Monday, November 5, 2018

November 2018


I have just proofread the chapter ‘The Tempests’ in An Isle Full of Noises – The Merlin Chronicles Volume 3 by my alter ego Rhuddem Gwelin. It’s the chapter in which Merlin shows Shakespeare that he can control the weather with his magic and creates a great storm, inspiring Will to write, well, The Tempest, what else? This month has been a whirl of mixed Shakespeare and Merlin as this book approaches its publication date.

But there have been other Shakespeare things to report. So I will.

But first, as always, I will mention to visitors of this blog that Shakespeare Calling – the book is available for purchase. Please help promote the book by buying it, of course, and telling your friends about it, by liking and sharing it on Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Bokus…. And please encourage your local book shops and libraries to buy it. Thank you! Your support is needed to keep this project alive.

Available for those of you in Great Britain and Europe on this site:

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

Shakespeare sightings:
  • In The Rise and Fall of Adam and Eve by Stephen Greenblatt the author writes:
    • All the terrible things God sends down upon humans after the fall, things ‘Hamlet calls the thousand natural shocks the flesh is heir to.’
    • Dürer ‘had ventured out in the world and knew that there were more things in heaven and earth than were dreamed of in and around Nuremberg.’
    • Milton was ‘steeped in’ Shakespeare, and in Paradise Lost ‘had ascended the peak that Shakespeare had climbed. He had written one of the world’s greatest poems.’ One can only agree. ‘Milton had brought Adam and Eve to life like Shakespeare had brought Falstaff, Hamlet and Cleopatra to life.’
    • Charles Darwin writes: ‘…as a schoolboy I took intense delight in Shakespeare, especially the history plays.’ And then years later he wrote, ‘I cannot endure to read a line of poetry: I have tried lately to read Shakespeare and found it so intolerably dull that it nauseated me.’ Poor Darwin. What a sacrifice he made for the good of science!
  • In Kim Stanley Robinson’s Sixty Days and Counting he makes two subtle references to Shakespeare:
    • In wondering if it was really true that his little boy’s rambunctiousness had truly been exorcised with a Buddhist chant, Charlie ponders, ‘But there were more things in heaven and earth, etc.; and without question there were very intelligent people in his life who believed in this stuff…’
    • In a dream that Frank had about the President visiting him and his homeless friends, one of these friends recognised the President and said, ‘What’s this, some kind of Prince Hal thing going on here?’ But it was just a dream. Do you dream Shakespeare quotes? I don’t think I ever have…
  • Miranda Kaufmann refers to Shakespeare many times in her very interesting Black Tudors, the untold story, which I (i.e. my alter ego) now have read as part of my (i.e. her) research into the times for my alter ego’s soon-to-be-published An Isle Full of Noises – the Merlin Chronicles Volume 3. Some of the most interesting are:
    • ‘Like Shakespeare’s Desdemona, readers thrilled to hear stories…’
    • The presence of Moroccans in Tudor England and trade with the Arab world is noted in The Merchant of Venice in which one of Portia’s suitors is the Prince of Morocco.
    • There has been much speculation that Shakespeare’s Dark Lady was of African origins.
  • In Maggie O’Farrell’s This Must Be the Place
    • There is a sneaky reference when Daniel’s sisters ‘have been saying that our father could shuffle off his mortal coil at any time.’
    • Claudette, amazed when leaving school at how much they’ve learned, including the ‘sequence of Shakespeare’s plays.’
    • In a flashback chapter Daniel’s mother, long before Daniel was thought of, examines Romeo and Juliet for an explanation of love at first sight, but she’s not convinced by ‘the palm-to-palm stuff and the holy kiss.’
    • Claudette, who has become a renowned actor, tells Daniel that she has played Cleopatra.
  • In the 3rd season of Doctor Who, the episode ‘Daleks in Manhattan’, the 10th Doctor’s companion Martha is asked by the showgirl Tallulah if she has done any theatre. Martha replies, ‘Oh a little. You know, Shakespeare.’ She and the Doctor had just been in 1599 London, on stage, with, you know…. Tallulah: ‘How boring is that!’
  • In the film Rainman, Charlie is amazed that Raymond has read and apparently understood all of Shakespeare.
  • In Ali Smith’s novel Autumn Elisabeth dreams of Miranda coming to her. Miranda is reading The Tempest.  Later Elisabeth remembers her childhood friend, the much older Daniel, bringing her to see the play.
  • In Jodi Taylor’s No Time Like the Past Max remembers one of her earlier time-travelling exploits in which the lost manuscript of a Shakespeare play was rescued.

