendas? No, really – when is this OK?

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