Sunday, May 1, 2016

May 2016

What a Shakespeare month April has been! Newspapers and television have been filled with Shakespeare, his plays are everywhere, celebrations have abounded. So much has happened that I scarcely know where to begin. So I’ll just begin:
Shakespeare Calling – the book
or Adlibris, CDON or Bibliotekstjänsten
Please help promote the book by liking and sharing it on Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Bokus…. And please encourage your local book shops and libraries to buy it!
Once again, thank you all for visiting the blog throughout the years and for supporting this project.

From Davis and Frankforter’s The Shakespeare Name Dictionary:
  • Wye is a river flowing from southern Wales to the Bristol channel. The name is Celtic for ‘conveyor’. It is mentioned in Henry IV Part One and Henry V. 

Shakespeare sightings:
  • In the novel The Long Room by Francesca Kay the main character Stephen, when he was at university, fell for the student playing Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Later when leaving a pub, his colleague says, ‘Once more into the breach, old man.’ Another colleague whose baby niece has been saved by modern medicine says, ‘…when people say that they’d like to have lived in ancient times so that they could have had a chat with Shakespeare, I point out that they probably would have died at birth…’
  •  Dagens Nyheter has had so many articles that I will just mention a few: a comparison of Othello and today’s fear and hatred between ethnic groups, a review of an opera version of Hamlet, a rather uninteresting Sunday supplement with various articles about the 400th celebration, a notice on how the Shakespeare hype in England is even worse than here in Sweden, one on Shakespeare and Cervantes sharing the same death date but not day, a long article by Salmon Rushdie about Shakespeare and Cervantes, an interview with well-known actor Mikael Persbrandt doing Macbeth, a review on a Twelfth Night
  • In the very good novel In the Woods by Tana French
    • DCIs Rob and Cassie are talking about Shakespeare and Rob wants to continue but Cassie starts telling him about an attempt to molest her when she was a child.
    • Rob is questioning the father of the victim and asks, ‘Who’s the Shakespeare fan?’ The father doesn’t understand until Rob points out that the man’s three daughters are called Rosalind, Jessica and Katharine, all Shakespeare characters. The father replies that Rob is the first to have picked up on that, and yes, he had gone through a self-improvement period when he read Shakespeare, Milton and other classics. I hadn’t picked up on it…
  • In the novel Bodies of Light by Sarah Moss, young Ally is given A Midsummer Night’s Dream which her puritanical mother finds unsuitable. Ally thinks about various Shakespeare characters throughout the novel.
  • In Jodi Taylor’s One Damned Thing After Another, in which the characters are skilled time travellers, they find two lost Shakespeare plays about the Scottish queen, which makes them realise that some mistake has been made in their travels and history has been changed.
  • In Mark Billinham’s 5th Tom Thorne novel Tom’s friend Phil Hendricks philosophises about human nature and comes to the conclusion that if you want Shakespeare you also get Shipman (a mass murderer, I had to Google him).
  • On The Third Rock from the Sun Dick and Mary are playing a sex board game and Dick gets the question, ‘What’s the craziest thing you’ve done in bed?’ His answer is that he staged Othello in bed and Desdemona was played by a duvet.
  • On The X Files someone (I didn’t note who) used the phrase ‘mortal coil’ etc.
  • On Kulturnytt Jeanette Winterson is interviewed about her new book The Gap in Time, roughly based on The Winter’s Tale, one of a series of novels based on Shakespeare plays. She said among other things that reading Shakespeare is a reality check, comparing today’s refugee situation with the shepherds taking care of baby Perdita in The Winter’s Tale. Today we say that refugee children aren’t our problem and turn them away and Winterson asks, ‘What have we learned in the past 400 years, really?’ 