 Further since last time:
  • Continued reading aloud with Hal: The Merry Wives of Windsor
  • An Isle Full of Noises – The Merlin Chronicles Volume 3 see above…


The insult for today, 5 November 2018: ‘How now, my headstrong! Where have you been gadding?’ Romeo and Juliet.

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Monday, October 1, 2018

October 2018


For us, September has been a calm Shakespeare month. My alter ego Rhuddem Gwelin has taken over my head and has been busy finishing An Isle Full of Noises – the Merlin Chronicles Volume 3 in which Shakespeare plays a small but important role, so I suppose one could say that’s the big Shakespeare project for the moment.

As always, I will here mention to visitors of this blog that Shakespeare Calling – the book is available for purchase. Please help promote the book by buying it, of course, and telling your friends about it, by liking and sharing it on Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Bokus…. And please encourage your local book shops and libraries to buy it. Thank you. Your support is needed to keep this project alive.

Available for those of you in Great Britain and Europe on this site:

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

Shakespeare sightings:
  • In Keith Thomas’s The Ends of Life – roads to fulfillment in early modern England he writes, ‘A persistent theme in Elizabethan and Jacobean drama was the dread of personal annihilation after death, the fear that life might indeed be a tale told by an idiot, signifying nothing.’ There were many other references in the first half of the book (see the June report) but I had to read a couple of other books  before now finishing this one.
  • Dagens Nyheter
    • mentions the production going on in Helsingör in Denmark of Hamlet.
    • has  a review of the Swedish translation of  Ali Smith’s Autumn and mentions that Shakespeare has always been important for Smith. In this one the characters go to a production of The Tempest. It sounds like something I’d like to read. There, added to my to-read list at the local library.
    • has a little notice about a podcast about Shakespeare and politics. The notice ends with, ‘Not surprising that the British bard has a few things to say about us in our time.’
  • In Stephanie Butland’s The Lost for Words Bookshop Loveday works in the bookshop of the title.
    • Book requests fall into four categories. The first is ‘the misremembered/inaccurate. (I’d like a copy of Any Which Way But Loose by William Shakespeare, please.’ ‘Could you mean Much Ado About Nothing?’ ‘No, I don’t think so. It’s a play. Could you look in the drama section?’)’.
    • Archie, the owner, has sold many partial Complete Works of Shakespeare and in the one Loveday now has it’s Romeo and Juliet that’s missing.
    • Archie jokes that he has several passports (it might not be a joke) and Loveday laughs and says, ‘What, if the second-hand-bookshop mafia comes after you because they’ve finally realised you were the one who stole the missing first folio Complete Works of Shakespeare…?
    • Loveday has a messy love life and reckons that having a normal one is about as likely as a copy of Pericles signed by Shakespeare turning up.
  • In The Rise and Fall of Adam and Eve by Stephen Greenblatt the author writes:
    • ‘There are more species in heaven and earth than were dreamed of in the Bible.’ Don’t you just love Stephen Greenblatt?
    • When he was in Iran for a Shakespeare congress, he visited what might be described as a Garden of Eden, at least a restful green place of water in the midst of a great desolate desert.
    • ‘When Shakespeare sat down to write King Lear, he had before him…’ a variety of sources and Greenblatt concludes, ‘ Do we think for a moment that Shakespeare was not the author of his great tragedy? Would we refer to Shakespeare as ‘the redactor’ of King Lear?’ In the discussion of how many people actually sat down to write the first books of the Old Testament. 

Further since last time:
  • Finished writing (well, my alter ego Rhuddem Gwelin did): An Isle Full of Noises – the Merlin Chronicles Volume 3 in which Shakespeare and Merlin are friends.
  • Invited: to give my talk ‘Shakespeare and magic’ in November at Picnicon, the sci fi/fantasy day at the Västerås library.
  • Booked: tickets to Shakespeare in Love at Stockholm’s Stadsteater with Hal and friends MR, AB and LR in December.

