This is a somewhat momentous Monday report. We have started reading The Tempest, the last play we will be doing in this Shakespeare Marathon. That in itself is momentous but while reading it (we’ve read to about half-way through Act1.2 and have met all the main characters) the images from the Globe performance with Roger Allam and Colin Morgan from just over a year ago are still strong in our memories. Also this week I’ll be posting “You Might Well Ask” which is the title I’ve given my text on Cymbeline. It could be the title of just about all of my texts because Shakespeare’s plays always evoke the question of, “Wha’???” And that is why we’re doing this marathon. But it’s not time for an end-of-marathon weep yet. That will come towards the end of November. So for now, Monday, October 6, 2014:
From Davis and Frankforter’s The Shakespeare Name Dictionary.
- Ovid (43 BC – c. 17 AD) was the author of Metamorphoses and much more. He was not just a poet but an influential judge but he ended his life in exile because of something to do with Julius Caesar’s daughter Julia (D+F don’t say what). Of interest to us is the “tremendous influence” Ovid had on Shakespeare and his contemporaries.
- Owl of death is one example of that. This is from Metamorphoses and Shakespeare uses it in Henry VI Part One, but he’s not alone. D+F mention the Kiowa Native American tribe as one of many who regarded the owl as a harbinger of death. I believe many around the world have done so as well. Don’t tell Harry Potter....
- In To End All Wars, a Story of Protest and Patriotism in the First World War by Adam Hochschild there is one reference to Shakespeare, an example of bleak German humour. When the British royal family decided to change its name from Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to the House of Windsor to avoid any suspicion of Germanness, “Kaiser William II is said to have remarked that he was going to the theatre to see a performance of The Merry Wives of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha”.
- Nicholas Wennö, a journalist in Dagens Nyheter, lists Polanksi’s Macbeth as this week’s DVD. OK. I agree it’s a good version but I’m curious. Why now? Has it been re-released?
- On the same day in Dagens Nyheter there is a review of a Hamlet for teenagers being put on in the Stockholm suburb of Skärholmen. Liv Mjönes is praised for doing a good job of acting a gender-free Hamlet. The reviewer Maina Arvas writes, “Shakespeare’s language lends itself well to this black teenage angst.” It sounds very good actually and I would like to see it.
- In the silly film Rango, whose voice is well done by Johnny Depp, Rango tells a story of an evil king Malvolio and later when he has made himself sheriff of the town Dirt he recommends that they all learn some Shakespeare. If I say that these were among the highlights of the film you will guess that I wasn’t terribly impressed.
- In an email from
my friend AR I received this link
04/01/world/middleeast/behind- barbed-wire-shakespeare- inspires-a-cast-of-young- syrians.html?_r=0 about a very exciting project among Syrian refugees. Read it! Thank you, AR!
- The novel In One Person by John Irving is filled with Shakespeare. The protagonist Billy goes to an all boys’ school in Vermont in the 50’s and in both the school and the community there are active theatre groups and they often put on Shakespeare plays. Billy’s grandfather usually plays women’s roles and he’s very good at it, being a semi-closet transvestite. The whole book is essentially a Shakespeare sighting. Even the title, which is explained on the title page in a quote from Richard II: “Thus play I in one person many people/ and none contented.” I won’t give too many other details but just a couple of especially significant quotes:
- Richard Abbot, Billy’s stepfather and Shakespearean teacher and director, says about the surprising defeat of the school’s wrestling champion, Kittredge, with whom Billy has a love-hate relationship: “It’s Shakespearean, Bill; lots of important stuff in Shakespeare happens offstage – you just hear about it.”
- Billy has long wondered why The Tempest doesn’t end after Act Four and thinks that Prospero’s epilogue is unnecessary, until an old friend dies of AIDS and his friend Elaine provides him with the first line, “Now my charms are all o’erthrown” and adds, “You can cry now, Billy – we both can.”
- There are many more. All I can add is: read this book.
Further since last time:
- Finished writing: “You Might Well Ask” on Cymbeline.
- Received from friends AB and LR: Shakespeare Insult Generator by Barry Kraft. Here’s just one example: “Lubberly, muddy-mettled mushrump.” There are 150.000 more! Thank you, AB and LR!
- Started reading aloud with Hal: The Tempest.
Posted this week:
- This Monday report.
- You Might Well Ask in Cymbeline