Further since last time: 
  • Read aloud: excerpts from Shakespeare Calling – the book at a well-attended ‘Breakfast talk’ at the English Bookshop in Stockholm
  • Received and started reading: Kent Hägglund’s Shakespeare en man för alla tider.
  • Performed: with SEST the program for the 400th anniversary on the 23rd and 24th April. On the 22nd Macbeth only was performed but I was there with Shakespeare Calling – the book. All three performances were sold out. Some comments from the audience: ‘brilliant!’ ‘impressive!’ ‘magical!’ ‘the best thing I’ve seen in years!’ ‘I’ll never see a Shakespeare play in Swedish again!’, ‘sooooo impressed, enjoyed everything immensely!’  See further ‘On stage with Shakespeare’, posted today.
  • Bought: Howard Jacobson’s Sherlock is My Name, one of a series of novels based on Shakespeare plays.
  • Watched, a few days after the live sending: Shakespeare Live with the RSC and BBC. It’s available on Svt-play until 15 May Don’t miss it! 

Posted this month

On stage with Shakespeare


Happy circumstance brought me into contact with SEST – the Stockholm English Speaking Theatre - and after Facebooking with each other for a month or so they invited me to work with them on their Shakespeare 400 project.


It can have escaped no one that this April marks the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death. To honour this, SEST planned three comeback performances of their successful Macbeth and their well-received Angry Shrews and Merry Wives, a medley of some of Shakespeare’s most interesting women.

And they wanted me to become involved.


In a program of about two and a half hours (including Macbeth) I was given ten minutes. A lot can be said in ten minutes! They wanted anecdotes on being a bardolator, on Shakespeare’s language, on the prevalence of Shakespeare in our society and on the Rose and the Globe.  No problem! On their Angry Shrews and Merry Wives, I thought bits from the play analyses from the book (blog) might be interesting. Not as easy as I thought but after the first rehearsal and seeing what they actually do, and after wise suggestions and requests from the troupe, things fell into place.

Rehearsing. I don’t know when I’ve had so much fun.  Especially dress rehearsal when it starts feeling real (almost), in the amazing medieval Black Friars cellar in Stockholm’s Old Town. Lines are flubbed by most of us and my other job as costume assistant helping Viola change from her Cesario togs into her Mistress Page gown – hooks were missed in backstage murkiness and bulges appeared on the back. But isn’t that the way dress rehearsals are expected to go?

Then suddenly it’s time. The audience is in place and Kristina steps onto the small platform and says, ‘All the world’s a stage!’ The others converge with their lines and then together, ‘Sans everything!’

My cue!

I step out from the backstage nook, not stumbling on the uneven centuries old stone steps, and into the limelight. Nervous, but not. Through the glare I see the faces of friends, on Sunday Hal too, and lots of strangers.  I feel an enormous affection for each and every one.

Me: ‘Hello. I’m Ruby. I’m addicted to Shakespeare.’

They listen, they smile, they laugh. If they notice my small stutters and memory losses they don’t seem to be bothered.

My first bit is done and I step off stage to perch on the stool next to Keith, later to be Macbeth but now doing the sound and lights. Richard steps up to do his powerful interpretation of some of the sonnets and before the applause dies away Ingela enters the stage to start the troupe’s hilarious machine gun exchange of Shakespearean insults.

What? Already my turn again? Back on stage to offer some insight into theatre history in Shakespeare’s day and a few sentences from the book/blog’s play analyses to introduce Angry Shrews and Merry Wives.

Then my bits are over and it feels good! No disasters, lots of laughs. I could get used to this applause…

I slip backstage and listen with the waiting Viola/Cesario as Ingela’s strident Emilia debates with Helena’s sugary southern belle Katherine. It gets a lot of laughs. Viola – on stage, then off and I help him/her become Mistress Page as Helena’s Juliet and Ingela’s Beatrice discuss men over drinks. There is a time factor here but well before Juliet and Beatrice have finished their drinks all of Mistress Page’s hooks are in place and there are no bulges! I listen as Mistress Page and Mistress Ford rage about Sir John Falstaff and plot their revenge. The audience loves it. Then poor Helena (Ingela) and Hermia (Helena) – just like in Shakespeare the names can be confusing! – battle it out in the Midsummer Night’s forest.

Can it already be the finale? Kristina steps out onto the stage again, the troupe offer the epilogue of As You Like It, ending with ‘bid…me…farewell!’

It’s over! But for the bows and I step again onto the stage between Keith and Richard and we bow and it’s sad and happy and wonderful and it’s over and I just want to do it again. And again.

