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 …

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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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Machiavelli: The Prince (review)

‘… men must be either pampered or crushed …’

BH the prince 9780141912004Niccolò Machiavelli:  The Prince, (transl. George Bull, ed. Anthony Grafton), (Penguin Classics: London, 2003).  e-book ISBN: 9780141912004 (£2.99)

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Niccolò Machiavelli … the name has a seductive musicality, like all the Devil’s best tunes, and in Italian, ‘Il Principe’ uncoils like a snake, before hissing and then biting. This, his most famous work, has insinuated its way into our psyche until ‘Machiavellian’ has become part of a sinister cabal of authorial-adjectives including ‘Orwellian‘, ‘Lovecraftian’ and ‘Kafkaesque‘.  Yet how many people appreciate its true meaning, having read ‘The Prince’?  Is its reputation merited?  Is it a useful, topical read, or a dusty, centuries-old curiosity?

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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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Macbeth: Villain, or Victim?

Can I REALLY be an apologist for Macbeth? I think so.

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Kate Fleetwood and Sir Patrick Stewart as the happy couple …

“Something something isn’t Macbeth a villain!?!?!? something something.”

This is someone’s response to my suggestion that Macbeth (and, incidentally, his wife) is one of Shakespeare’s most ‘memorable’ characters.  The ‘something’s are their words.

It set me thinking … IS he a villain, or simply a victim?  Can I really be an apologist for him, I asked myself?

I reached for my Arden …

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Quote of the Week: 11 December 2017

We only want to be kings because we don’t fully understand what it involves?

BH Lee_1603Christopher Lee, 1603 (Review:  London, 2003)

Not THAT Christopher Lee, obviously!

In class, we’ve seen it in Edward II and, I think, Richard III.  There are hints of it for my younger students in Macbeth.  But I see it everywhere: in Richard II, Henry IV, Henry V, Henry VI.

 

In Twelfth Night, Malvolio tells us:

“be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon ’em” (II.v)

Quite simply, the message I consistently get from EMP plays is that greatness – in this case being monarch – is never, ever, all it’s cracked up to be …

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Quote of the Week: 04 December 2017

“Don’t expect gratitude from anyone who makes it thanks to you”

BH machiavelli

Subtitled:  The Curse of the ‘Without-Whoms’

Niccolò Machiavelli, Il Principe (The Prince) original publication 1532

This is close to the top of my list of for the Cultural Capital series – a short, highly influential read, freely available: something which, frankly, you ought to have read by the time you hit university – whether or not you are an English Lit student.  It’s the kind of thing that certain people, in certain circles, will expect you to have a working knowledge of in the big bad world.

Anyway, to this week’s quotation.  Consider the following:

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