BOTTOM: I will discharge it in either your straw colour beard, your orange-tawny beard, your purple-in-grain beard, or your French-crown-colour beard, your perfect yellow. [a]
Although The Guardian confidently proclaimed we’d reached ‘peak beard’ two years ago – in fact exactly two years ago today [b] – I stopped shaving before Christmas. I’m far from a fashion victim: this was initially sheer laziness (I loathe shaving); now increasingly compounded by curiosity about exactly what I might grow. After nearly thirty years of a more-or-less maintained goatee, I’ve gone wild.
It’s a work in progress (and had to survive a pre-Portugal pruning by She Who Must Be Obeyed), but I’ve ended up with a hybrid: think the hirsute love-child of Hemingway and Fidel Castro … the addition of a very disreputable cap during my Easter hols jolly to the Algarve has added, I like to think, a revolutionary aura to the whole thing. Plus, some students have given it a name of its own, like a stray dog. So, the beard is staying – for now.
Naturally, this started me thinking about beards and the Bard …
It’s a wonder Will didn’t end up in prison, when you think about it …
This week’s quotation is from Germaine Greer, Shakespeare (Past Masters series), (Oxford: OUP, 1986), p.75
Classroom experience tells me that [massive generalization] today’s students are disinclined to think for themselves [/massive generalization]. It’s part of the resistance to Shakespeare that seems to be coded into some pupils’ DNA (and another day I might talk about the ‘generational’ thing), but we see it with other texts. A while back, in Manchester, I taught the short film ‘The Virus’ – which I personally think is excellent:
– but it was met with howls of anger (only slight exaggeration) from students who couldn’t work out what had happened, why, and what might happen next. Watch the film, if you have under ten minutes, and then ask yourself if the main character is alive or dead at the end. Then, ask yourself why or how the answer couldn’t be obvious to 14/15 year-olds. This happened with TWO classes. I wasn’t just taken aback: I was worried. Not least because they thought it was ‘rubbish‘ because they couldn’t figure it out.
To be fair, this probably isn’t new – had my students been alive at the time, and in possession of the attention span required to read it, they would have been part of the contemporary outcry over the ending to Great Expectations. But Dickens‘ audience wanted their theories confirmed or refuted. In 2018, it just seems endemic that people have no theories. They just want to be told what to think … and that scares me.
Being a Production Photographer has its moments – this is my favourite image from The Dream in Cambridge, 2012.
Ponytail Shakespeare read-through: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act V.
One of the things about a project like this read-through it that it gives you a certain discipline. In this case, although my timetable may be only notionally followed, it has forced me to read or re-read plays that I might not have, otherwise. Occasionally (Love’s Labour’s Lost, I’m looking at YOU), my reservations have been fully justified. On other occasions, this new-found steel in my soul has been intensely rewarding. I might not otherwise have read the Henry VI plays, for example. Or, indeed, re-read The Dream in any hurry (believing I knew it ‘well enough’), and that would have been a shame …
Pollard, AJ: Edward IV, The Summer King (Penguin Monarchs) (Allen Lane: London, 2016)
It happens in the best of families. Royalty is often an accident of birth, and doesn’t guarantee fitness for rule, as we’ve seen in the exploits of Henry VI and Edward II – weak sons of strong fathers.
“Don’t expect gratitude from anyone who makes it thanks to you”
Subtitled: The Curse of the ‘Without-Whoms’
Niccolò Machiavelli, Il Principe (The Prince) original publication 1532
This is close to the top of my list of for the Cultural Capital series – a short, highly influential read, freely available: something which, frankly, you ought to have read by the time you hit university – whether or not you are an English Lit student.It’s the kind of thing that certain people, in certain circles, will expect you to have a working knowledge of in the big bad world.
Anyway, to this week’s quotation.Consider the following:
Claiming ‘Shakespeare was this or that’, or worse, ‘Shakespeare did not write the plays’, does NOT entitle you to a mic-drop. It just shows your intellectual bankruptcy …
I’ve written elsewhere about the Rally of Revenge – about my unease that once you abandon all faith in ‘due process‘ or ‘justice‘ (either earthly or divine); once you understand that inequality is endemic, you have nothing left to lose – if you are already losing – so keep raising the stakes until someone has to leave the game. If it’s uncomfortable, perhaps it’s also sometimes necessary, to affect change of a fundamentally broken system. You might not see the benefits yourself. Hey, if you have to leave the game, then so be it: losing can become preferable to playing along, eventually.
There are always other games, other paths, whilst we are still alive – experience has taught me that, even if Shakespeare hasn’t.
And that’s where I find myself, professionally, this weekend. Approaching change, but ready for it, and maybe, in some ways, relieved that an unhappy stasis has broken. There are always other games.
There is a third way – for revenge – I’ve not written about before. The poet George Herbert(1593-1633) suggested that:
Living well is the best revenge.
And I’ll embrace and adapt that, in a ‘standing on the shoulders of giants‘ sense.
Living well equals happiness. LAUGHTER is the best revenge.
Today, I intend to laugh at someone. Long, and hard.