On stage with the brilliant, hard-working, devoted and very talented Kristina Leon, Ingela Lundh, Helena Lewin, Keith Foster and Richard Asker.

On stage with Shakespeare. Loving every minute of it.


PS Off stage too, while they do Macbeth, I admire the calm competence of Jenni Söderqvist, prop and costume and everything-else manager extraordinaire.

PPS Macbeth is even better, if possible, than in November. See review here

Sunday, April 3, 2016

April 2016

Shakespeare fever is spreading as the 400-year anniversary of his death approaches.  See below for coming events. March itself has been a busy month. Among other things we’ve finished reading the Henry VI trilogy and my text is now on the blog. Richard III is waiting in the wings.
Now to the report:

Shakespeare Calling – the book
Available on
or Adlibris, CDON or Bibliotekstjänsten
Please help promote the book by liking and sharing it on Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Bokus…. And please encourage your local book shops and libraries to buy it!
Once again, thank you all for visiting the blog throughout the years and for supporting this project.

From Davis and Frankforter’s The Shakespeare Name Dictionary:
  • Woodstock – Henry VI was there! Not the one you’re thinking of, however. This one is the royal forest in Oxfordshire that ‘was a favourite retreat for kings throughout the Middle Ages’.  Henry VI was captured there, at least in Shakespeare’s play. Blenheim palace, known amongst other things for Branagh’s Hamlet, is found there. 

Shakespeare sightings:
  • On the subject of despairing thoughts in Third Rock from the Sun Dick’s new lady love Jennifer spouts some poetry, as she tends to do, and then says, ‘Shakespeare.’ To which Dick replies admiringly, ‘He’s good!’ In a later episode, when he believes he is about to be interviewed about his intellectual prowess Dick proclaims, ‘Some are born great, some achieve greatness and some thrust their greatness upon others!’
  • In Isaac Asimov’s massive Guide to the Bible he compares Tobit, in the book bearing his name, to Polonius, because Tobit too gives his son advice before sending him off on a journey.
  • In the novel Academy Street by Mary Costello the hospital library where the main character Tess spends much of her time while recovering from an illness has Romeo and Juliet in its collection.
  • Dagens Nyheter had a 5-page spread about the significance of King Lear in the political situation of today: ‘Johan Hilton sees a tragedy about politicians who are no longer capable of steering their country and right-wing populists who are shredding the little remaining decency.’
  • Dagens Nyheter also has a review of a production of Romeo and Juliet in which the two lovers have lived into old age and are now living together in a pensioners’ home. It’s described as unexpectedly successful if not analysed too much.
  • Imagine our surprise when we started seeing full-page adverts for the Royal Opera with our dear friend ÖB - who is sought after in advertising as well as small roles in films, partly because of his magnificent beard and general wise old wizard good looks – as Falstaff! He assures us however that he doesn’t play Falstaff in the coming opera…
  • In John Le Carré’s classic spy novel Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy Guillam (the character played by Benedict Cumberbatch) thinks that he’s ‘not so sure whether Percy realised, on that first presentation of the facts, quite what the facts were: after all, he was still Chief, and Haydon was still his Iago.’ 

Further since last time: 
  • Read aloud: excerpts from Shakespeare Calling – the book to a well-attended gathering at our local library under the heading: ‘Why Shakespeare?’
  • Finished reading aloud with Hal: Henry VI Part Three.
  • Seen with Hal: BBC’s version of Henry VI Part Three.
  • Written: analyses of Henry VI Part One, Two and Three.
  • Ordered but not received: Kent Hägglund’s Shakespeare en man för alla tider and Tina Packer’s Women of Will: following the feminine in Shakespeare’s plays.
  • Work started: with SEST on the program for the 400th anniversary 22, 23 and 24 April. Those of you in the Stockholm area – do not miss this!
  • Event posted on Facebook: at the English Bookshop in Stockholm ‘Breakfast Talk: Ruby Jand on Shakespeare Calling, 21 April’. Those of you in the Stockholm area, welcome! 

