Monday, January 7, 2019

January 2019


January 2019

Happy New Year! ‘Joy, gentle friends! Joy and fresh days of love accompany your hearts!’ That’s a quote from A Midsummer Night’s Dream so it’s the wrong end of the year but the sentiment fits well with the beginning of a new year.

Not a lot of Shakespeare going on over the holidays for us, so on to the report.

But first, as always, I appeal 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 in Sweden
or Adlibris. Or contact the publisher info@vulkan.se

Shakespeare sightings:
  • In Tana French’s excellent The Trespasser the coroner describes the victim as a fan fiction kind of girl. In one of her (the victim, not the coroner) favourites, Juliet wakes up early and she and Romeo live happily ever after.
  • In This House Is Haunted by John Boyne, the main character Eliza threatens to bring along The Complete Works of Shakespeare in case she’s made to wait for her appointment with the lawyer.


Further since last time:
  • Finished reading aloud with Hal: New Boy by Tracy Chevalier, based on Othello
  • Saw: the play Shakespeare in Love at Stockholm’s Stadsteater. It could never live up to the film and it was annoyingly slapstick but the two leads were good and the décor and staging were brilliant so it was well worth seeing.
  • Had: several signings in the Stockholm area with my alter ego Rhuddem Gwelin of Shakespeare calling – the book and The Merlin Chronicles.
  • Planned: the official launch of An Isle Full of Noises – The Merlin Chronicles Volume 3 at the English Bookshop in Stockholm.
  • Booked: Tickets to Macbeth with an excellent local amateur acting troop.
  • Started reading: Radical Tragedy by Jonathan Dollimore in which he analyses the radical politics of some of Shakespeare’s plays. It’s quite exciting.


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Monday, December 24, 2018

THE BOOK THE BOOK THE BOOK


THE BOOK THE BOOK THE BOOK 

Dear Shakespeare friends,
Thank you all who visited this blog in 2018.  Almost 100,000 of you!

And a huge thank you to those of you who bought Shakespeare Calling – the book, to those of you who asked your local library and schools to buy it, who told your friends about it or who gave it away as a gift. Without your help in promoting the sales of the book, this project could not continue.
If more of you bought the book, or encouraged others to buy it, the publisher would have to print a second edition. Wouldn’t that be lovely? An admirable goal for 2019!
Happy New Year!

Shakespeare calling – the book
‘So generous, so humorous, so wise.’ Kent Hägglund, Svenska shakespearesällskapet


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

or
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Sunday, December 2, 2018

December 2018


An Isle Full of Noises – The Merlin Chronicles Volume 3, by my alter ego Rhuddem Gwelin, is at the printer. Shakespeare and Merlin are about to make their entrance into the world of books.

But there have been other Shakespeare things to report as well. 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 Old Man’s War by John Scalzi, which isn’t worth reading despite the Shakespeare reference, the intergalactic soldiers are asked what they miss from their lives on earth and one answers, ‘Shakespeare in the Park… My last night on Earth, I saw a production of Macbeth that was just perfection.’ Later the main character tells about meeting his future wife while working with her on a high school production of Romeo and Juliet and quoting the love scenes to her.
  • In Laini Taylor’s Days of Blood and Starlight the main character Karou explains to her friend Zuzana why she no longer loves Akiva: ‘You know how, at the end of Romeo and Juliet, Juliet wakes up in the crypt and Romeo’s already dead? He thought she was dead so he killed himself right next to her...? Well, imagine if she woke up and he was still alive, but… he had killed her whole family. And burned her city. And killed and enslaved her people.’ A grim but quite good fantasy book.
  • In She-Wolves the author Helen Castor has so far only used the much- (over?) used quote about discretion being the better part of valour, but in the up-coming chapters she writes about Margaret, Henry VI’s queen, so I’m expecting more.
  • In The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud one of the bad guys had given ‘an intense performance of Othello’. He later informed the heroes that he had also done Hamlet and many other Shakespeare characters. In the end our hero Lockwood tripped him up because of this. A fun book in many ways.
  • On Sverige Idag – Kultur (on TV: Sweden today – culture) it was reported that something was rotten in the western city of Karlstad where an opera, having a laugh a both opera and Shakespeare, was performed. That would have been fun to see.
  • In New Boy, the retelling of Othello by Tracy Chevalier (see below)
    • The teacher had chosen words from Shakespeare which contained silent letters, for example ‘sword’.
    • Dee and her friends had watched Romeo and Juliet on TV recently and her friend Mimi had fallen for Romeo. Their friend Jennifer said, ‘Who did she say Shakespeare is?’ To which Dee answered, ‘You know! He wrote A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
    • When Mimi sees O and Dee together she thinks their black and white arms together ‘was the sexiest thing she had ever seen, even more powerful than Romeo and Juliet making out during the balcony scene.’


