It’s nearly a year (where has the time gone?) since I last picked up a book and decided I’d love to get down the pub for a session with the author (and bear in mind I’m still not drinking: day 70 today). Imagine me, Anthony Sher and Michael Bogadanov setting the Shakespearean world to rights over a few scoops …
Elizabeth I looms in the background of Shakespeare’s early-to-mid work like the spectre at the feast.
It isn’t solely the question of censorship: she is, I think, the yardstick for every depiction of monarchy, leadership or indeed of strong women. Remember, too, that after a frantic period when the monarch (and ruling religion) changed every few years, she assumed the throne before Shakespeare was born, and was perhaps one of the few constants in that dangerous, fluid age, until she died in 1603.
She was also a real anachronism – a woman ruler in an incredibly patriarchal society. But was she a feminist? Should she be regarded as a feminist icon now?
If you flick over to my Goodreads page, you’ll see me taking in a lot more historical fiction this year, and unusually, this week’s quotation is taken from one of them – albeit the introduction.
It’s something to especially bear in mind now The Merchant of Venice has come round in my read-through.
First (my QotW comes later), a few pithy words from Donald Rumsfeld in February 2007:
‘There are known knowns. There are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we now know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we do not know we don’t know.’
Something worth bearing in mind as the Ponytail Shakespeare read-through canters on to The Merchant of Venice …
“this it is, when men are ruled by women” – or at least by their groins …
Although I’m never going to end up on stage, I often compare teaching to acting.
Non-teachers, think for a second: up to six performances a day, with audiences who require subtly different characterisations from you. (My timetable goes from Y12 to Y7 without interval on a Friday afternoon, for instance). That plus the teacher persona you can only shrug off when you’re safely indoors (because even walking down the street you end up intervening when you see pupils in uniform mucking about). To say nothing of the range of people you have to be – in five minute chunks – at Parents’ Evenings …
No wonder I’m perpetually exhausted.
But if I were asked to play a Shakespearean role, what would be my top three choices?
This week finds me in a sombre, reflective mood. Maybe it’s the continuation of Dry January (day 35 without alcohol, thanks very much). There will, mind, be ‘more cakes and (especially) ale‘, at some stage, but not for a few weeks yet. Apparently, I was ‘more fun’ when I was drinking, so bear with me.
Then, today is my younger son’s birthday: 18 today. If that doesn’t give a man pause for thought on how time passes and how he has spent his life, I don’t know what will.
Which brings me to Morris Palmer Tilley. Until recently a footnote in my life, and possibly that or less in yours …