Posted this month
  • ‘Holy Henry’ in Henry VI Parts One, Two and Three
  • This report

Holy Henry in Henry VI Parts One, Two and Three

Holy Henry

Henry the Sixth, Parts One, Two and Three

     In the introduction in the RSC edition to all three of these plays bearing his name, King Henry VI himself is scarcely mentioned. This is symptomatic and accurate.
     This Henry is even less visible than his grandfather Bullingbrook is in his two plays. While Joan of Arc makes fools of the French and English alike and Talbot blusters his way to defeat in Part One, while the Duke of York decides that he should be king and Margaret uses her formidable force to betray Henry and at the same time protect him and the throne in Part Two, and while vicious civil war rages in Part Three, Henry wafts around in the periphery, uttering holy platitudes that only earn the contempt of the Yorks and frustrated impatience from his own Lancastrians.
     The man who would not be king. A king not whatsoever hereafter.
     Shakespeare does not glorify his kings. Even those who have historic reputations as heroes or villains are given a human complexity by Shakespeare. The hovering Harry in these three plays is as far from heroic or villainous as can be imagined, but is he complex in his holiness?
     Let’s take a look.
     In Part One we first see him when he is pleading with Gloucester and Winchester to stop feuding. He uses such words as ‘prayer’, ‘love and amity’, ‘my soul’ and laments that ‘holy churchmen take delight in broils’ (Act 3.1). In Act 3.4 he makes Talbot Earl of Shrewsbury in an unremarkable little speech. Later he expresses dismay at the budding conflict of the roses:

Good Lord, what madness rules in brain rich men,
When for so slight and frivolous a cause
Such factious emulations shall arise? (Act 4.1)

I quite like him for these lines. They could be said in regard to many conflicts. Alas, the Yorks and Lancastrians don’t listen, even after Henry, in Warwick’s words, ‘Prettily, methought, did play the orator.’ Prettily, yes but without dealing with the conflict.
     In the last act he laments, regarding the wars with France, that it is

…both impious and unnatural
That such immanity and bloody strife
Should reign among professors of one faith (Act5.1).

     His glorious dad should have thought of that. Henry agrees however to marriage with a French princess after protesting that he’s too young and prefers his books. Poor Henry. If he only knew what he was agreeing to. In the final scene, however, he claims his devotion to the ‘beauteous Margaret’ and waxes lyrical over how her virtues awaken ‘passions in my heart.’ But then in his final lines in Part One he reveals that it’s not so much love for the young princess but that he expects her to ease his unrest:

I feel such sharp dissension in my breast.
Such fierce alarums both of hope and fear.
As I am sick with working my thoughts…
…Be gone, I say, for, till you do return [with Margaret],
I rest perplexèd with a thousand cares…
…so conduct me where from company
I may revolve and ruminate my grief (Act 5.5).

     Piety does not protect young Henry either from the strife of court intrigues or his own neuroses.
     Part Two, then.
     Margaret arrives, eager to wed the king and play her part. He welcomes her graciously enough but we soon learn that he is not what she had expected. She says:

…all his mind is bent to holiness,
To number Ave-Maries on his beads:
His champions are the prophets and apostles,
His weapons holy saws of sacred writ.
His study is his tilt-yard, and his loves
Are brazen images of canonized saints (Act 1.3).

     This she says to macho Suffolk and she’s clearly not pleased with her holy husband.
     In Act 2.1 we see that Margaret is causing trouble and Henry frets about the dissension. He is then piously amazed by the miracle of the blind man seeing, only to have his piety mocked by the hoax.
     Next problem: the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester. Henry is firm in dealing with Eleanor’s accomplices: ‘the witch in Smithfield shall be burned to ashes’ and the others ‘shall be strangled in the gallows’ (Act 2.3) but when Gloucester is to be dealt with, though Henry goes on about his grief, he tells the queen and cardinal to do what they’re planning, and exits. Overwrought, yes. Cowardly, no doubt. Pious? Not especially. Kingly, not at all. He later swoons at the news of Gloucester’s death and appeals to God for forgiveness in suspecting foul play.
     When Suffolk is accused of treason Henry is resolute enough and banishes him. He says to Margaret:

Ungentle queen, to call him gentle Suffolk.
No more, I say: if thou dost plead for him,
Then wilt but add increase unto my wrath.
Had I but said, I would have kept my word:
But when I swear, it is irrevocable… (Act 3.2).