The insult for today, 1 October 2018: ‘Damn her, lewd minx! O, damn her!’ Othello. That’s not an insult. It’s a misogynist tragedy.

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Monday, September 3, 2018

September 2018


Summer is cooling down some, but the autumn is bright, and it’s been a Shakespeare-rich month. So, to the report.

But first, as always, I will mention to visitors of this blog that Shakespeare Calling – the book is available for purchase. Please help promote the book by buying it, of course, and telling your friends about it, by liking and sharing it on Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Bokus…. And please encourage your local book shops and libraries to buy it. Thank you. Your support is needed to keep this project alive.

Available for those of you in Great Britain and Europe on this site:

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


Shakespeare sightings:
  • In Alice Hoffman’s The Museum of Extraordinary Things Coralie was given Shakespeare to read as a child. When older she discussed Shakespeare with the Wolfman, so-called because of the fur covering his face and body. The Wolfman was enticed to leave Coralie’s father’s Museum of Extraordinary Things to work for a competitor, reading Shakespeare in his beautiful voice.
  • In The Alice Network by Kate Quinn. When Charlie, looking for her cousin Rose, missing after WWII, finds a strange woman in the wood, she compares her to a Shakespearean chorus, who can explain a strange scene but not why it happened.
  • In the film Only Lovers Left Alive the vampire Christopher Marlowe (in the film 400 years old and played by John Hurt) is credited with writing Shakespeare’s plays. Sonnets are read, and Shakespeare is called a zombie philistine. Despite this silly humour it’s a very good film!
  • In Season 1 Episode 2 of Doctor Who (Christopher Eccleston) Charles Dickens says to the Doctor and Rose after seeing aliens/ghosts, ‘There are more things in heaven and earth, Doctor, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.’ 
  • 1666 – Plague, War and Hellfire by Rebecca Rideal starts with the ‘Brave new world’ quote then later the author mentions that the first woman allowed to act on stage was Anne Marshall, who played Desdemona in 1660. Still later we are told that the son, or possibly nephew of Thomas Cotes, who had printed Shakespeare’s Second Folio, wrote a pamphlet blaming the 1665 plague on the sinfulness of the people.
  • In John Boyne’s novel A History of Kindness the archbishop quotes Shakespeare: ‘Ours is not to question why.’ The narrator points out that it was Tennyson, not Shakespeare. Later he remembers his father as a failed actor who wanted to be ‘alas-poor-Yoricking’ on stage. One of his classmates had been in a school production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and a neighbour girl had been the subject of a sermon by the priest who was as belligerent as a Shakespeare character.
  • In Jerry Brotton’s This Orient Isle, bought at the Globe bookstore, Shakespeare plays quite a prominent role:
    • Peter Baker was a sort of pirate, and also servant to Edward de Vere, ‘the man an eccentric minority still believe wrote Shakespeare’s plays’.
    • The farcical view of Jews on stage became ‘darker and more complicated in the hands of Christopher Marlow and William Shakespeare.’
    • The witch’s quote in Macbeth, ‘Her husband’s to Aleppo gone, master o’th’ Tiger,’ shows how aware Londoners were of the 1583 voyage of The Tiger to Syria bearing letters from Elizabeth to Akbar.
    • Chapter 8 ‘Mahomet’s Dove’ explores the history plays, Shakespeare’s portrayal of Aaron the Moor in Titus Andronicus and Shylock.
    • In Chapter 11 ‘More than a Moor’ Othello is analysed from the perspective of England’s relationship – both in trade and diplomacy – with Arab nations.
    • In the epilogue Shakespeare’s appeal for understanding and compassion for refugees in Sir Thomas More’s long and stirring monolog is quoted in its entirety.
  • In the comic book The Unwritten by Mike Carey and Peter Gross, one of the villains takes poor Tom to the Globe.

