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.
– – –
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 …
“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.
Almost nothing seems to have changed in 400 years … as usual …
subtitled, ‘Food for powder‘
Matthew Beaumont: Nightwalking: A Nocturnal History of London (London: Verso Books, 2015)
My recent article on Gayle Rubin‘s important Feminist work, ‘The Traffic in Women’ touched upon what has been historically expected of women, especially working class ones. Rubin takes a look at the Marxist position before developing it into a gender rather than class-specific argument: the commodification of women in the marriage market. It’s an excellent read.
And we see Rubin’s position everywhere in Shakespeare and the EMP, where women constantly struggle against the social imperative to marry a man who ticks boxes for their family / parents, love coming as an unexpected bonus. Even comedies such as The Dreamfeature the tension between ‘kinship‘ and ‘companionate‘ marriages.
To say nothing of the pressures Elizabeth I was under, of course …
In my article, I dipped into Beaumont‘s book for a supporting quotation, but it’s been weighing on my mind. I think it needs to be considered on its own merits.
“This is all the UK has to show for itself. The situation is urgent. Please think of others far worse off than you and give generously”
For those who don’t know Mr Woolfe, he was hovering on the edges of glory at UKIP for a few years, challenging for the ‘leadership’ at one stage, until leaving in high dudgeon after a classy physical altercation with a colleague, and now standing as an ‘Independent’. UKIP is, for the uninitiated, the United Kingdom Independence Party – a political party of xenophobic, borderline racist, swivel-eyed loons who have done as much as anyone else to get us into this desperate Brexit mess.
Mr Woolfe is currently one of my MEPs (Member of the European Parliament). I didn’t vote for him. But tonight, to my shame, he represents me.
The consequences of people feeling there is no legal, peaceful alternative might be grim … Shakespeare shows us that in Titus and elsewhere.
I know you all, and will awhile uphold
The unyoked humour of your idleness:
Yet herein will I imitate the sun,
Who doth permit the base contagious clouds
To smother up his beauty from the world,
That, when he please again to be himself,
Being wanted, he may be more wonder’d at,
By breaking through the foul and ugly mists
Of vapours that did seem to strangle him. (PRINCE HAL: 1 Henry IV. I.ii)
I’d love to ascribe these lines to our leaders, but I reserve them for myself today …
Claiming ‘Shakespeare was this or that’, or worse, ‘Shakespeare did not write the plays’, does NOT entitle you to a mic-drop. It just shows your intellectual bankruptcy …
I’ve written elsewhere about the Rally of Revenge – about my unease that once you abandon all faith in ‘due process‘ or ‘justice‘ (either earthly or divine); once you understand that inequality is endemic, you have nothing left to lose – if you are already losing – so keep raising the stakes until someone has to leave the game. If it’s uncomfortable, perhaps it’s also sometimes necessary, to affect change of a fundamentally broken system. You might not see the benefits yourself. Hey, if you have to leave the game, then so be it: losing can become preferable to playing along, eventually.
There are always other games, other paths, whilst we are still alive – experience has taught me that, even if Shakespeare hasn’t.
And that’s where I find myself, professionally, this weekend. Approaching change, but ready for it, and maybe, in some ways, relieved that an unhappy stasis has broken. There are always other games.
There is a third way – for revenge – I’ve not written about before. The poet George Herbert(1593-1633) suggested that:
Living well is the best revenge.
And I’ll embrace and adapt that, in a ‘standing on the shoulders of giants‘ sense.
Living well equals happiness. LAUGHTER is the best revenge.
Today, I intend to laugh at someone. Long, and hard.