     Ah, so there is some oomph to Henry and maybe he’s not foolishly blind to Margaret and Suffolk’s shenanigans after all. When Margaret later grieves, cuddling Suffolk’s severed head (yuck) Henry says – indifferently? sarcastically? callously? –

How now, madam?
Still lamenting and mourning for Suffolk’s death?
I fear me, love, if that I had been dead,
Thou would not have mourned so much for me (Act 4.4).

     Maybe a bit clever, our Henry.
     Sadly, no rest for Henry. Cade on one side, York on the other. And maybe not so clever, after all. Henry puts his staunchest supporter, Somerset, in the Tower and utters his classic understatement:

Come, wife, let’s in, and learn to govern better,
For yet may England curse my wretched reign (Act 4.10).

     And that’s about it for Part Two. Despite his feeble attempt to stand his ground – ‘Can we outrun the heavens? Good, Margaret, stay’ (Act 5.2) – Henry runs.
     Part Three opens with Henry protesting feebly over Richard’s claim to the throne and offering the compromise of declaring Richard and his sons heirs to the throne when Henry dies. This does not please Margaret, their son Edward or the Lancastrians. In any case the agreement doesn’t last long because everyone immediately goes back on their oaths as Shakespeare’s characters tend to do. Full war ensues.
     Henry is upset to see Richard’s head on the gates of York and tries to instil some valour into his son when knighting him, ‘…draw thy sword in right’ (Act 2.2) – easy enough to say. His allies and enemies wrangle about this and that and when Henry says ahem can I say something? – or to quote:

Have done with words, my lords, and hear me speak.
…I am a king and privileged to speak (Act 2.2).

- it is simply embarrassing because they all ignore him. He utters not another word until three scenes later when he alone as the battle rages around him contemplates the simple life of a swain and the passing of time. At this point he witnesses the son grieving over having killed his own father and the father grieving over having killed his own son. Henry says:

Was ever king so grieved for subjects’ woe?
Much is your sorrow: mine ten times so much (Act 2.5).

     Hardly. Here I lose patience with the good king Henry. He is not as unhappy as the son or the father, he’s just self-aggrandising. Not admirable.
     In the next scene he uses kingly logic with the hunters but is arrested anyway and taken off to the Tower. He is rescued by the side-switching Warwick but cedes the power to Warwick and Clarence, ‘While I myself will lead a private life’ (Act 4.6).
     Finally, we think. Still he’s upset at the thought that people might love King Edward (oh yes, Edward of York has seized the throne, forgot to mention that) more than him because he, Henry, has been kind, mild, loving. Oh well, to the Tower he goes.
     And soon ends up dead, at the hand of Richard of Gloucester, the future Richard III. Before dying Henry in detail describes to Richard’s face his, Richard’s, villainy.
     So it goes. Henry is dead. Richard is plotting.
     We have seen Henry as a young unsure king who prefers his books to love, serenity to conflict.  We have seen him filled with care and grief, sometimes with obvious cause, sometimes not. We have seen him swoon, evade his responsibilities and resolute in punishing traitors. We have seen him unhappier for his own problems than that of his subjects’ and we have seen him recede in silence when ignored.   
     Does this all make Henry complex? Or just piously wishy-washy? He is no doubt pious. Does Shakespeare admire Henry? Maybe. He’s quite gentle with him. But these plays, we should realise, are not about Henry. They are about what Jan Kott calls ‘the Great Mechanism…a great staircase on which there treads a constant procession of kings. Every step upwards is marked by murder, perfidy, treachery. Every step brings the throne nearer. Another step and the crown will fall…From the highest step there is only a leap into the abyss. The monarchs change. But all of them – good and bad, brave and cowardly, vile or noble, naïve and cynical – tread on the steps that are always the same’ (Kott, pages10-11).
     In this cynical but accurate description of the historical process Henry scarcely emerges as just an unfortunate individual born into the wrong role. Actually the historical Henry founded Eton, Cambridge, Oxford and other colleges for which we are grateful and this proves that he wasn’t so wishy-washy. But in these plays he stumbles on the steps of kings, piteously pious Holy Henry. We can but hope his holiness gives him comfort.