Further since last time:
  • Read aloud with Hal: The Taming of the Shrew
  • Saw: the film of same, the Globe version 2012.
  • Wrote: text on same.
  • Read: Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler, based on same. Sadly, it’s the worst of the novels based on Shakespeare’s plays I’ve read so far. Even here Katherine loves Petruchio (or whatever their names are in the book).
  • The insult for today, 3 September 2018: ‘What a disgrace is it to me to remember thy name, or to know thy face tomorrow.’ Henry IV Part 2

Posted this month
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Sly, Bianca and dashed hopes in The Taming of the Shrew


Sly, Bianca and dashed hopes
in
The Taming of the Shrew

     Can we please agree that Katherine in absolutely no way loves Petruchio, that he has tortured her into submission and that theirs is not a happy marriage, at least not for her? If we can do that, if we can agree that like Shylock Katherine is a tragic figure in a funny play, then maybe we can enjoy this silly play in the parts that aren’t quite so tragic.
     For example, Christopher Sly. Of course, as an alcoholic wreck he’s tragic but he’s funny, albeit an odd character to tack on at the beginning.  Or is he so odd? The trick played on him to make him believe that he’s a lord brings an uncertainty to everyone’s identity and status in the play to come and the fact that this whole play is presented as a play offers all kinds of exciting questions about the validity of perceived truths about – dare I say? – gender roles in Shakespeare’s society. Not to mention wondering what Shakespeare was trying to tell us with all this.
     The disguises and switching of roles – Tranio as Lucentio and Lucentio as Cambio and Hortensio as Licio – same thing. Who is really who he is and who is really in his proper place in this class society? Are they all really interchangeable? All the names ending in -io only add to the confusion and humour.
     Bianca certainly should not be ignored. A resourceful lass, she eludes her father’s manipulations much more subtly and effectively than poor Katherine. She ends up with a man she actually loves but does not allow herself to be locked into an oppressive relationship like Katherine. Her answer at the dinner when the wager is on which wife will be obedient is the nonchalant retort that ‘she is busy, and she cannot come.’ When Katherine, at Petruchio’s command, removes her cap and throws it on the floor, Bianca says, ‘Fie! What a foolish duty call you this?’ Lucentio points out to his new bride that he wished she were as duteous since she ‘hath cost one hundred crowns since supper-time.’ Her response: ‘The more fool you, for laying on my duty.’ (All quotes are from Act 5.2.)
     So yes, there are several things I had been inspired to explore after this second reading of the play, and remembering the excellent production by a visiting all-woman theatre group we saw at the Globe in 2013 (see pages 418-19 in Shakespeare calling – the book) I was looking forward to the DVD of the Globe production from 2012 and reading the analysis in Shakespeare After All by Marjorie Garber.
     But no! My hopes were dashed to pieces. No subtleties, no nuances, no darkness. Katherine loves Petruchio = happy marriage.
     No! No! No!
     This is a funny, acerbic, multi-levelled, astute view of society and it ends in tragedy for Katherine.
     That. Is. It. Those of you who think it doesn’t, your arguments are invalid.

Film seen this time:
  • The Globe version 2012. Director: Toby Frow. Katherine: Samantha Spiro. Petruchio: Simon Paisley Day. Grumio: Pearce Quigley. Lucentio: Joseph Timms. Bianca: Sarah MacRae. Biondello: Tom Godwin. Tranio: Jamie Beamish.
    • Loud, farcical, annoying, absolutely no subtlety. Quigley as Grumio was quite amusing, the intro with the drunken Sly pushing his way through the audience was funny. Otherwise this was a dreadful production with the worst imaginable ending – Kate falls dewy-eyed in love with Petruchio and gives her final monologue sincerely and adoringly. Absolutely awful. Globe, you should be thoroughly ashamed of yourself.


Monday, August 6, 2018

August 2018


London, Wales, Bournemouth, London again.  That’s been our July. With loads of Shakespeare. Just look at the report below.

But first, as always, I will mention to visitors of this blog that Shakespeare Calling – the book is available for purchase. Please help promote the book by buying it, of course, and telling your friends about it, by liking and sharing it on Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Bokus…. And please encourage your local book shops and libraries to buy it. Thank you. Your support is needed to keep this project alive.

