Monday, January 6, 2020

January 2020


If music be the food of love, play on. One of my favourite lines, spoken by one of my least favourite characters. Happy Twelfth Night, friends. (You who are on the alert will say, ‘But that was yesterday!’ True, but close enough).

I hope the holidays have been good to you. It has been an extremely quiet Shakespeare month out there. I don’t know if I would agree with Claudio who says in Much Ado about Nothing, ‘Silence is the perfectest herald of joy’ (he’s another least favourite!) but in this silence I have come up with a brilliant (I’m so modest) addition to the monthly report: films with Shakespeare connections. See below. It appears there are a lot of them.

So, here’s the new improved report, starting with links to Shakespeare calling – the book. All support for my work with Shakespeare through purchasing or promoting the book are very much appreciated. Spread the word! Thank you!

The book is available for those of you in Great Britain and parts of Europe on this site:

Or in Sweden
or Adlibris. Or contact the publisher info@vulkan.se

Shakespeare sightings:
  • In the novel The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon the following quote from Richard II is used to start Part III: ‘The bay leaves in our country are all withered and meteors fright the fixéd stars of heaven.’


Films with a Shakespeare connection seen this month:


Further since last time:
  • Very little Shakespeare.

Posted this month
  • This report

  
Shakespeare Calling – the book is promoted by

Read more about my alter ego’s books, in one of which Shakespeare appears live and in person, on:


Monday, December 2, 2019

December 2019


We haven’t had much of a Winter’s Tale yet but at least there is some snow in the Stockholm area.  There hasn’t been much Shakespeare in our lives either this past month, not even yesterday when we were planning to play ‘Shakespeare Trivial Pursuit’ with our friends, EG and EG, and we couldn’t find it! That’s the danger of tidying up. I know where it was before tidying up that corner but where did I put it? I’ll no doubt find it whilst looking for something else. Ah well.

Happy holidays to you all! I wish you loads of Shakespeare!

Here’s the report, starting with links to Shakespeare calling – the book (a good Christmas present for your Shakespeare friends? Or yourself?)

The book is available for those of you in Great Britain and parts of Europe on this site:

Or in Sweden
or Adlibris. Or contact the publisher info@vulkan.se

Shakespeare sightings:
  • In the novel The Big Alone by Kristin Hannah the main characters were reading Hamlet in school.
  • There was a review on Kulturnytt on the TV news of St Albyn’s Dunbar, now translated into Swedish. They also gave information on the series of contemporary novels based on Shakespeare plays (this one is about Lear). The reviewer liked the book and believes Shakespeare would be surprised that we still find Lear interesting. We have the book, but we haven’t read it yet.
  • Macbeth is being performed in Helsingborg, the TV program Sverige Idag (Sweden Today) tells us. It takes place in a modern-day office.


Further since last time:
  • Very little Shakespeare.

Posted this month
  • This report


Shakespeare Calling – the book is promoted by

Read more about my alter ego’s books, in one of which Shakespeare appears live and in person, on:


Monday, November 4, 2019

November 2019


It’s been a long time since I’ve posted a play analysis but this time I have. As I wrote last time, we were inspired by Mark Haddon’s book The Porpoise. I have written my text as a memorial for Professor Harold Bloom, Shakespearean extraordinaire, who died in October. He has figured many times in this blog, and of course in Shakespeare calling – the book. He will, no doubt, continue to appear in coming analyses.

The book is available for those of you in Great Britain and parts of Europe on this site:

Or in Sweden
or Adlibris. Or contact the publisher info@vulkan.se

Shakespeare sightings:
  • In Dagens Nyheter Netflix was mention as having produced ’The King’, a ‘wild mix of Shakespeare’s plays.’
  • In Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel, the anonymous interrogator doesn’t want to give his name, so he tells the man he is interrogating ‘So Romeo, were he not Romeo called, retain that dear perfection which he owes without that title.’
  • It would be very strange if the marvellous novel The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows didn’t have Shakespeare references. And indeed, it has:
    • Juliet calls her friend Sydney ‘too King Lear’ when he criticises her American beau.
    • Eben Ramsey believes that Shakespeare was thinking of men like him when he wrote his plays. His favourite quote is, ‘The bright day is done, and we are for the dark.’ It’s from Cleopatra (I cheated and Googled it).
    • Dawsey writes that the Society will be attending a performance of Julius Caesar because Society members John Booker and Clovis Fossey are playing Mark Antony and Caesar.
    • In the film, which we saw this weekend, Charles Lamb’s book of retelling the plays for children played a large part.

