You ought to know me by now, after almost 4 years and not far off 400 posts …
Not overly-blessed with common sense (as my Dearest Partner of Greatness) would confirm; prone to flights of giddy excitement, silliness even; with a pretty good memory for quotations and an eye for intertextual connections; but usually sceptical when it comes to wild conspiracy theories, especially about Shakespeare.
So I want to be clear that this is not one of the latter.
Dan Jones, The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses and the Rise of the Tudors, (London: Faber & Faber, 2015)
Dan Jones’ muscular account begins with Catherine de Valois’ marriage to Henry V in 1420, and ends in 1541, with the brutal execution of Margaret Pole (at 67) by Henry VIII; the final remnant of the Plantagenet dynasty to be mopped up by the Tudors.
Thankfully, we can’t have a third series of The Hollow Crown, but what about adaptations of the Roman plays?
If there’s one thing my (currently stuttering) Pony Tail Shakespeare read-through project has given me so far, it’s a greater love for the History Plays. Once the project is (eventually) finished, I’m looking forward to reading them again merely for pleasure.
Mistrust might be too strong a word, but there was always a youthful rebellious streak in me (Catholic-educated in what was at the time a pretty Catholic town), pushing against what I increasingly viewed as the bastard child of The Party in Orwell‘s Nineteen Eighty-Four and a medieval Ponzi scheme. The Catholic hierarchy increasingly personified notions of hypocritical middle-men, ‘eternal life’ assurance brokers, gatekeepers against the hereafter who would feed on the poor, vulnerable and frightened, whilst actually allowing anyone through, if the price was right.
Finally, I officially ‘fell out’ with God in a completely predictable spat – over bureacracy, not the Bible; red tape, not redemption; compliance, not communion …
“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.
Peter Saccio, Shakespeare’s English Kings: History, Chronicle, and Drama (Oxford University Press: Oxford, 2000)
One of the biggest problems with being on holiday with non-reading friends is that you become embarrassed by the amount of time you want, no NEED, to spend in bookshops.
So this was a book I could easily have missed whilst browsing a second-hand bookshop in Leominster. I was really lucky to have my other half on hand to find it out for me, because time was running out, and I was beginning to worry about the patience of the friends we were holidaying with, who had already politely wandered round the shop and were now at the ‘waiting outside for you‘ stage ….