PTS 07/042: Mr Sandman, Dream Me A Dream …

If there’s another Shakespeare play in which dreams loom as large, I’ve yet to read it …

BH Paul Berry sandman
A still from Paul Berry’s wonderful short film

PTS Shakespeare read-through – Richard III, Act I sc iv.

Back in early 1997, I discovered that my eldest son was on his way.  The pregnancy was unplanned, and to say the least a shock to a frankly very immature young man who was focussed on nothing but wine, women and song – not necessarily in that order. To be fair to him, books sometimes made an appearance, too.  He was, I like to think, a completely different person to the one who’s writing this evening – I look back on him with some shame (on sleepness nights), listing the apologies I owe people.

Anyway, that night, I dreamed that I was eating scissors – large pairs, practically garden shears – but as I chewed them, they transformed into soft, grey liquorice (which I happen to enjoy, luckily).

Disturbed, I went to my mum, who has the folk wisdom of the ancients in some things, and absolutely no common-sense when it comes to others (oh, the stories I could tell).  She does, though, have an almost medieval belief in dreams.  I told her my dream, but not my news. And she told me that although I was expecting, dreading hard times ahead, I’d find that what I feared would actually be far, far better than expected.

She was right …

So I’m interested, with a lower case ‘i’, in dreams, with a lower case ‘d’. I have many very lucid dreams, and lots of nested dreams, a bit like the film Inception, where through effort I can transfer from one dream to another. They fascinate me, even as they unsettle me.

And if there’s another Shakespeare play in which dreams loom as large, I’ve yet to read it …

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What Would Shakespeare Say?

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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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PTS 06/035: The Rally of Revenge

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Titus decides to deploy his ultimate weapon …

Titus Andronicus, Act III

Bear with me on this: I’m an English teacher, and I talk – no think – in similes and metaphors.  “It’s what I do!”, as David Mitchell might say in BBC‘s Upstart Crow.

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Crimes Against Shakespeare 007

BH hiddleston hamlet

Alas, poor Shakespeare fans …

In the dock for my latest Crime Against Shakespeare we find Kenneth Branagh and RADA (the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art).

Picture the scene (if you pardon the pun) …

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PTS 05/027: The Arch of Experience

BH durdle door 2
I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethro’
Gleams that untravell’d world whose margin fades
For ever and forever when I move.                                                                                                                     (Alfred Lord Tennyson, Ulysses)

The Two Gentlemen of Verona:  Act 1

Recently, I wrote about bringing your personal baggage to your interpretation and enjoyment of texts. It’s why I re-read: every few years I genuinely believe I approach a text as a different person, changed in infinite, indescribable ways by my experiences.

This is my first time with the Two Gentlemen, though, and I approached this text with some trepidation. It has a reputation – despite being the first play performed at the newly-built Globe – and Dennis Carey‘s reaction on being asked to direct the play was not reassuring:

“I had only just read the play, and was badly shaken. Could the author really be grateful to anyone for preserving this youthful, unfinished, minor exercise?”

A read-through is a read-through, though …

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PTS 04/024: How many fingers am I holding up, Winston?

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“‘Four!  Five!  Four!  Anything you like. Only stop it, stop the pain!”  George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949)

Ponytail Shakespeare:  The Taming of the Shrew, Act IV

KATHERINA:            ‘And be it moon or sun or what you please,

    And if you please to call it a rush-candle,

    Henceforth I vow it shall be so for me.

PETRUCCIO:              I say it is the moon.

KATHERINA:             I know it is the moon.

PETRUCCIO:              Nay then, you lie; it is the blessed sun.

KATHERINA:            Then God be blest, it is the blessed sun.’

(IV.v.13-19)

I so often say to students (usually when we’re looking at poetry) that you should ‘bring your baggage’ to a work.  It’s one of the things that makes re-reading an unexpected joy, as you arrive at a familiar work with fresh eyes.  The ‘baggage’ can, of course, be life experiences, or other works that you’ve read: regular readers will already know that I have a habit of conflating Caliban, Richard III and Frankenstein’s monster, to talk through a sympathetic lens about those three characters and the nature vs. nurture argument.

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