Monday, November 17, 2014

Monday November 17 2014

Yesterday evening we watched our last version of The Tempest, the Globe production we saw in the summer of 2013. What a pleasure it was to see it again! See the link below if you want to buy it (highly recommended!).  There will be a short review of it in connection with my text on the play, to be posted next week. Suffice it to say at this point that Roger Allam and Colin Morgan, though they’ve done a different interpretation of their roles as Prospero and Ariel than I have done, are brilliant and a pure joy to watch.  And now our longing to be back in London and going to the Globe has been reawakened (it never slumbers deeply...).  But for now, a Monday report.

From Davis and Frankforter’s The Shakespeare Name Dictionary.
  • Poland in Shakespeare’s time was a major power, ruled by Swedish king Sigismund. England was worried about Swedish-Polish aggression. Oddly (or is that just misplaced patriotism on my part?) Poland is mentioned in Hamlet, A Comedy of Errors and Measure for Measure while Sweden is not.
  • Prague was known in Shakespeare’s time as “one of the most prominent marketplaces of ideas, where learning and new ideas were highly valued.”  It is mentioned in Twelfth Night but only marginally.
Shakespeare sightings:
  • In the novel The Last Man by Mary Shelley (author of Frankenstein), there are countless references to Shakespeare.  Here are some of the more interesting:
    • The narrator, Lionel Verney, compares the woman who would become his wife, Idris, to “Miranda in the uninvited cave of Prospero”.
    • His sister Perdita (the name itself is from Shakespeare of course) he compared to Othello because she could say “To be once in doubt, / Is – once to be resolved.”
    • In their political discussion of how to achieve democracy and equality in this England of the late 21st century, Perdita’s husband Raymond says, “Dost thou think because thou art virtuous, there shall be no more cakes and ale?”
    • After a battle in the Greek wars Lionel compares the devastation to Timon’s last feast.
    • When the plague, which in the second half of the book slowly kills off the human race, arrives in London. Idris’s brother Adrian, who had been a dreamer all his life, rises to his princely responsibility, “Like to a lark at break of day arising, / From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven’s gate.”
    • While the plague rages, people still flock to the theatre. Lionel goes to see Macbeth and notes that Shakespeare “had not lost his influence even at this dread period; but was still ‘Ut magus’, the wizard to rule our hearts and govern our imaginations.”
    • Fewer and fewer people are alive and Lionel reflects: “We had called ourselves the ‘paragon of animals’, and, lo! we were a ‘quintessence of dust’.”
    • And in the end, when Lionel is the last man, he retreats to await the end, taking Homer and Shakespeare with him.
  • In some old American crosswords I found and started solving this week, I have seen two clues
    •  Horatio is one of the Danes in this play
    • The starting word in a Shakespeare play. The answer is “All’s”
  • Malala Yousafzai tells us in her autobiography I Am Malala that she missed her copy of Romeo and Juliet when she and her family were forced to move to another town because of the threats of the Taliban.
Further since last time:
  • Watched with Hal: The Globe version of The Tempest.  Available at  The Globe Shop
  • Watched the rest of Season Two and the beginning of Season Three of the Canadian series Slings and Arrows, received from friends KJG and JG, about a theatre troupe putting on Shakespeare plays. Macbeth ended well but there are problems galore with King Lear.
  • Edited: the rough draft of “Ariel’s Freedom” in The Tempest.  If all goes according to plan it will be posted next week.
  • Recorded from TV: Romeo and Juliet with Orlando Bloom. Friend LR has already watched it and says that Juliet is better than Romeo.  I’m curious to see it but it might take awhile. We have a few films of Shakespeare plays we haven’t seen yet and we’ll have to find a strategy.
Posted this week:
  • This Monday report
  • Report on Shakespeare the Biography by Peter Ackroyd

Shakespeare the Biography by Peter Ackroyd

Shakespeare  the Biography by Peter Ackroyd. Vintage, 2005. Read in October and November 2014.

Little is known about Shakespeare’s life but what there is Ackroyd has put together into a very readable book.  All of his non-fiction has a pleasant feel to it. Not only has he done his research but he enjoys his subjects.  Having read quite a lot of biographies and other books about Shakespeare, I didn’t necessarily learn so much from this but liked reading about Shakespeare’s childhood in Stratford and his family life there. Ackroyd shows how his upbringing provided him with knowledge of life in the country which emerges often in his plays.
We follow Shakespeare’s moves around London and since Ackroyd has also written London the Biography the flavour and atmosphere of Elizabethan London comes alive in the descriptions of Shakespeare’s different neighbourhoods.
In general chronological order his plays are presented in the context of historical events and as much of his life as we know. People who knew Shakespeare are also brought to life on these pages.
Shakespeare himself as a witty, lusty, knowledgeable, hard-working professional, a warm and caring and generous friend and family man – though his sense of the economical could make him appear shrewd and even miserly – emerges on these pages and we are left with a clearer picture of him than we have ever seen before.
It was a pleasure to read and if you’re at all interested in reading about Shakespeare, this is an excellent book to start with.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Monday November 10 2014

This morning I finished the rough draft of my text about The Tempest.  I have discovered that I really love this play.  I didn’t so much before. But oh, there is much to be explored in it! But it will probably be another couple of weeks before it’s on the blog. It will take quite a lot of revision, I’m afraid. Inspiration doesn’t necessarily lead to completely coherent writing.  So for now, just this report.