Further since last time:
  • Read aloud to Hal: Pericles.

Posted this month
  • Text ‘Jand and Bloom on Pericles
  • This report 

Shakespeare Calling – the book is promoted by

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Jand and Bloom on Pericles


Jand and Bloom
on
Pericles

     Having recently read Mark Haddon’s The Porpoise, a wild spin-off of Pericles, it seemed a good time to re-read the play. It’s one of Shakespeare’s oddest ones but I’ve always quite liked it.
     While we were reading it, we heard on the news that Harold Bloom has died. This is a great loss for the academic world.
     Bloom and I did not always see eye to eye. I am a historical materialist, new historicist if you like, which Bloom definitely was not. Still, his analyses of Shakespeare were at times both exciting and inspiring.
     In honour of his memory I dedicate this text to him and his work and will highlight some of his insights into Pericles in his book Shakespeare the Invention of the Human.
     The first thing he tells us is that the first two acts are dreadful and cannot possibly have been written by Shakespeare. There seems to be a consensus on that amongst Shakespearean scholars. That’s good to know. They are quite bad.
     Bloom goes on to point out that neither Pericles nor Marina have any personality, unlike Hamlet, Shylock, Cleopatra, Rosalind and others. Instead they are the universal father and daughter and the only thing that interests Shakespeare is their relationship. I wasn’t going to argue against Bloom here, but I must say that there isn’t even much about their relationship. They spend scarcely two days together throughout the play and as Bloom observes, Marina isn’t even allowed any emotional response upon their reunion. Maybe it’s more about their ideas about each other that Bloom finds interesting but even there it is vague.
     If Pericles and Marina lack personality, Pander, Bawd and Bolt make up for it. The scenes with them are funny, appalling and candid in their view on survival in a society that exploits them and looks down on them. However, Bloom doesn’t even mention that Bolt becomes positively reasonable and helpful when he agrees to get Marina work as a teacher of music and other refined skills. Come to think of it, surely Marina’s own insistence on that, after having refused all advances upon her body, gives her a very determined personality, a very strong sense of her own self-worth?
     In my first text on Pericles, ‘Oddities’ (pp. 544-550) in Shakespeare calling – the book, I dealt with a few of the, well, oddities of the play. Though he didn’t use that word Bloom seems to have had a similar reaction to the play. He ends his analysis with, ‘Shakespeare took a high risk with this play. But what remained for him to accomplish? He had revived European tragedy and vastly perfected comedy and dramatic chronicles. What remained was vision, tempered by the necessities of stage presentation. He went beyond Pericles in the romances that followed it, but this play was the school where he learned his final art.’
     Nothing very radical. Nothing very aggravating. Well, just a little. Enough for me to feel the need to argue.
     And that is what I will miss most. The stimulation Harold Bloom offered to see things his way and know that I often saw things another way.
     His work will continue to poke and prod and inspire. So, thank you, Professor Bloom, for that.

Work cited: Bloom, Harold. Shakespeare – The Invention of the Human. 1998.

    

Film seen this time: None

Shakespeare calling – the book available here and other sites:


Monday, October 7, 2019

October 2019


 ‘Feast here awhile, until our stars that frown lend us a smile.’ Is this an encouraging quote? I’ll take it as that since feasting is nice and we can hope that our frowning stars will soon smile upon us. It’s from Pericles anyway, which we are planning to read next (see below).