Works cited:
  • William Shakespeare, the Complete Works, the RSC edition, 2007. Edited by Jonathan Bate and Eric Rasmussen
  • Kott, Jan. Shakespeare Our Contemporary. 

Films seen (the following is what I wrote the last time these films were seen but after this viewing I have no reason to change my assessment):
  • BBC, 1983. Director: Jane Howell. Cast: Joan - Brenda Blethyn; Talbot – Trevor Peacock; York – Bernard Hill; Warwick – Mark Wing-Davey.
    • Brenda Blethyn is great as the arrogant saucy Joan but less convincing as a tragic defiant figure. Trevor Peacock is appropriately macho and frustrated in a fittingly somewhat stupid bull-headed way.
  • 1983, BBC. Director: Jane Howell. Cast: Henry – Peter Benson; Margaret – Julia Foster; Gloucester – David Burke; Suffolk – Peter Chapman; Duchess of Gloucester – Anne Carroll.
    • The intro in the Norton edition calls the production ‘tepid’. I tend to agree but in spite of my complaints [about the interpretation of Margaret in my text ‘Margaret’s Marriage to Henry’], it's always very gripping to see. Shakespeare shines through no matter what. David Burke as Gloucester is best but Peter Benson is a convincing wimp.
  • 1983, BBC. Director: Jane Howell. Cast: Henry – Peter Benson; Margaret – Julia Foster; York - Bernard Hill; Warwick – Mark Wing-Davey; Edward – Brian Protheroe: Clarence – Paul Jesson; Richard of Gloucester – Ron Cook.
    • Confusing at times but generally well done. The York family is well acted.
  • I’m so looking forward to seeing the Hollow Crown production, to be shown this year, with Tom Sturridge and Sofie Okonedo as Henry and Margaret.

Seen on stage: No

Sunday, March 6, 2016

March 2016

Since we’re still reading the Henry VI trilogy there will be no play analysis this time but there has been quite a lot going on in the world of Shakespeare so here’s the report:

Shakespeare Calling – the book
Available on
or Adlibris, CDON or Bibliotekstjänsten
Please help promote the book by liking and sharing it on Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Bokus…. And please encourage your local book shops and libraries to buy it!
Once again, thank you all for visiting the blog throughout the years and for supporting this project.

From Davis and Frankforter’s The Shakespeare Name Dictionary:
  • Wittenberg’s most famous student was undoubtedly Hamlet but a few others studied at this German university founded in 1502. The city itself is from the 12th century. D&F write that the fact that Hamlet and Horatio studied there ‘would indicate they were at the forefront of thinking at their time.’ 

