[Warning: you might want to stop reading now, if you voted for Brexit]
Ponytail Shakespeare read-through: King John, Act V
It’s all a bit shabby, isn’t it, at the end of the day?
Act V holds Hamlet‘s ‘mirror up to nature‘ [a]: Shakespeare might be exploring the ‘Commodity’ of the times, but I can’t avoid building synaptic bridges to the realpolitik of the shameful goings on in the UK’s parliament over the past few years. I ought to be far too old for the kind of idealistic rage I feel, but even at a relatively young age, I’m determined to ‘burn and rave at close of day‘ [b] …
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’?
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.
Ponytail Shakespeare read-through: Romeo and Juliet, Act I, scene i
Regular readers will understand my complex relationship with the notion of ‘England’.
The catchy simplicity of Three Lions (It’s Coming Home) turned from pleasantly nostalgic ‘earworm‘ – I well remember the song’s release for Euro ’96 – to a cankerous ‘worm ‘i the bud‘ [a] long before Wednesday’s almost inevitable defeat to Croatia. The entire nation, it seemed, had been reduced to a vocabulary of just three words – a mantra which was unchallengeable, a self-evident truth destroyed in just 120 minutes (if only Brexit could fall as quickly.) As I watched people (including several students) spill out of The Sun – opposite where I was drinking – in a numbed state of shock after the match, I was glad I wouldn’t hear it for a while. Having ‘sat like Patience’ I was now, almost, ‘smiling at grief’. To no avail: by 11am the next day – no lie – I was hearing “World Cup 2022: It’s Coming Home” in the corridors of ‘C’ Block … sigh.
Has this anything to do with Romeo and Juliet? Of course.
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 …
‘On Brexit, and Ignoring the Advice of Uncles’, as Montaigne might have written …
PTS read-through: Richard II, act II
Richard II plays against the backdrop of an enormous cosmic clockface. Our poetic but ineffective, spiteful monarch ends act I cynically hoping to arrive too late; he begins act II suffering the consequences of being early, getting an earful from his uncle.
What Richard does miss, though, is Uncle Gaunt’s remarkable crie de couer on the state of the nation. It’s an interesting, beautiful swansong, the breathless anaphora creating a crescendo of patriotic fervour – but I have three issues with it.