Again, it’s been a quiet Shakespeare month but here’s the report, after information about where to get Shakespeare calling – the book:

The book is available for those of you in Great Britain and parts of Europe on this site:

Or in Sweden
or Adlibris. Or contact the publisher info@vulkan.se

Shakespeare sightings:
  • In Dagens Nyheter
    • Agnes Lidbeck writes that she’s moved and therefore reorganised her books alphabetically: ‘I comfort Shakespeare with a pat to the cheek. We live here now. I hope you’ll like it next to Strindberg.’
    • it is reported that in a copy of the First Folio in a Philadelphia library the notes in the margins, it has been claimed, were written by John Milton.
  • In A Living Soul (En levande själ) by P C Jersild, the brain Ypsilon wonders how he can know about Lenin, God, Darwin, Pavlov and Hamlet when his memory has been wiped.
  • Mark Haddon’s new novel The Porpoise is based on Pericles and Shakespeare himself appears in a couple of chapters. Now we’re inspired to read the play so that will be next.
  • In The Summer before the War by Helen Simonson the village poet is asked if he wants to pose as Shakespeare in the coming parade.

Further since last time:
  • Decision: to read Pericles next.

Posted this month
  • This report

  
Shakespeare Calling – the book is promoted by

Read more about my alter ego’s books, in one of which Shakespeare appears live and in person, on:




Monday, September 2, 2019

September 2019


September is here. The mountain ashes are heavy with fruit. This time between summer and autumn does not loom large in Shakespeare and indeed one feels suspended between the seasons. But September it is and though it has been quiet on the Shakespeare scene, you have here a short report.    

But first I’ll start, this time as well, with these questions:
  • Have you bought Shakespeare calling – the book? I would be so happy if the answer were yes.
  • Have you asked your local library to buy it? Ditto.
  • Have you told your friends about it? Ditto.
  • Have you promoted it on Facebook and all the others? Ditto.
  • Have you put the book on your want-to-read list on Good Reads? Ditto.
  • Have you read it, rated it, even reviewed it on the sites available, Good Reads, your library, Amazon etc? Ditto.

In other words, I really need your help in promoting the book, and keeping the project alive. It’s a very large book jungle out there and even Shakespeare’s voice can disappear in the din without your help. So, if you see this, please feel inspired to act on these questions!
Thank you!

The book is available for those of you in Great Britain and parts of Europe on this site:
Or in Sweden
or Adlibris. Or contact the publisher info@vulkan.se

Shakespeare sightings:
  • Stephen King is a very literary author and Sleeping Beauties offers an excellent opportunity to refer to Shakespeare, which he and his fellow author son Owen do
  • regarding sleep: ‘…it knitted up the ravelled sleeve of care.’
  • in quoting Queen Mab from Romeo and Juliet: ‘She is the fairies’ midwife…’
  • when the mysterious Evie suggests to one of the main characters Clint that they discuss Shakespeare’s history plays or the last season of Doctor Who. Clever woman, getting two masterpieces in one sentence!
  • In Dagens Nyheter Johan Hilton has written a full-page article about which Shakespeare characters best fit the current Swedish government. Much of the article discusses Stephen Greenblatt’s book Tyrant – Shakespeare on politics. Hilton compares the government to A Midsummer Night’s Dream with the comment that our prime minister Stefan Löfvén can’t tell who’s together with whom or how long the current alliance will hold. It’s a very interesting article.
  • Dagens Nyheter also had an article by Björn Wiman about the climate and asked the question, ‘What if it was the weather that drove Hamlet crazy?’
  • On the Art of Reading by Sir Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch is a collection of lectures given in 1916. Having read about a third of it there are already several Shakespeare references:
    • In studying literature, it is natural that one should have ‘more than a bowing acquaintance’ with Shakespeare.
    • Everything that Shakespeare says about a king even a young boy can recognise in himself.
    • It is natural in humans to construct things and if we don’t carefully control the urge, we might just construct an Othello.
    • The Tempest and other great literature can be truer than a police report.

