Monday, March 31, 2014

Monday March 31 2014

Monday March 31 2014
And now we’ve finished reading Pericles.  I’ve even written most of the first draft on the text.  There are still the intro and other analyses to read and the BBC production to watch but there is a possibility that the text will be up next week.

From Davis and Frankforter’s The Shakespeare Name Dictionary.
  • Hotspur, i.e. Henry Percy, was a real person and he had real reason to be annoyed with Henry IV as he is in Henry IV Parts One and Two but he wasn’t Prince Hal’s age (he was older) and he probably wasn’t killed by Prince Hal, as in Shakespeare’s plays.
  • Hybla was a town on Sicily near Syracuse known for its honey. It’s mentioned in Henry IV Part One and Julius Caesar.
Shakespeare sightings:
  • In the book Idiomantics – The Weird World of Popular Phrases by Philip Gooden and Peter Lewis there was one more Shakespeare reference. It was in the explanation for “What goes around comes around”: “Shakespeare has two versions...both negative. In King Lear, a fatally wounded character says ‘the wheel has come full circle’ acknowledging the justice of his death and referring to the wheel of fortune.  And in Twelfth Night, the humiliated Malvolio is told ‘thus the whirligig of time brings in [its] revenge.’”
  • In London a Social History by Roy Porter, we haven’t even quite reached Shakespeare’s time but there have already been three references:
    • Flemish artist Antonis van der Wyngaerde’s map “hints at the local colour Shakespeare dramatized though the Bankside theatres had not yet been built.”
    • Eastcheap, as we know, was where Falstaff liked to drink.
    • London was quite a peaceful city compared to other European metropolises of the Renaissance period and Porter points out that “London never had Montagues and Capulets.”  It did have red roses and white roses but porter doesn’t mention that here and, to be sure, most of that conflict didn’t take place in London.
  • The young Japanese gold medal winner in the skating World Cup did some of his final skating to music by the Scottish Craig Armstrong composer to the soundtrack of Luhrman’s film Romeo and Juliet.
  • Dagens Nyheter had a full page, in honour of Shakespeare’s coming 450th birthday, on novels written about him or his works. Among those mentioned are Josephine Tey’s The Daughter of Time (Richard III), Astrid Lindgren (War of the Roses), Margaret Atwood (Gertrude), Virginia Woolf (Shakespeare’s sister), Mark Twain (Romeo and Juliet) and Agatha Christie (Macbeth and Lear).
Further since last time:
  • Finished reading aloud with Hal: Pericles
  • Wrote: rough draft of text on same.

Posted this week:
  • This Monday report.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Monday March 24 2014

Monday March 24 2014
Pericles is moving along quickly. In fact it might be the play where the most happens in the fewest number of pages.  I quite like it and wish we had more than one version to watch. Ah well. Otherwise this week has offered a couple of books with quite a lot of sightings and one with one. So here we go.

