Antipholus (E) is NOT a twenty-first century role model – but was he a sixteenth-century one?
… but truly two.’ Robert Louis Stevenson, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.
PTS read through: Comedy of Errors, Act IV
In 2018, the notion of what it means to be a ‘man’ feels ever more opaque, with behaviours and attitudes being scrutinised as never before, perhaps. As a gender, we sometimes appear confused about the path we ought to take to find a satisfying and yet socially acceptable direction or self-definition.
Maybe it was ever thus.
In yesterday’s post on Macbeth I touched upon the fragility of our hero’s notions of himself when his masculinity was challenged by his wife. Macbeth is largely a play about what it means to be a man, but that’s way down the line in terms of my reading schedule. Reading Act IV of Comedy of Errors felt like one of those non-comic interludes towards the end of plays like Much Ado About Nothing, and instead of laughing, I found myself thinking about what Antipholus(E) implies a ‘man’ should be. It’s not an attractive picture …
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.
The more things change, the more they stay the same …
Neale, JE: Queen Elizabeth I (Pimlico: London, 1998)
Once again, I’m minded to say that we continue to study EMP Literature because whilst times and technology have undoubtedly moved on, human attitudes and the situations we face remain broadly the same.
Endemic Xenophobia? Check.
Effemination of rival men who dress too well? Check.
Aristocratic disdain for ‘upstarts’? Check.
‘Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose,’ asJean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr(another foreigner*, dammit!) might say …
What’s not to like about spreadsheets? Except they make clumsy timelines …
It feels like it needs a little refinement, but the future is here! And I feel like my friend’s daughter when she spots a park from about half a mile away! PLAYYYYYY!
For some considerable time, I’ve been known as someone who guiltily, geekily enjoys spreadsheets and will create one at the drop of a hat. I mean, what’s not to like? Especially when I get going on conditional formatting and things like that – you should see my school mark-books!
But there was one area where I felt Excel (or Numbers, actually) was letting me down.
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.