Available for those of you in Great Britain and Europe on this site:

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


Shakespeare sightings:
  • Often in the afternoon, exhausted from being travellers in the UK, Hal and I would return to our hotel and watch ‘Tenable’, ‘Tipping Point’ and ‘The Chase’ (sadly ‘Pointless’ is no longer shown in the afternoons). From these quiz shows came many sightings:
    • ‘The Chase’: Who said, ‘Who’d have thought the old man had so much blood in him?’ The contestant answered Hamlet.
    • ‘Tipping Point’: ‘From which Shakespeare play is the quote ‘All the world’s a stage’? The contestant got it right.
    • ‘The Chase’: ‘Which Shakespeare comedy has the character Falstaff?’ The contestant got it right, The Merry Wives of Windsor. The answer couldn’t be in Henry plays because they’re history plays, not comedies. Clever contestant. Although maybe Wives is more well-known?
    • ‘Tipping Point’: ‘Who wrote the play with the characters Leontes and Hermione?’ Contestant: ‘Chaucer.’ Boo hiss.
    • ‘Tipping Point’: ‘Which of these films were based on a novel?’ One of the alternatives was West Side Story, which the contestant knew was based on Romeo and Juliet.
    • ‘The Chase’: ‘In which play does Orsino love Olivia?’ The contestant got it right.
    • ‘The Chase’: ‘Which play is set the earliest, Henry V, King John, Richard III?’ The contestant got it right.
  • In the excellent The Boy on the Bridge by M R Carey
    • Kat Foss notes that they are ‘maybe five miles from where Birnam Wood made its unexpected visit to Dunsinane castle in the play Macbeth, but there was no danger of that here.’
    • Later Samrina Khan notes that the droop of her commanding officer’s mouth is like ‘a line from the play Macbeth. I have supped full with horrors,’ and thinks, ‘But who hasn’t, these days?’
  • In The Devil You Know, by the same author under a different name, Mike Carey, the narrator Felix Castor tosses in Shakespeare quotes and references from time to time:
    • When forced into an exorcising job he doesn’t want: ‘Some men have greatness thrust upon them.’
    • When the rather scary boss becomes too familiar with him by using his first name, Felix decides that ‘the better part of valour is to let it pass.’
    • After an obscure reference that neither I nor the man he was talking to got, he reflects, ‘What’s the point of an Oxford education if nobody gets your Shakespearean references?’
    • When the ghost he is trying to exorcise becomes a bit violent Felix reflects, ‘Discretion is the better part of staying alive.’
    • When his employer, who in fact has fired him, sees him later she stared at him ‘with an expression like the one Banquo’s ghost must have used on Macbeth.’
    • I like this Felix Castor. I’ll be reading more of him!
  • In the novel Unexploded by Alison Macleod, the main character Evelyn had read Tales of Shakespeare as a child in England in the 1920s.
  • In the YA fantasy novel Weave a Circle Round by Kari Maaren, the main character Freddy knows all about Shakespeare because her mother is an English professor and only half-listens when her teacher says they will be working with A Midsummer Night’s Dream this term.


