Quote of the Week: 19 February 2018 (#29)

“Is black so base a hue?” Aaron, Titus Andronicus, Act IV scene ii …

BH devils-witches-dance
– back cover of Scott’s book –

AF Scott, Witch, Spirit, Devil, (White Lion Publishing:  London, 1974)

Whilst Black History Month isn’t celebrated in the UK until October, this is a bit of an international blog: about half of you are visitors from the US, and another quarter or so from elsewhere outside the UK – thank you, by the way!

So now, whilst I’m reading Scott’s book, feels like the time to look at this …

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Cultural Capital 04: Gayle Rubin, ‘The Traffic In Women’

Who gives this woman away? To love, honour and obey …

BH woman power
“My place is where, exactly … ?”

(For non-students, this is part of a series for my A Level students looking at important secondary texts which will assist their studies.)

Gayle Rubin, ‘The Traffic in Women:  Notes on the “Political Economy” of Sex’ (1975)

An [If] you be mine, I’ll give you to my friend;

And you be not, hang, beg, starve, die in the streets,

For, by my soul, I’ll ne’er acknowledge thee

(Lord Capulet, Romeo and Juliet, Act III, sc v)

and

I beg the ancient privilege of Athens,

As she is mine, I may dispose of her:

Which shall be either to this gentleman

Or to her death, according to our law.

(Egeus, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act I, sc I)

Not much fun, being a teenage girl in Shakespeare’s day, was it?  These intelligent, independent and emotional young women must often have felt like second-class citizens …

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PTS 10/059: I DO Believe in Fairies …

Puck and Ariel are first cousins – mischievous, not malicious …

BH cottingley fairies
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was taken in by the Cottingley Fairies.  I might have been, too …

A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act II

“You see, Wendy, when the first baby laughed for the first time, its laugh broke into a thousand pieces, and they all went skipping about, and that was the beginning of fairies.” […]

“And so,” he went on good-naturedly, “there ought to be one fairy for every boy and girl.”

“Ought to be? Isn’t there?”

“No. You see children know such a lot now, they soon don’t believe in fairies, and every time a child says, ‘I don’t believe in fairies,’ there is a fairy somewhere that falls down dead.”1

Discussing Act I, I alluded to the fact that my suspension of disbelief was more taxed by Helena‘s actions than by the whole idea of a fairy realm – how strange is that?

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PTS 10/058: Eat up your Shakespeare

Putting Shakespeare in students’ mouths is often as much fun as feeding a baby – the faces they pull!

BH Shakespeare Food
image (C) Francine Segan

A Midsummer Night’s Dream:  Act I

Shakespeare’s language lives in the mouth, not the ears or eyes.  It needs to be tasted, and one of the advantages of living alone is that I can pace up and down my flat’s lengthy corridor reading tricky lines out loud, or just playing with the inflections of favourites:

I wasted time and now doth time waste me.

I WASTED time and NOW doth time waste me.

I wasted TIME and now doth TIME waste ME.

And so on, like the celebrity skit in the BBC’s Shakespeare400 celebration.  You get the picture.

If it needs to be tasted, it also needs, I suppose, to be CHEWED.  That’s what we often do in the classroom …

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Quote of the Week: 12 February 2018 (#28)

Should we pay more attention to James I before he became King of England?

BH cogwell james i

Thomas Cogswell, James 1:  The Phoenix King (Penguin Monarchs series), (Allen Lane:  London, 2017)

Studying or teaching Shakespeare’s plays, the figure of Elizabeth looms in the background, like the spectre at the feast.

We see it in the ever-present censorship, in the light of the Treasons Acts in 1571 and 1581, outlawing public discussion of the succession.  Or, more positively, in the ‘Gloriana’ cult that produced works like Spenser‘s The Faerie Queen, and flattering nods to Elizabeth wherever you look – like links between her and Theseus in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  We see it in her discomfort with comparisons to Richard II, and the propagandic lionization of Henry VII.

Reading Cogswell‘s short, sympathetic biography has made me reassess the extent to which we / I ignore James until the succession question becomes absolutely critical.

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PTS 09/057: The Love’s Labour’s Lost soundtrack

bh-wurlitzerImagine, if you have been following, the difficulty in putting a soundtrack album together for Love’s Labour’s Lost – a play I was largely disconnected from and apathetic about.

Still, some thought and a trawl through my embarrassing CD collection served up a dozen or so songs, and a few pointers for others.

Question is – as always – what have I missed?

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Crimes Against Shakespeare 010: On ‘Dumbing Down’

This has been on my mind for a while …

BH dumbing down

This is a long read – I say that on a blog where posts often hit 1,300 words, against ‘accepted wisdom’ – so apologies in advance.  YOUR blog is your blog; my blog is MY blog, and I write for catharsis and as a kind of journal, not ‘popularity’, ‘followers’, or ‘influence’.  I was tempted to temper my words with a gallery of pictures, but that didn’t feel right, either.  This post feels a little more personal than most.

In spite of, or maybe because of, constant trawling for Shakespeare-related content, I have only just found this.  Last April, Peter Marks wrote a piece for The Washington Post  (link below) suggesting that Americans are too ‘intellectually lazy’ to appreciate Shakespeare, and fearing for the future popularity of the plays.  My immediate response was ‘you think it’s bad in the US?  Try over here, where Shakespeare was born!’

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