From Davis and Frankforter’s The Shakespeare Name Dictionary.
  • Holborn is the road leading into London from the west via Newgate.  This where the bishop of Ely had his strawberries that Richard III pretended to want, although D&F don’t mention that.  It’s actually not far from the British Museum so we might have walked there ourselves!
  • Holland was having its war of independence against Spain during Shakespeare’s lifetime.  That’s a bit mind boggling, isn’t it?
Shakespeare sightings:
  • The highlight of this week has been reading One of Our Thursday is Missing by the brilliant Jasper Fforde.  It’s the sixth (or seventh if you count the deleted one in the list) in the series and while Thursday herself is indeed missing, her stand-in, the written Thursday, comes to the rescue. It’s actually quite a sad book even though it’s at the same time wildly funny. And it has many Shakespeare sightings:
    • When the Book World has been Remade, the written Thursday looks up at the sky in amazement and whispers, “Oh brave new world that has such stories in it!”  If you’d like to comment here and tell us which play and the original word used where Thursday says “stories”, you’re more than welcome.
    • Written Thursday’s written housekeeper, Mrs. Malaprop, is often hard to understand and they’re considering using Dogberry stem cells to cure her.
    • Written Thursday’s new stand-in Carmine asks in awe of the real Thursday, “Did she really take Hamlet into the RealWorld?” They go on to discuss Iago’s visits to Sons and Lovers, the importance of playing your character subtly different on alternated readings – “Hamlet’s been doing it for years”, says written Thursday to Carmine – and to Carmine’s question about ever having met Hamlet the reply is, “No, but I saw the back of his head at last year’s Book World Conference.”
    • When faced with complex problems, written Thursday says, “It appeared that something, while not exactly rotten in the state of the Book World, was far from fresh.”
    • On her way to the Jurisfiction headquarters written Thursday goes via Shakeaspeare Terminus.
    • Both unsure if written Thursday is the real Thursday with mental problems, Landon asks her questions only the real Thursday could know the answers to. One of them is about their first date and written Thursday says, “At the Alhambra. The Richard III thing.” Landon says that that was later.  (In the first book - do you remember?)
    • Written Thursday is introduced to members of the “Siblings of More Famous BookWorld Personalities” self-help group, including Tracy Capulet “who has slept her way around Verona twice.”
    • Later Tracy is mentioned as having locked her more famous sister in a cupboard.
    • Standing in as the real Thursday at the Jurisfiction office written Thursday hears a report that Othello seems to have murdered his wife to which the Commander replies, “Again? I do wish that trollop Desdemona would be more careful when she’s fooling around. What is it this time? Incriminating love letters?” He’s very upset when he hears that it’s a handkerchief and wants to speak to Iago immediately.  When told Iago is busy doing a spin-off of Hamlet...well this gets quite complicated with Shylock and Portia involved as well so I suggest you read the book!
    • In an advert for Fforde Ffiesta at the end of the book the question is asked, “Do you want to speed- read “To be or not to be?”
  • In the book Idiomantics – The Weird World of Popular Phrases by Philip Gooden and Peter Lewis there are, for obvious reasons, quite a lot of Shakespeare sightings:
    •  In a discussion on how “uncle” figures in various phrases, Claudius, the murderous uncle of Hamlet, is given as an example of how uncles aren’t always so nice.
    • The connection between “apple-pie order” and the ghost of Hamlet’s father may seem very tenuous but the authors manage to make it.
    • The expression “to buy the farm”, meaning to die, is connected to the gravediggers in Hamlet.  Actually I think the authors are just name-dropping...
    • “Hoist with one’s own petard,” on the other hand is actually from Shakespeare, Henry V to be more exact and we are told that a petard is an explosive device commonly used in siege work. So obviously we don’t want to be hoisted on one, our own or anyone else’s.
    • In explaining “kick the bucket” Falstaff’s reference to a worker with a brewer’s bucket is mentioned. Falstaff is, as we know,  quite the expert at brews.
    • “Not enough room to swing a cat in” was probably not a figure of speak but quite literal in Shakespeare’s day since Benedick in Much Ado about Nothing has no qualms about abusing a cat if he ever falls in love.
    • “At one fell swoop” was first used in Macbeth. And in Hamlet fell is used to mean cruel.
    • “It’s all Greek to me” was coined in Julius Caesar.
    • To steal someone’s thunder came about in the 17th century when different ways of producing thunder in theatres were tried. A rather unsuccessful playwright John Dennis was at a production of Macbeth when he realised that his invention for thunder was being used in this production. He was not pleased.
    • “For the rain it raineth every day” is cited as an example of how many expressions we have dealing with the weather
  • In Good-bye to Berlin by Christopher Isherwood, upon which the play and film Cabaret is based, the protagonist has written a novel, the title of which, All the Conspirators, is taken from Julius Caesar. When telling a new acquaintance this, the new friend claims that Shakespeare is almost a German poet because the translations of his works are so fine.
Further since last time:
  • Continued reading aloud with Hal: Pericles
Posted this week:
  • This Monday report.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Monday March 17 2014

A new period has started with the reading of Pericles, a far lesser known play than most of the others but quite interesting. I’ve also written a report on Shakespeare’s Language by Frank Kermode. It’s been a long time, with one thing or another, since I’ve written a book review but I still have a long list of books about Shakespeare that I’ve read so I hope to keep that going more regularly Now for the week’s report:

