PTS 13/081: The Curse of Kings

… is that the job is, frankly, shit. And that you have to be a shit to do it successfully.

big mac
Excuse me?  I ordered a kingdom like I saw in the advert …

PTS read-through:  King John, Act IV.

If you’re not ‘born great’, if you want to achieve greatness, you have to put in the hours, right?  Just think of the graft involved: wheeling and dealing; equivocating; making and breaking alliances; sucking up; marrying well (not, alas, for love); adding colours to the chameleon; changing shapes with Proteus; and generally setting the murderous Machiavel to school.

And for what?

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PTS 12/072: A Game of Two Halves …

Maybe Prince Escalus should have gone to VAR … ?

BH mob-football-in-england
The keeper (left) tried to make himself look big, whilst under pressure from a swarthy Croatian defender, Harry Kane tried to nudge the ball home

Ponytail Shakespeare read-through: Romeo and Juliet, Act I, scene i

Regular readers will understand my complex relationship with the notion of ‘England’.

The catchy simplicity of Three Lions (It’s Coming Home) turned from pleasantly nostalgic ‘earworm‘ – I well remember the song’s release for Euro ’96 – to a cankerous ‘worm ‘i the bud‘ [a] long before Wednesday’s almost inevitable defeat to Croatia.  The entire nation, it seemed, had been reduced to a vocabulary of just three words – a mantra which was unchallengeable, a self-evident truth destroyed in just 120 minutes (if only Brexit could fall as quickly.) As I watched people (including several students) spill out of The Sun – opposite where I was drinking – in a numbed state of shock after the match, I was glad I wouldn’t hear it for a while.  Having ‘sat like Patience’ I was now, almost, ‘smiling at grief’.  To no avail:  by 11am the next day – no lie – I was hearing “World Cup 2022:  It’s Coming Home” in the corridors of ‘C’ Block … sigh.

Has this anything to do with Romeo and Juliet?  Of course.

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PTS 09/051: Women Weaken Legs (and Brains, too)

Lesson 1: Books, no matter how interesting, are not a girlfriend substitute …

BH Rocky and Micky
‘You lay off that pet shop dame.  Women weaken legs!’ ~ Mickey (Burgess Meredith)

PTS read through:  Love’s Labour’s Lost, Act I

It feels appropriate to arrive at this play in the month when it seems you’re not a functioning member of society if you don’t add some kind of punishing denial to the post-Christmas blues:  Dry January, the unappetising-sounding Veganuary, or in my case, the Walk 1,000 Miles in 2018 challenge (already behind schedule).  Personally, I think we’ve enough to cope with, waiting for things to warm up and the nights to become appreciably longer.

Nevertheless, this is how the play opens – with a preposterous resolution by the foolish King of Navarre and three of his intimates to ‘abjure the rough magic’ of the fair sex. Unlike Rocky’s trainer Mickey, they’re worried about the intellectual rather than physical effects that women may have on them

I give them a maximum of ten minutes, stage time …

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PTS 08/047: Cheats Never Prosper?

Near misses, and fascinating Misses – Luciana’s journey continues …

BH why-do-women-cheatPonytail Shakespeare read-through:  The Comedy of Errors, Act III

We’ll come to the idea that ‘cheats never prosper‘ in a while.  It’s a busy act.

In the meantime, sometimes the margins in comedy and tragedy are very, very fine. Exactly like in real life, actually …

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PTS 08/046: A Tale of Two Sisters

Doormat or A-dor-ably Feisty? Luciana and Adriana swap roles in Act II …

BH Sisters
Who needs a man when you have a sister?  Adriana, that’s who …

Ponytail Shakespeare Read-Through: The Comedy of Errors, Act II

Aha!  A single woman in a Shakespeare comedy – what she needs is a HUSBAND, I thought, my Jane Austen goggles firmly on.  In this, I was egged on by Kent Cartwright, as I mentioned in writing about Act I, and who colluded with Jane and my previously-held assumptions.

And what a catch Luciana appears to be for our unreconstructed EMP man!

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PTS 08/045: Oh, no it isn’t! Oh, yes it is …

You just can’t tell some people that you wouldn’t HAVE Blackadder without Shakespeare …


Ponytail Shakespeare read-through The Comedy of Errors: Act I scene I

‘Which is it today?’
The Comedy of Errors.
‘Ugh!’
‘It’s about two sets of twins, separated at birth, who find themselves-‘
‘Stop! Enough!’
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PTS 05/029: Would I Lie To You?

BH pinocchio

Ponytail Shakespeare: The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Act III.

Like so many of Shakespeare’s villains (and here perhaps I have Iago uppermost in mind) Proteus is a decent dissimulator, and Act III begins with his breathless betrayal of his best friend.

How does Shakespeare make Proteus credible?

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PTS 04/026: The Taming Of The Shrew Soundtrack Album

Slowly but surely I’m building my Shakespeare Jukebox, with a soundtrack album for each play I tick off in the Ponytail Shakespeare read-through.

Here’s my Taming Of The Shrew Soundtrack Album (and I make no apologies at all for my dubious and decidedly old taste in music: let me know what’s missing, you young whippersnappers …

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PTS 04/025: Who’s Your Daddy?

BH who's your daddy
Ponytail Shakespeare:  The Taming of the Shrew, Act V

When I was about 8, I vividly remember having a competition with a lad called David – surname O’Toole, if I remember correctly – who shortly afterwards moved to Australia.  The competition took place in school and could have been called:  Let’s see who can piss the highest against the wall.”  David won.  I moved on.

But many boys and men never really graduate from that game – they just play variations on it, like:

  • I’ve got further with a girl than you have;
  • the girls who like me are hotter than the ones who like you; then, once they’re older
  • remind me what you drive again; and
  • who’s your daddy?

I also get, by the way, the occasional sneering “But Shakespeare didn’t even write those plays.”  Never backed up by evidence.  Never by anyone who has actually read the plays themselves.  But they drive better cars than me (not difficult, since I don’t drive), so they must be right, surely?  You are NOT my daddy.  But you ARE a ‘three-inch fool‘, to quote this play.

Overall, The Taming of the Shrew is in many places an embarrassing reminder that ‘laddishness’ hasn’t changed in at least 400 years – that men are constantly pissing up the wall against each other.  No more obviously than in Act 5.

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

BH how many fingers
“‘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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