QotW: 11 June 2018 (#45)

“Let’s leave politics out of Shakespeare” … Hello? Hello? Anybody in there?

BH thrillist
image:  thrillist.com

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.

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PTS 11/066: Alas, poor Richard …

For God’s sake, let us sit upon the ground, and tell sad stories of the death of kings …

bh-hollow-crown-rii-beach.jpg

PTS read-through:  Richard II, act III (part ONE)

Witnessing the utter disintegration of a human being – even a fictional one – is, I’d suggest, an uneasy, distressing experience.  And yet … 

Voyeuristic shame accompanies the compulsion to keep spectating what is usually such a private affair.  My first experience of this type of slow-mo car-crash literature was Hardy’s The Mayor of Casterbridge, when I was about 12.  It scarred me – I’ve never quite been able to revisit Michael Henchard’s self-induced immolation; it also, I think, gave me my first seductive bittersweet taste of tragedy.  Like that initial stolen underage drink, whilst I wasn’t quite sure I liked it, I wanted another – just to be certain.

Richard’s collapse is the most devastatingly beautiful in Shakespeare, perhaps in the wider canon: it begins here, spanning three poignant acts. 
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PTS 11/065: Stop being such a Dick, Richard!

‘On Brexit, and Ignoring the Advice of Uncles’, as Montaigne might have written …

 

King Richard II

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.

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Scaling Mount Tsundoku

To buy, or not to buy? A completely rhetorical question when it comes to books …

BH sisyphus

“The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.”   Albert Camus (1)

Consider Sisyphus … (2)

A mythical king condemned to spend eternity atoning for his lifetime sins by pushing a boulder up a mountain in Tartarus, only to have it roll to the bottom overnight: as a result, he was obliged to start afresh each morning.

I like to think he is the patron saint of English teachers.  If you are struggling to work out why, the answer’s at the foot of the post.

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The Bookshelf just keeps growing …

Books in the vault, Deck C, Folger Shakespeare Library, 9/11/09
image courtesy Folger Library

Soon there won’t be much room for customers at The Boar’s Head.

… although it still isn’t keeping pace with my book buying.  Buying books and reading books operate in entirely different dimensions, as my overflowing bookshelves will tell you.  When I hit 100 books, which isn’t far off, if you include the Arden Third editions of the plays themselves, I may have to employ an orangutan to take the bookshelf into L-space.  (GNU  Sir Terry Pratchett)

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