Thankfully, we can’t have a third series of The Hollow Crown, but what about adaptations of the Roman plays?
If there’s one thing my (currently stuttering) Pony Tail Shakespeare read-through project has given me so far, it’s a greater love for the History Plays. Once the project is (eventually) finished, I’m looking forward to reading them again merely for pleasure.
Gifted, abominable, yet capable of producing ‘the mighty line’ …
It’s episode 52 – not a continuous year (the first post is here), but a year nonetheless, so I’m going to indulge myself a little this week. Will you be able to tell the difference, I hear you ask!
Bear with me whilst I tell you a story:
In eighteenth-century France there lived a man who was one of the most gifted and abominable personages in an era that knew no lack of gifted and abominable personages. His story will be told here. His name was Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, and if his name – in contrast to the names of other gifted abominations, de Sade’s, for instance, or Saint-Just’s, Fouché’s, Bonaparte’s, etc. – has been forgotten today, it is certainly not because Grenouille fell short of those more famous blackguards when it came to arrogance, misanthropy, immorality, or, more succinctly, wickedness, but because his gifts and his sole ambition were restricted to a domain that leaves no traces in history: to the fleeting realm of scent. [a]
Marlowe probably DID make a hazard of his head by easing his heart …
The more I read about Marlowe, the more I like and sympathise with him – arrogant, frustrated genius, malcontent, morally questionable, and attention-whore as he may have been. I sense a kindred spirit: my best friend would say the same about me – perhaps with a lot more arrogance and a lot less genius. As I get older, I like to think that my moral code is finally begining to crystallise, where it was entirely fluid 25 years ago, but then Marlowe never had the opportunity to mellow …
Increasingly, I see Marlowe as the kind of ‘mis-shape‘ Jarvis Cocker sung about in 1995:
Hot ice and wondrous strange snow: the appetite for articulation …
Frequently, I ask my class to step into the time machine and join me back in 1592.
Conveniently, it’s as close as we can get to dating both Richard III and Edward II, my Key Stage 5 texts. The other plays I teach at the moment – Much Ado About Nothing and Macbeth – follow on from here.
This period was a crucible in which Drama as we know it was being born, alchemically transmuted from the didactic Morality Plays into something fresh and exciting. With my Marxist critical hat on, if we can understand the contextual elements poured into that cauldron, we can better appreciate and analyse the resultant heady brew.
Love it, hate it? Just try it, and see what happens …
Stephen Greenblatt: Tyrant: Shakespeare on Power, (Bodley Head: London, 2018). ISBN: 9781847925046.
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I probably need to declare my bias, not least for new visitors.
I’m an unashamed socialist (I don’t understand how an educator could be otherwise, given that our efforts benefit society more than ourselves); I’m anti-Brexit in the UK, and anti-Trump in the US. One of my most popular blog posts, from two years ago, equated Richard III with Trump. “I am unfit for state and majesty” indeed …
All the world IS a stage, where Richard is concerned …
Year 12 face their mock exam this coming Friday, with varying degrees of panic.
So, this week’s QotW is actually a BOGOF offer. I often talk about Richard III being a ‘season finale’ to the History plays. The chameleon quotation above comes from the penultimate episode, as you might remember, people. Richard is – at least until it all begins to unravel for him – the consummate actor.
“Let’s leave politics out of Shakespeare” … Hello? Hello? Anybody in there?
If I had a pound for each time I was challenged, ‘What’s Shakespeare got to do with me?‘, this blog would have more bells and whistles on it, as well as many more posts to reflect not having to work for a living.
This week’s post was prompted in part by reading somewhere in my recent internet travels, the notion of ‘keeping politics out of Shakespeare.’ That plus a ‘setting the world to rights‘ drinking session which was actively, intensely political, and which was also chock-full of Shakespearean dilemmas and situations.