Shakespeare sightings:
  • In the novel Caedmon’s Song, by Peter Robinson, Martha, contemplating the meaninglessness of life, recalls Shakespeare’s lines, ‘As flies to wanton boys, are we to gods; They kill us for their sport.’ Later her alter ego Kirsten, in trying to remember what her attacker looked like, compares the frustration to trying to find a phrase from Shakespeare when you can’t remember which play it was from (the book takes place in pre-Google says).
  • In the novel Summer in February by Jonathan Smith the boisterous and not very likeable artist Alfred Munnings compares himself to Macbeth at the end just before Macduff gets him, and later to Falstaff depending on his instincts. He compares a friend of his to Pistol and says that Shakespeare would be proud of him.
  • In the novel Blackout by Connie Willis the characters are time travellers on a mission to study everyday life in England during World War II. One the agents, Polly, uses names from Shakespeare as her aliases. An actor in a bomb shelter performs Shakespeare to help his companions avoid panic during the bombing. Shakespeare’s plays are wrongfully cited frequently by his fellow bomb shelter friends. Shakespeare quotes are often used to head chapters.
  • In the sci-fi novel The Lives of Tao by Wesley Chu, one of the aliens occupying human form had, it turns out, occupied Shakespeare and written his plays for him.  In this life she calls one of the centres for the good guys the Capulet Ski Lodge.
  • In the novel After You by Jojo Moyes Louisa’s mother, who is rebelling against the restraining role of housewife, says that before she shuffles off this mortal coil she wants to try new things.
  • In the novel A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers by Xiaolu Guo the young Chinese main character Z thinks that since Shakespeare spelled so badly she doesn’t have to be ashamed of her spelling. She also discovers the author Anon and thinks she likes him better than Shakespeare. She also points out to her British lover that the Chinese invented paper so that Shakespeare could write his plays centuries later.
  • In discussing names on the TV series Endeavor the lovely Kay says, ‘A rose by any other name…’ In a later episode, the last for Season 3, Endeavour says to his old professor when the bell rings for the second half of the concert, ‘We have heard the chimes at midnight.’
  • In Dagens Nyheter there was a notice about the new X Files in which the series is described as speaking boldly about George W Bush being part of the conspiracy and Fox Mulder siding clearly with Edward Snowdon (we’re in the middle of Season 5 so haven’t seen this). The notice goes on to say that they wouldn’t have dared do this in the ‘90’s but (and here comes the Shakespeare) ‘that the best stories outdo history in time has been shown, for example, by Shakespeare in Richard III. In 400 years George Bush will have fangs and eat babies.’
  • In the film About Time Tim says, ‘Some of my best sleeping has been done at the Royal Shakespeare Company.’
  • In The Third Rock from the Sun Dick says, ‘I believe it was Mr William Shakespeare who said, “Parting is such sweet sorrow”.’
  • In Isaac Asimov’s massive Guide to the Bible he points out that the ‘murder of an anointed king, regardless of the personal characteristics of that king, is bound to be looked upon with horror by people taught to believe that the anointment represented the adoption of the monarch by a deity. This quasi-holy character of kingship served to protect kings from assassination down to modern times.…Shakespeare, in his historical plays, sees some of the disasters befalling England in the fifteenth century as being the consequence of the forced deposition and later murder of Richard II (even though Shakespeare recognizes him as an unworthy king).’
  • Dagens Nyheter had a 3-page spread about the 400-celebration and some of the productions going on in England. Oh I want to go to England! But we have things happening here in Sweden too. See below!  

Further since last time:

  • Posted on Facebook: by blog follower Kalle ‘I was just watching a video on Nico Video (Japanese YouTube). It was a song using Vocaloids (like Hatsune Miku if you know her). Anyway, in the song Shakespeare came up! I was surprised. I didn't realize people here knew about him at all. tongue emoticon It goes "約束"は人を誘う シェイクスピア. Which means "Promise" invites people; Shakespeare. (Hard to translate.) Actually I just ran into another random Shakespeare. This time it was in a manga I was reading. The 5th volume of "Boku Dake ga Inai Machi", in which an elementary school girl is reading Shakespeare on a bench. She finds it hard to grasp. One of the others say he has only read Romeo and Juliet, and they exchange the start and end of some famous citation. Not sure which. (You haven't reached the bottom if you say you've reached the bottom? Or something like that.) Aya Nakanishi is her name btw.’ Any comments from Japanese visitors to the blog?
  • Participated in: a very interesting discussion on As You Like It arranged by the English Bookshop in Stockholm together with Bio Rio which was broadcasting the performance of the National Theatre’s production. Unfortunately Hal and I couldn’t stay for that but the discussion was very inspiring.
  • Finished reading aloud with Hal: Henry VI Part Two.
  • Seen with Hal: BBC’s version of Henry VI Part Two.
  • Started reading aloud with Hal: Henry VI Part Three. Next month I should post an analysis of all three plays.
  • Discussions started: with SEST on how to work together on the 400th anniversary. Those of you in the Stockholm area – do not miss this!
  • Scheduled: with the local library a lecture on Shakespeare, Wednesday 23 March, 6.00 p.m. Those of you in the Stockholm area: welcome! 

Posted this month
  • This report