You probably know my taste for puerile humour by now.
This joke (and there are many versions of it knocking around) has been a favourite since before I got married, a good twenty years ago. You can imagine how well it went down, the first time I used it on my (rather fierce) ex-mother-in-law. I received what we might call an ‘old-fashioned look’, with added chilli. Nowadays, poking fun at someone’s verbosity is also self-referential, because, yes, I unashamedly like to talk! In my defence, it’s because I ‘live’ in 1592.
Sure, it’s only a week away from school, and I ought to be able to control myself. Many of you will also have a handle on the state of my bookshelves – I have no space for these, and yet. Half-terms are an opportunity to catch breath in more ways than one.
Some would suggest I oughtn’t to have bought anything; I like to think of this as a fairly restrained Book Haul, all sourced from the second hand bookshop about 300 yards from ‘her place’. So, what and why …
‘Books are delightful society. If you go into a room and find it full of books – even without taking them from the shelves they seem to speak to you, to bid you welcome.’ William Ewart Gladstone
This post came out of a discussion on Reddit where I asserted that we weren’t seeing enough Shakespeare shelf-porn. SHAKESPORN, in fact. Yup. You heard me. So in the spirit of ‘I’ll show you mine; you show me yours‘, here’s a tour of my Shakespeare bookshelf: MY ‘delightful society‘ …
Richard II = Edward II = Prospero = Duke Vincentio = Henry VI = every useless boss you have ever worked for,
Richard II appears on my reading list for Edward II each year. It’s not just me – this is what Jonathan Bate, who I recently gushed about, has to say:
Richard II’s relationship to Edward II is so obvious that it is not very interesting. The structure of the two plays is identical: the King is surrounded by flatterers and pitted against an assemblage of nobles with vested interests of their own, then isolated and uncrowned, stripped of his royal identity, thus forced to discover his inner self by means of a supple, reflective soliloquy delivered whilst humiliatingly in prison. In each play the Queen is pushed to the margins in part because of the king’s homoerotic leanings. Marlowe is bolder than Shakespeare in his explicit portrayal of the homosexuality and his neat device of joining the Queen with the rebels in revenge. [a]
It should be easy to find something in Richard which’ll look familiar to my Edward students, right? Let’s have a go …
These famous passages become a little daunting, because hey, what can you say that hasn’t already been said in the past four-hundred years? Yet, as an educator, you have to step up to the plate: after all, this is what I encourage, almost demand, my students to do, isn’t it? We give them something which is one of the foundations upon which our literature and culture is built, and entice them with the promise of better marks for originality.
So here are some personal views on Romeo and Juliet’s meeting, and then I look for something else to say on pieces of this short scene that receive somewhat less attention.