Macbeth: Villain, or Victim?

Can I REALLY be an apologist for Macbeth? I think so.

BH macbeth stewart and fleetwood
Kate Fleetwood and Sir Patrick Stewart as the happy couple …

“Something something isn’t Macbeth a villain!?!?!? something something.”

This is someone’s response to my suggestion that Macbeth (and, incidentally, his wife) is one of Shakespeare’s most ‘memorable’ characters.  The ‘something’s are their words.

It set me thinking … IS he a villain, or simply a victim?  Can I really be an apologist for him, I asked myself?

I reached for my Arden …

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Quote of the Week: 11 December 2017

We only want to be kings because we don’t fully understand what it involves?

BH Lee_1603Christopher Lee, 1603 (Review:  London, 2003)

Not THAT Christopher Lee, obviously!

In class, we’ve seen it in Edward II and, I think, Richard III.  There are hints of it for my younger students in Macbeth.  But I see it everywhere: in Richard II, Henry IV, Henry V, Henry VI.

 

In Twelfth Night, Malvolio tells us:

“be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon ’em” (II.v)

Quite simply, the message I consistently get from EMP plays is that greatness – in this case being monarch – is never, ever, all it’s cracked up to be …

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Shakespeare’s Sister says: ‘YOU’RE HISTORY!’ …

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 …

BH shakespeare's sister
Siobhan Fahey and Marcella Detroit – women I fancied (at 19) as much for their deranged, dangerous, deep and devil-may-care personas as their looks.

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.

Let’s get moving, shall we?

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New Books, New Shelves!

 It felt like cheating, it felt like a betrayal, but it also felt like the right thing to do …

BH library laddersWe’re now 66, without my Ardens, and probably need to announce an extension to the library …

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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?

BH lego WWSS
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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