BRADBROOK, MC: Themes and Conventions of Elizabethan Tragedy (Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 1969)
The Boar’s Head Bookshelf uses Isaac Newton‘s famous ‘standing on the shoulders of giants‘ quotation to acknowledge the part that every book I read has in shaping my ideas about Shakespeare. Occasionally, I read a book where the ideas are camouflaged by a ponderous, lecturing (in the worst sense of the word) style, and this is one of them. (A shout-out to the massively disappointing Frank Kermode on this point, too) When I read authors like David Crystal, his – pardon the pun – brilliant style makes the ideas shiny, fresh, exciting. Kermode and Bradbrook are similarly huge beasts, but their home is the Jurassic period, not the 21st Century. I’m slightly taken aback by that statement, given I devote myself to a writer who has been dead for over 400 years: oh, the irony, I hear you say …
Anyway, Bradbrook HAS got something interesting to say when she’s not hectoring us or making massive assumptions about our knowledge:
‘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 ..
If you look at my act-by-act commentary for this play, you’ll see that the fifth instalment of my Ponytail Shakespeare read-through wasn’t without its moments.
Nonetheless, I’ve managed to compile a soundtrack album for the play. For the first time, largely because I want to encourage you to look at Lisa Mills‘ video, I’ve added Youtube links for all tracks. Enjoy!
Please get in touch below with your additions or comments.
‘Good comedy is tragedy narrowly averted’ Jonathan Bate
The Two Gentlemen of Verona: Act V
Over the past year I’ve used the question ‘What’s in a name?’ more than once, dismissing labelling in its many forms, but this feels the best way of articulating my unease with The Two Gentlemen as I finish the play …
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?
Ponytail Shakespeare: The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Act II.
If The Taming of the Shrew was about disguises, William C Carroll is right in considering The Two Gentlemen as a text about metamorphosis in the tradition of Ovid.
Before we look at these transformations, though, a word on Silvia. It drives me mad every time I hear or read someone preface some ill-informed remark with ‘Shakespeare was …’ More on this at regular intervals, I suspect. But for the moment, let’s take a small nibble at ‘Shakespeare was misogynist‘.
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?”