Further since last time:
  • Bought at Oxfam in Cardiff because of the title, read and left on the beach in Bournemouth: Bad Romeo by Leisa Rayven, about two young actors playing Romeo and Juliet and having a wild passionate love affair. If it wasn’t the worst book I ever read, it was one of them. There must be a cosmic law against abusing Shakespeare in this way?
  • Bought at the Globe shop:
    • Hamlet and As You Like It T-shirts
    • Hamlet and As You Like It notebooks
    • A Globe bag
    • Globe pencil boxes with coloured pencils
    • Pens
    • The book The Orient Isle by Jerry Brotton, important in my alter ego’s research for An Isle Full of Noises – the Merlin chronicles volume 3, dealing with the vast Islam influence on the Elizabethan era, including Shakespeare and his plays. I’ve read several chapters. It’s fascinating!  
  • Saw, at the Globe, with friends EG and EG, Hamlet.
    • Hamlet!!! It’s the first time Hal and I have seen it on stage. It was EG and EG’s first visit to the Globe. It should have been brilliant and in some ways, it was. We all love Hamlet, we all love the Globe. It was a brilliant experience to see this play in this place with our dearest Shakespeare friends. But…
    • Some things were good. Richard Katz was one of the best Poloniuses I’ve seen. Helen Schlesinger was appropriately angry in the beginning of the bedroom scene. The musicians were, as always, very good. The miming player queen (Tanika Yearwood, good in all her small parts) opens her mouth wide to scream her grief over the death of the king and the horns blast out – the only moment in the production to give me a little ripple of emotion. Shubham Saraf, as Ophelia, does well in his/her first mad scene. The ending dance, somber and monochromatic, was good. The audience was enthusiastic. But…
    • Some of the most important monologues were given so far back on stage that the pillars blocked our view. Though I liked the gender-bending concept, this production did nothing exciting with it. There was no chemistry between Michelle Terry’s Hamlet and Shubham Saraf’s Ophelia. Some of the most important lines, e.g. ‘There are more things…’, ‘I have of late…’ and ‘I loved Ophelia’, are muffled or tossed off as though of no significance. The ‘To be or not to be’ soliloquy was so low-key that I actually dozed off and Ophelia’s following monologue made no emotional impression. The production as a whole made little emotional impression. There were good moments but sadly, the four of us were in agreement that this production does not do justice to the play’s genius.
    • We have seen film versions with David Tennant, Kenneth Branagh, Adrian Lester, Penny Downy, Julie Christie and so many other great actors that our expectations were probably unreasonably high. In any case, we were all very happy to have been there and would be very happy to see it again, despite its weaknesses.
  • Saw the film:
    • Cymbeline BBC version
    • Cymbeline RSC version
    • Cymbeline Almereyda version
  • Wrote text on Cymbeline
  • The insult for today, 6 August 2018: ‘You sunburnt sicklemen, of August weary, come hither from the furrow and be merry.’ The Tempest. More an invitation than an insult, don’t you think?

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Sunday, August 5, 2018

Cymbeline x 3


Cymbeline
x 3

     In ‘You might well ask’, my first text about Cymbeline (pages 616-621 in Shakespeare calling – the book) I dealt with the historical aspect of the Roman-English political conflict, which was a good choice. With this second reading I find that the play has much more to offer. On the surface it has many of Shakespeare’s oft-used themes: resourceful young woman who dresses in men’s clothing to chase down the weak young man she’s in love with, cruel father, evil queen, false accusations of infidelity, nobility in commoner disguise.  Always good for studies of character and society.
     Since reading this play last, we have added two film versions of it to our collection. We have previously seen the excellent BBC version. In this analysis I will simply compare the three films, all of whom make good use of these themes.
     But first a summary of the play.
     Innogen, the daughter of King Cymbeline, has married his foster son Posthumous. The king is enraged and banishes him. In exile he meets Giacomo who wagers with him that Innogen is not faithful. Giacomo goes to England, fails to make Innogen believe that Posthumous has been unfaithful to her, but succeeds in spying on her and falsifying evidence showing that she has been unfaithful to Posthumous with him. When told this, Posthumous rages that he will kill her. Meanwhile, Cymbeline’s two sons who had been kidnapped as infants have been raised as hunters in the wilderness. Cymbeline’s evil queen’s son is in love with Innogen and vows to get revenge on her for loving Posthumous instead. Furthermore, the Romans demand tribute from England. Cymbeline refuses. It’s all quite complex, in other words. However, it is not a tragedy so after many twists and turns it ends happily.
     So, to the movies.
     First out, the one we’ve already seen, the BBC version from 1982, directed by Elijah Moshinksy, with Helen Mirren, Robert Lindsay, Claire Bloom, Paul Jesson and Michael Pennington. The encounters between Innogen (Mirren) and Giacomo (Lindsay) are among the most enthralling I’ve ever seen, visually strong, disturbing and emotionally intense. Pennington’s portrayal of Posthumous’s neurotic obsession with Innogen’s supposed infidelity is strongly done.  This play has more depth and complexity of character than the silliness of the story would suggest and the cast, with Mirren as its leading beacon, does more than justice to Shakespeare’s fascinating study of the individuals in class, gender and political conflicts of Roman Britain. This is one of the BBC box’s best; one of the best productions, full stop.
     Next, the RSC version from 2016, directed by Melly Still, with Bethan Cullinane, Oliver Johnstone, James Clyde, Marcus Griffiths and Hiran Abeysekera. There is some gender-bending which works well enough. The costumes are a motley mess of bizarre semi-modern clothing, the scenery surreal, the music eerie and at times funky. The tone is often that of a hammy farce, bringing occasional titters from the audience. The non-British characters speak Italian, French and Latin, which also works. For those not familiar with the play there are screens with the text. We had subtitles. The surreal absurdity distracts from rather than enhances the play. I find the visual and musical theatricality – at the same time both minimalistic and elaborate – appealing but it doesn’t reach much emotional height. It is interesting to watch but has almost none of the depth of feeling of the BBC version and makes much less impact, though it lifts at the dramatic end.
     Finally, the 2014 version, directed by Michael Almereyda, with Dakota Johnson, Ethan Hawke, Milla Jovovich, Anton Yelchin, Penn Badgley, and Ed Harris. This modern-day version generally got terrible reviews and indeed it is confusing. Cymbeline is the King of the Briton Motorcycle gang which is at war with a crooked cop gang. Otherwise the story is the same and the lines are Shakespeare. There are cars, bicycles, cigarettes, T-shirts, jeans, hoodies, black leather jackets, guns and more guns, mobile phones/cameras, American teenagers, skateboards, Google and President Obama on TV. It’s all curiously remote. Many of the monologues are done as voice-overs and much of the dialogue is choppy and low-key, relaxed, spoken with a shrug.  In its own peculiar way, it’s faithful to Shakespeare’s play. And in its own peculiar way, it works. It’s one of the most interesting modernisation spin-offs of Shakespeare I’ve seen.
     That’s the three of them. A comparison? Almost impossible. They are so different that they might not be the same play. Except that they are. For a straightforward serious production, the BBC version can’t be beat for the acting and powerful emotional impact. For a sort of modern version with interesting innovations that don’t always seem relevant, the RSC version has its merits and should be seen. For the weird smack-in-you-face-today’s-reality version, don’t miss Almereyda.
     In fact, don’t miss any of them. And really, don’t miss this play. It may be obscure, it may be long and rambling, but it grows more powerful and complex with each reading.
     After all, it is Shakespeare.




