I mentioned the other day that I was coming into King John blind, apart from the Disney film and a vague notion of the Magna Carta. The little I am beginning to accumulate through secondary reading and the play itself is startling.
My fears for Arthur Plantagenet were more or less realised as Act II began, universally patronised with the soubriquet, ‘boy’ and a quasi-contemptuous ‘thy’ by his father’s killer, Austria. And I still sensed that the real quarrel is between Arthur’s mother, Constance, and Eleanor – otherwise why would she come along? Never mind Iron Maiden‘s ‘Bring Your Daughter (to the Slaughter)‘ – how about ‘Bring Your Mother’?
King John, Act I
Having broken out of my Romeo and Juliet-induced enervation, I approached King John with a sense of excitement bolstered by my positive experiences with the Henry VI plays. Unusually, maybe impatiently, I skipped my Arden’s introduction and got stuck in after finding these hopeful signs elsewhere:
“a neglected play about a flawed king” [a]
“King John has all the beauties of language and all the richness of the imagination to relieve the painfulness of the subject.” [b]
So, what did I make of Act I?
There’s an irony that the PTS read-through project has significantly slowed when dealing with the plays I know best.
Mostly, I think it’s because I’ve had too much to say, and been unable to stick to a post-per-act; a post-per-scene is a killer.
So, at least for the moment, I’m moving on from Romeo and Juliet: there’s plenty of room for future posts if I want to revisit it, but I’m hungry for my next new play.
That leaves one thing to do before I move on, and that’s produce the now-traditional soundtrack album.
The eternal question is, of course: WHAT’S MISSING? Drop me a line and let me know …
“There is differency between a grub and a butterfly;
yet your butterfly was a grub.” (Coriolanus, V, iv [a])
It would be too easy to blame my changed reading habits in 2018 on professional busy-ness, or on my health, but there’s no escaping a startling and depressing fact …
Telling stories ABOUT stories seems to be my stock-in-trade when it comes to teaching Shakespeare.
Unusually, I’m going to start with the quotation of the week, from Stephen Greenblatt, rather than work towards it:
Humans cannot live without stories. We surround ourselves with them; we make them up in our sleep; we tell them to our children; we pay to have them told to us. Some of us create them professionally. And a few of us – myself included – spend our entire adult lives trying to understand their beauty, power, and influence. [a]