Further since last time:
  • Finished reading aloud with Hal: The Merry Wives of Windsor
  • Watched: the Globe production of same on DVD.
  • Started reading aloud with Hal: New Boy by Tracy Chevalier, based on Othello
  • An Isle Full of Noises – The Merlin Chronicles Volume 3 see above…
  • Watched: Gnomeo and Juliet


The insult for today, 3 December 2018: ‘What, you are as a candle, the better part burnt out.’ Henry IV Part 2.

Posted this month
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The Merry Wives of Windsor - what others think


What Others Think
about
The Merry Wives of Windsor

     To be honest, I’m so satisfied with my first text on this play, ‘Wise wives and laundry baskets’ (pp 210-215 in Shakespeare Calling – the book) that I don’t have anything to add this time. So I’ll let others speak. Not that many do, at least not in the books I have.
     For example, A Feminist Companion to Shakespeare only mentions the play in passing in a list of plays that use the word ‘whore’. Disappointing. There is so much more feminist analysis that could have been done.
     Marjorie Garber in her Shakespeare after all comes with little that is new, nor does Soliloquy the Shakespeare monologues the Women.  Language is mentioned, as well it should be, the rise of the ‘middle class’, i.e. the bourgeoisie, is dealt with slightly, Falstaff’s character is touched upon. Nothing too thrilling.
     A Companion to Shakespeare’s Works – the comedies offers a more serious analysis in the essay ‘Unhusbanding Desires in Windsor’ by Wendy Wall. One key sentence sums it up well: ‘…the play affirms female domestic authority and middle class ethics over and above an aristocratic male drive for power, while rooting national identity in bourgeois domestic life’ (p. 378). Well put.
     In the introduction to the play in The Complete Works there is an interesting reference to 17th century author Margaret Cavendish who ‘singled out those wives as particularly strong examples of Shakespeare’s gift for representing women’ and quotes her: ‘…who could describe Cleopatra better than he hath done, and many other females in his own creating, as Nan Page, Mrs Page, Mrs Ford, the Doctor’s Maid, Beatrice, Mrs Quickly, Doll Tearsheet, and others, too many to relate?’ (p. 102)
     The introduction to the Norton Shakespeare based on the Oxford Edition is, as always, spot on. This time Walter Cohen is the author and he starts his analysis with a bang, with a quote from a letter from Friedrich Engels to Karl Marx: ‘The first act of The Merry Wives of Windsor alone contains more life and reality than all German literature’ (p. 1255). The whole introduction is filled with Cohen’s pungent observances: ‘The play takes a jaundiced view of nearly every character with a claim to social standing’ (p. 1255). ‘Is the wives’ triumph…a victory for middle class women… middle class women, or both? (p.1259) ‘…the result is not the expected expulsion of the predatory courtier by a unified town but the undoing of nearly all positions of authority’ (p. 1261). And finally: ‘Its strength lies in its cheerful capacity to absorb all comers…’ (p. 1262).
     Cheerful indeed. This is one of Shakespeare’s funniest plays and though, like all his other comedies it deals with darker aspects of human relationships and society oppression, it’s essentially a kind play, and very very merry.

Works cited:
  • Companion to Shakespeare’s Works – the comedies (eds Richard Dutton and Jean E. Howard, Blackwell Publishing 2006)
  • Complete Works (RSC, eds Jonathan Bate and Eric Rasmussen, 2007)
  • Feminist Companion to Shakespeare (ed. Dympa Callighan, 2000)
  • Norton Shakespeare based on the Oxford Edition (eds Stephen Greenblatt, Walter Cohen, Jean E Howard and Katherine Eisaman Maus – what a quartet!)
  • Shakespeare after all (Marjorie Garber, Anchor, 2004)
  • Soliloquy the Shakespeare monologues the Women (eds Michael Early and Philippa Keil, Applause Theatre and Cinema Books, 1988).


Film seen this time:
  • The Globe version 2012. Director: Christopher Luscombe. Falstaff: Christopher Benjamin. Mistress Page: Serena Evans. Mistress Ford: Sarah Woodward. Master Ford: Andrew Havill. Master Page: Michael Garner. Dr Caius: Philip Bird. Hugh Evans: Gareth Armstrong. Mistress Quickly: Sue Wallace. Ann Page: Ceri-Lyn Cissone. Fenton: Gerard McCarthy. Slender: William Belchambers. Shallow: Peter Gale.
    • Amusing, slapstick. We enjoyed it.



Read ‘Wise wives and laundry baskets’ in Shakespeare calling – the book available here:

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
  • ‘Sly, Bianca and dashed hopes’ in The Taming of the Shrew https://rubyjandshakespearecalling.blogspot.com/2018/09/sly-bianca-and-dashed-hopes-in-taming.html 
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