Sunday, July 1, 2018

July 2018


June has been chaotic what with houseguests and Sci-fi/fantasy conventions, and other distractions so this won’t be much of a report. All the more for next time, if everything goes according to plans.

As always, I will mention to visitors of this blog that Shakespeare Calling – the book is available for purchase. Please help promote the book by buying it, of course, and telling your friends about it, by liking and sharing it on Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Bokus…. And please encourage your local book shops and libraries to buy it. Thank you. Your support is needed to keep this project alive.

Available for those of you in Great Britain and Europe on this site:

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


Shakespeare sightings:
  • In the novel Chasing Fire by Nora Roberts
    • she uses Shakespeare quotes to open a couple of the parts: ‘Soon kindled and soon burnt’ and ‘A little fire is quickly trodden out /Which, being suffered, rivers cannot quench.’
    • Rowan, as she leads her firefighters into the battle, is told by one of her crew that it is not exactly Saint Crispin’s day. She asks him, ‘Where are you out of, Shakespeare? I’ve read Henry the Fifth.
    • All this does a little to raise a rather bad book to an almost entertaining one.
  • In the very interesting Red Planets – Marxism and science fiction, edited by Mark Bould and China Miéville, Shakespeare is mentioned three times:
    • ‘The typical lifeworld of SF is (to adapt to Shakespeare’s well-known phrase from the play that marks his own nearest approach to SF) a brave new world.
    • The film Alphaville is described as a ‘hilariously self-conscious triumph of pastiche’ which is based on everything including ‘loftier sources such as …Shakespeare.’
    • ‘…SF texts have rifled through the western cultural legacy in search of inspiration: Forbidden Planet (Wilcox, 1956) famously rewrote The Tempest with Robby the Robot in the role of Ariel. But SF readers, writer and critics do not claim Shakespeare for their own in anything like the way Gernsback claimed Poe, Verne and Wells…Borrowings from Shakespeare…can be important and interesting; but they are borrowings from outside the selective tradition of SF, nevertheless.’

Further since last time:

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