Further since last time:
  • We’ve just spent a few days in Riga and didn’t come across Shakespeare in any way, shape or form. Other than the copy of Shakespeare calling – the book that I gave to our friends as thanks for their help in arranging the trip.
  • Just ordered today: the above-mentioned book by Stephen Greenblatt Tyrant – Shakespeare on politics.

Posted this month
  • This report 

Shakespeare Calling – the book is promoted by

Read more about my alter ego’s books, in one of which Shakespeare appears live and in person, on:




Sunday, August 4, 2019

August 2019


Summer’s lease has all too short a date, but come on, it’s only August! A whole month left of summer. Our Shakespeare highlight has probably been playing Shakespeare TP (see below) but there have been a few interesting sightings as well. But first I’ll start, once again, with these questions:
  • Have you bought Shakespeare calling – the book? I would be so happy if the answer were yes.
  • Have you asked your local library to buy it? Ditto.
  • Have you told your friends about it? Ditto.
  • Have you promoted it on Facebook and all the others? Ditto.
  • Have you put the book on your want-to-read list on Good Reads? Ditto.
  • Have you read it, rated it, even reviewed it on the sites available, Good Reads, your library, Amazon etc? Ditto.

In other words, I really need your help in promoting the book, and keeping the project alive. It’s a very large book jungle out there and even Shakespeare’s voice can disappear in the din without your help. So, if you see this, please feel inspired to act on these questions!
Thank you!

The book is available for those of you in Great Britain and parts of Europe on this site:

Or in Sweden
or Adlibris. Or contact the publisher info@vulkan.se

Shakespeare sightings:
  • In the Swedish novel En man som heter Ove (A Man Called Ove) by Fredrik Backman, Ove’s wife Sonja had been a teacher of troubled kids and succeeded in getting them to appreciate Shakespeare.
  • In Silver Borne by Patricia Briggs the main character Mercy tells her friend Samuel, ‘Do not go gentle…rage, rage’ when he wants to die and he quotes the ‘Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow’ monolog at her.
  • Like many others, I’m now addicted to playing Quiz on Messenger. Shakespeare pops up in questions now and then. Some answers are embarrassingly obvious, others even I can’t come up with. Sorry, no examples, it goes very quickly.
  • In Jodi Taylor’s What Could Possibly Go Wrong?, time traveller Max points out as her team heads back to 1485 that everyone knows about Shakespeare’s ‘Crookback.’ Max’s team’s mission is to see that Richard III is indeed killed, otherwise history would be badly changed, and that, of course, must never happen!
  • During our ongoing Springsteen marathon we came to High Hopes, an excellent CD that holds up with his previous work. In the song ‘Frankie Fell in Love’ are the lyrics:
  • ‘Our Juliet says her Romeo’s been found’
  • ‘Einstein and Shakespeare, sittin’ havin’ a beer…Shakespeare says, ‘Man, it all starts with a kiss’’
  • ‘Shakespeare says, ‘Man, it’s just one and one makes three, that’s why it’s poetry’’
  • Good old Bruce
  • The Four Horsemen – the discussion that sparked an atheist revolution has Richard Dawkins, Dan Dennett, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens discussing the arguments they meet when they talk about religion and atheism. Richard Dawkins points out that Shakespeare is one of the reasons he’s proud to belong to the human race. Oh yes.
  • Be Kind Rewind, the film with Jack Black and Mos Def, has the heroes refilming films (see it, it’s very good), one of which is The Lion King. Our heroes point out that it’s based on Shakespeare, Hamlet, right?


Further since last time:
  • Played Shakespeare Trivial Pursuit with our dear Shakespeare friends EG and EG in their lovely summer cottage in Hälsningland in north (sort of north, it’s still a long way from the Arctic Circle in really northern Sweden) Sweden. A very enjoyable game.

Posted this month
  • This report


Shakespeare Calling – the book is promoted by

Read more about my alter ego’s books, in one of which Shakespeare appears live and in person, on: