PTS 07/042: Mr Sandman, Dream Me A Dream …

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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PTS 07/039: (Find Me) Somebody To Love

BH freddie mercury

Ponytail Shakespeare read-through – Richard III (Act I, scene i)

Larger than life.  One of a kind.  Brash on the outside, to mask an inner vulnerability.  The ultimate showman, whose memory lives on long after his death.  Freddie Mercury is all these things, too

I’ve arrived at Richard III, the first play in my read-through that I know well, with a sense of awe, almost a fear of not doing him justice.  Unusually, I’m as tentative as I might have been had I met him (or Mercury, whose death in 1991 touched me as few other celebrity deaths have:  Prince and Sir Terry Pratchett are the only others that I register, emotionally) with a pathetic autograph book in my hand.  My relationship with Richard grows more obssessive and complex every time I teach him, and my recent book-buying seems unconciously centred round the historical Richard and the major players in his accession and downfall.  I’ve also realised there is no way I can do this in the usual 1,000-ish-words-per-act format, so all I’m going to do is try to avoid 1,000 words-per-scene, if I can.

How has Shakespeare done this to me?

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PTS 06/034: Dreams to give us pause …

BH fuseli nightmare
Fuseli, ‘The Nightmare’ (1781)

‘To sleep, perchance to dream – ay, there’s the rub’  (HAMLET: III.i.64)

Titus Andronicus: Act II

What tragedy would be complete without some element of the supernatural, as I have already intimated? This dreadful (in the sense of being full of dread, NOT poor quality) act begins with that classic Shakespearean trope, the bad night’s sleep:

‘I have been troubled in my sleep this night.’ (TITUS: II.i.9)

And Titus has every reason to be subconsciously troubled: although he begins the act quite enthusiastically:

‘The hunt is up’ (II.i.1)

He cannot imagine who the ‘dainty doe’ (DEMETRIUS: II.i. 26) might actually be ..

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PTS 05/030: There’s nothing ill …

BH mirror mirror
Mirror, mirror, on the wall …

The Two Gentlemen of Verona:  Act IV

Thus far, I feel like I’ve been quite objective about the play, glossing over the obvious errors about travelling by boat between land-locked cities, etc. I’m not one to lionise Shakespeare (whatever my other half thinks), but nor am I interested in joining the current fad I see online for ‘dissing’ him.

Having said that, Act IV begins with a ‘mote to trouble the mind’s eye‘, though – and more on it later, but Act V trumps even this episode. What am I talking about?

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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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PTS 04/022: Bring forth men-children only …

BH its a boy(Macbeth I.vii.73) 

The Taming of the Shrew:  Act II

Confession time …

I only ever wanted boys, and I have been lucky enought to have two fine sons.  When my oldest son was born, I remember (despite it being half a lifetime ago) literally going weak at the knees for a moment, with joy at the big reveal.  For the younger, the scan was, ahem, rather more obvious (sorry, Lewis!), resulting in a fist pump as soon as we left the room.

Why the preference?

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The Long Goodbye …

BH long goodbye

If we do meet again, why, we shall smile;
If not, why then, this parting was well made.  (Brutus, Julius Caesar:  Act V, scene I)

This morning, at 9am, my Y11 students sit their first GCSE English exam – 1 hour, 45 minutes on The Tempest and Conan Doyle’s The Sign of Four … and so begins the ‘long goodbye’ …

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