John Julius Norwich, Shakespeare’s Kings (Penguin: London, 2000)
I like this book very much, and as I’m currently teaching Edward II to two separate groups of sixth-formers, I thought I’d look out a quotation for them regarding our hapless king. Despite Edward not being one of Shakespeare‘s kings, Norwich doesn’t disappoint …
My experience of Shakespeare’s Rome is the city where Cinna the Poet is torn apart by the mob for his ‘bad verses’ (Julius Caesar, III.iii), and the antagonistic opening to Coriolanus. So, what first struck me as the play opened was just how thin the veneer of civilisation proved to be.
Recently, I wrote about bringing your personal baggage to your interpretation and enjoyment of texts. It’s why I re-read: every few years I genuinely believe I approach a text as a different person, changed in infinite, indescribable ways by my experiences.
This is my first time with the Two Gentlemen, though, and I approached this text with some trepidation. It has a reputation – despite being the first play performed at the newly-built Globe – and Dennis Carey‘s reaction on being asked to direct the play was not reassuring:
“I had only just read the play, and was badly shaken. Could the author really be grateful to anyone for preserving this youthful, unfinished, minor exercise?”
… nor custom stale his infinite variety. (Enobarbus: ANTHONY AND CLEOPATRA: II.ii.245-246) [bastardised by me, obviously]
Our timetables for next year were finalised last Friday, and this is what mine looks like – at least in terms of Shakespeare / EMP material. It’s more of the same, basically – although I finally lost The Tempest – which Top Set Y11 had voted to study back in the day when I had complete freedom about what to teach. I think it could be the last year I teach this combination – I want to make at least one change …
[subtitled: “It’s always the quiet ones you need to watch out for.”]
As I finished the play, it occurred to me that women play a much larger role than I might have guessed back in the heady days of January, when I started seriously thinking about this project.Perhaps I might refine that to say that French women.
What was/is it about the allure of French women to English men?