Monday, January 4, 2016

January 2016

Happy New Year! I hope your holidays have been good and the new year has opened well.
In spite of the turbulence in the world and the rise of forces that go against equality, humanism and solidarity – much of what we see in Shakespeare’s plays – there is reason for optimism. Shakespeare would no doubt be puzzled by our world but were he given time to study it he would, I think, see that his plays have given us much to feel encouraged and carry on the growing grass root movements to defend democracy, equality, the environment and humanism. Remember – ‘Our remedies oft in ourselves do lie, / Which we ascribe to Heaven,’ (All's Well That Ends Well) and ‘It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves.’ (Julius Caesar).

Shakespeare Calling – the book
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Once again, thank you all for visiting the blog throughout the years and for supporting this project.

From Davis and Frankforter’s The Shakespeare Name Dictionary:
  • Westminster, in what we today consider the centre of London, is and always has been an entity separate from the city itself. The abbey was first built in the 11th century.  D&F tell us that the towers didn’t exist in Shakespeare’s day. Westminster is mentioned in Henry VI Part 2 and the Abbey in Richard III and Henry IV Part 2.
  • William was for centuries after the Norman conquest the most common English name though by Shakespeare’s day it was in second place after John. The name is used in Henry IV Part 2 and As You Like It, in very small parts. 

Shakespeare sightings:
  • In the book Tusen år i Europa band 1 1000-1300 (A Thousand Years in Europe, Volume 1:1000-1300) by Kim Bismark and Brian Patrick Shakespeare The Merchant of Venice is mentioned in connection with the chapter about Jews in the society.
  • In Elizabeth Gaskell’s novel North and South Chapter XXVII is headed by ‘For never anything can be amiss / When simpleness and duty tender it’ (Midsummer Night’s Dream). Later Margaret and Mr Bell compare themselves to the contemplative Hamlet, though Mr Bell points out, ‘But as my mother has not murdered my father, and afterwards married my uncle, I shouldn’t know what to think about…’
  • On The X Files, season 4, the quote from Henry IV Part One Act 5 Scene 1 is used at the beginning of the episode: ‘For nothing can seem foul to those that win.’
  • On The Last Tango in Halifax, on Kate and Caroline’s wedding day, Caroline jokes that her poem to Kate will be ‘Shall I compare thee to my Jeep Cherokee?’
  • In The Perks of Being a Wallflower the English teacher asks the class which novelist had invented the paperback, the serial novel and the expression ‘cliff-hanger’. One of the students (who in the credits was called ‘the Shakespeare girl’) guessed Shakespeare and the kind teacher says, ‘Good guess but Shakespeare wasn’t a novelist.’ The answer (which the main character and I knew) is Dickens. A few minutes later the teacher said, ‘If we’d gone to a Shakespeare play in his time it would have cost us 4 pennies.’ 
  • In the novel Among Others by Jo Walton fifteen-year-old Morwenna reports in her diary that her English class will be reading The Tempest and they will be seeing the play on a school trip. She’s happy because she has never seen The Tempest, she’s seen Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Her friend hates Shakespeare after seeing The Winter’s Tale and Richard II. Morwenna thinks the company must be awful ‘because Richard II at least should be terrific acted. “Sit upon the ground and tell sad stories of the death of kings”.’ Her reaction to The Tempest: It was all wrong to cast Prospero as a woman, she liked Ariel and Caliban. Morwenna herself can do magic and knows fairies and thinks Shakespeare must have too, about which she has quite an interesting discussion in her diary. In the end she is rescued from danger by spears turning into tress – ‘Burnham Wood coming to Dunsinane’ – and on the last page she promises to keep reading and to use her magic well: ‘I’ll never drown my books or break my staff.’
  • On The Third Rock from the Sun Harry defends aliens from being portrayed as evil: ‘If you prick an alien do we not say “Ow”?’
  • Also on The Third Rock from the Sun Tommy asks Dick to direct the school production of Romeo and Juliet so that he can get the part of Romeo and do heavy make-out scenes with his girlfriend.  Dick watches a version of Hamlet and is inspired by ‘this Laurence Oliver’ (sic). He also explains to the frustrated cast that Romeo and Juliet is Shakespeare and has nothing to do with a horny teenager and his girlfriend.
  • In Stephen Fry’s film Bright Young Things James McAvoy’s character, a journalist, reports to his scandal sheet editor that Emily Mortimer’s character was heard to have misquoted Lady Macbeth at a party.
  • In Vera Brittain’s memoirs Testament of Youth she remembers her earliest school as leaving little scope for reading Shakespeare. She must have read him somewhere however since a few more references are made throughout the book. 

Further since last time:

Posted this month
  • This report
  • ‘A pot of ale and safety’ in Henry V

PS For some reason this blog spot does strange things with the layout, changing the settings and sizes. There seems to be nothing I can do about it. Sorry.


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