They kill us for their sport.’ (King Lear, IV.i), [a]
In Nick Hornby’s terrific ‘High Fidelity’, the music-obsessed narrator, owner of a record store, is asked to name his favourite songs by a pretty, young journalist type. [b] He has an embarrassing meltdown. Stumbling out a few choices, he resorts to contacting her several times afterwards, with constant revisions to his ultimate ‘best of’ list, until he realises he’s practically stalking her …
Not, repeat NOT, Shakespeare in disguise, thanks very much …
First things first – we need to be clear whichFrancis Bacon we are talking about!
Perhaps reluctantly, we need to steer clear of the 20th Century Irish Existentialist artist whose ‘screaming popes’*, amongst other works, are so disturbingly brilliant.That Francis is part of our ‘cultural capital’ too, but less useful for your studies.
Instead, let’s turn to the man perhaps best known as the ‘father of the scientific method’.In other, crazier, circles, it’s also muttered that he was, in fact, the ‘real’ William Shakespeare.Try to avoid those people – they also tend to wear tin foil hats, believe that the world is flat, and that climate change is a myth …
‘To sleep, perchance to dream – ay, there’s the rub’ (HAMLET: III.i.64)
Titus Andronicus: Act II
What tragedy would be complete without some element of the supernatural, as I have already intimated? This dreadful (in the sense of being full of dread, NOT poor quality) act begins with that classic Shakespearean trope, the bad night’s sleep:
‘I have been troubled in my sleep this night.’ (TITUS: II.i.9)
And Titus has every reason to be subconsciously troubled: although he begins the act quite enthusiastically:
‘The hunt is up’ (II.i.1)
He cannot imagine who the ‘dainty doe’ (DEMETRIUS: II.i. 26) might actually be ..
Part III begins, as Part II ended, with Warwick, perhaps reinforcing his role as ‘kingmaker’, and with the suspicion – to be dealt with later, maybe – that Henry is a ‘Jonah’ on the battlefield.Whoever’s side he appears on (note I don’t say ‘fights’ on) he seems to suck the fighting spirit out of the army like a Dementor whose puppy has just been killed in a hit-and-run accident …