From Davis and Frankforter’s The Shakespeare Name Dictionary.
  • Plantagenet is the name of the royal family that ruled England from 1154 to 1485, Henry II to Richard III. The name comes, possibly, from a plant that Geoffrey, Duke of Anjou and father of Henry II, liked to wear in his hat.  They didn’t start calling themselves Plantagenets until Richard of York needed something posh to call the family in the War of the Roses.  Shakespeare used the term a bit loosely but he did use it, in all of the history plays.
  • Pluto is the Roman name for the Greek god Hades, lord of the underworld. He should not be confused with Plutus, a minor god of riches and agricultural wealth, but Shakespeare often confuses the two, using them in many of the plays.
Shakespeare sightings:
  • In the novel The One Plus One by Jojo Moyes, young Tanzi, mathematical genius, understands the renewal theory and uses the example of monkeys writing Macbeth, given enough time for chance to do it, to show that she understands.
  • Dagens Nyheter had in one of its crosswords the clue “Prince on stage.”  
  • Malala Yousafzai tells us in her autobiography I Am Malala that she once in school in Pakistan wrote a parody of Romeo and Juliet in which Romeo was a corrupt bureaucrat.  Cheeky kid.
Further since last time:
  • Watched with Hal: Julie Taymor’s version of The Tempest.
  • Watched four episode of Season Two of the Canadian series Slings and Arrows, received from friends KJG and JG, about a theatre troupe putting on Shakespeare plays. This time they’re doing Macbeth and true to the myth about the Scottish play, things are not going well.
  • Finished writing: the rough draft of “Ariel’s Freedom” in The Tempest.
Posted this week:
  • This Monday report
  • Report on
    • Shakespeare and the American Musical by Irene G. Dash
    • Shakespeare and Film, a Norton Guide by Samuel Crowl

Shakespeare and Film, a Norton Guide

Shakespeare and Film, a Norton Guide Samuel Crowl. Norton, 2008. Read in May and June 2014.

                      It seems I can never get enough of reading about Shakespeare and film. I have in fact bought and read every book I have found. I’m sure there are more but I’m trying not to look for them.
                      This isn’t so different from the others.  It focuses on the major directors – Olivier, Welles, Branagh, Kurosawa, Kozintsev and Zeffirelli. Taymor is mentioned several times but she doesn’t get her own chapter.
                      One chapter is on Shakespeare films on television, another on the 90’s which brought us, Crowl points out, at least twenty Shakespeare films, most notably, perhaps, Baz Luhrman’s Romeo and Juliet.
The book presents several avant-garde productions, for example two I have been looking for for a long time with no success: Christine Edzard’s  As You Like It and The Children’s Midsummer Night’s Dream. If anyone knows where these might be available, please contact me!
It also deals with camera work, modern technology, opening and closing shots, actors’ interpretations and a myriad of other cinematic aspects of Shakespeare on film.
It’s well worth reading.

Shakespeare and the American Musical

Shakespeare and the American Musical by Irene G Dash. Indiana University Press, 2010. Read in April and May 2014.

                      Since I love musicals this seemed like a must read.  I don’t know quite what I expected – some deep analysis of how Shakespeare has influenced the whole world of musicals maybe. That’s not what I got and I must confess I was a bit disappointed. The book has five chapters about the Shakespeare plays that have been made into musicals: The Comedy of Errors (The Boys from Syracuse), The Taming of the Shrew (Kiss Me Kate), Romeo and Juliet (West Side Story), Twelfth Night (Your Own Thing) and Two Gentlemen from Verona. When I got over my disappointment however I found it a very interesting read.
                      In quite a lot of detail Dash describes the adaption, the stage setting, the music, the humour, the gender roles, the society in which the musicals were first done. The Boys from Syracuse, for example was first done in the late 30’s, Kiss Me Kate in the late 40’s, West Side Story in the 50’s, Your Own Thing in the 60’s and Two Gentlemen from Verona in the 70’s.  This represents an awful lot of changes and shifts in attitudes towards gender, ethnicity, nationalism and many other importance societal questions.
                      Now looking through the book to write this, I realise that it is a very interesting book indeed and I will probably read it again.