From Davis and Frankforter’s The Shakespeare Name Dictionary.
  • Hereford – the site of many battles between the Saxons and the Celts. The Normans built castles there. Henry IV had a castle there and it was an important area of the defence of the English against the Welsh. It’s mentioned in Richard III (why not Richard II, I wonder?)
  • Hermione is not only the name of the cleverest young witch at Hogwarts but the name of the unjustly accused wife of the insanely jealous Leontes in A Winter’s Tale.  Hermione proves to be a very strong character and we’ll be getting to her soon in our reading. That play comes up next.
Shakespeare sightings:
  • In the book Thames – Sacred River by Peter Ackroyd, Shakespeare shows up a few more times:
    • “The association of Shakespeare with the Thames is generally neglected, but it was one of the highways of his invention.  He lived beside it...He crossed it continuously...His plays were performed beside its banks...when he writes of the tides, and of the merchant ships, he is considering the life of the Thames...” Worth a full quote, don’t you think?
    • Again Ophelia is mentioned as a symbol of the connection between the Thames and death.
    • Datchet is “the scene of Falstaff’s disgrace in The Merry Wives of Windsor.” He was tossed into the muddy ditch in this part of the Thames.
    • David Garrick built a temple to Shakespeare at Hampton. The bust of Shakespeare itself is however in the British Museum.
  • In the novel The London Train by Tessa Hadley one of the main characters, Cora, describes shutting up her memories in a casket like the ones used in The Merchant of Venice.
  • In a book on pedagogical teaching that we’re reading and discussing at work, Embedded Formative Assessment by Dylan William, two examples of good discussion questions use Shakespeare: “Why is The Merchant of Venice a comedy (or tragedy)?” And “Is Macbeth evil or mad?”
  • Dagens Nyheter had an ad for William – the Musical (which I’m afraid we’ll miss) and in its listing of the five top cultural events of the week, Rickard III is still on it, though has slipped from first place into second.
  • In the novel Kiss Me First by Lottie Moggach Shakespeare is paraphrased  in the title of an Internet broadcast, “Is This a Laptop I see Before Me?” and a failed actor cheerfully says, “I’ve just realized – if I’m not going to be an actor, I don’t have to go and stand for four hours watching Shakespeare at the Globe!” Oh, to live in London and have this option!
Further since last time:
  • Started reading aloud with Hal: Pericles
  • Written: a review of the above mentioned book.
Posted this week:
  • This Monday report.
  • Review of Shakespeare’s Language by Frank Kermode.

Shakespeare's Language

Shakespeare’s Language by Frank Kermode. 2000. Read in August 2011.

                      I started reading this book just a few days after having visited Stratford upon Avon for the first (and so far only) time.
                      Kermode goes against the attitude that Shakespeare’s works, having been meant for the stage, can only be thoroughly appreciated on the stage. He emphasizes the importance of Shakespeare as a writer and has written a detailed and fascinating book in which he really explores about as many aspects of Shakespeare’s language as you can think of, giving many examples from the plays.
                      Part One is a general discussion of various plays. Part Two chooses a specific play for each chapter, not only the major plays but some of the lesser known like Pericles, Troilus and Cressida and Coriolanus. For example, in his chapter about Pericles, Kermode points out that Marina’s “indignation summons the Shakespearian fondness for the abrupt, violent, usually monosyllabic verb” (page 259). In Troilus and Cressida he makes the claim that “the language is almost everywhere concerned with questions relating to value” (page 129).
                      He also looks at specific words, for example “brow” and tells us that this word or its plural “brows” occurs in the plays 129 times. This is in the chapter about Hamlet and it is shown that some scholars think brows can mean lunacies but Kermode doesn’t think it’s that simple: “Much might be deduced from the condition of the brows” (page 117).
                      Some of his reasoning is a bit convoluted and it’s not always explained. Towards the end of the book he mentions “the muscle-bound contortions of the late Shakespeare’s language” (page 304) and while I like the sound of it, I don’t really know what he means.
                      When starting to write analyses of the plays for Shakespeare Calling I thought I would be referring often to this book, but I don’t remember having done so even once. That still might come however.  It really is an interesting book.