Monday, June 6, 2016

June 2016

Now that the 400th anniversary month is over things have been a little calmer but there is still a lot of Shakespeare out there.  Richard III has dominated this month for us but there have been other activities and sightings of interest. As always, though, I will start with a reminder that Shakespeare Calling – the book is available for purchase and I appreciate all your support.

Please help promote the book by liking and sharing it on Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Bokus…. And please encourage your local book shops and libraries to buy it.  Thank you.

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From Davis and Frankforter’s The Shakespeare Name Dictionary:
  • The only entry under ‘X’ is Xantippe who was married to Socrates and reported to be a real shrew. She is only mentioned in The Taming of the Shrew and I suspect that her shrewishness was akin to Katharine’s – a survival strategy. 

Shakespeare sightings:
  • In the novel Lifeless by Mark Billingham the detectives are bemoaning the fact that the complete works of Shakespeare can be computerised on a keyring, but the various computer systems of the Scotland Yard aren’t compatible and cross references can’t be made.
  • In the old series from the 70’s Rock Follies, Anna, one of the members of the new rock group, once played Ophelia.
  • In the as yet untitled novel by my new friend JS, the main characters talk about Romeo and Juliet and several other Shakespeare plays. Poor Aislin is from a parallel universe so she doesn’t know so much about Shakespeare yet.
  • In The X Files, season 6, an author imagines all kinds of terrible things, for example the death of Scully, and says, ‘That’s what authors do, like Shakespeare.’ Later in Season 7, the smoking man says, in regard to something, I didn’t note down what, ‘When in disgrace in fortune and men’s eyes.’ Later he tells Mulder, ‘You’re not Prince Hamlet.’
  • In the film Stardust Robert DeNiro plays Captain Shakespeare.
  • In the book The Lost Child of Philomena Lee by Martin Sixsmith, which supposedly the film Philomena is based on, though Philomena herself is scarcely mentioned, Shakespeare makes a couple of appearances: Mike and Charlotte were studying Romeo and Juliet in high school and later Mike’s boyfriend talked about a production of Hamlet he had seen.
  • In the novel South Riding by Winifred Holtby
    • Lydia Holly, the girl from the shacks, has her love for reading awakened when she is given the complete works of Shakespeare and later discovers when studying Shakespeare in school that it ‘had not been a lie, then, that ecstasy which visited her when she read A Midsummer Night’s Dream on top of the railway coach last summer. It had meant something. She had understood something. She was drunk with an intoxicating wine of gladness.’
    • Unfortunately, her classmates do not agree, showing a ‘lamentable lack of enthusiasm for Shakespeare’s descriptive powers’.
    • Poor socialist Astell is offended by Shakespeare’s humorous depiction of the working class.
    • And quotes are peppered throughout.
  • Dagens Nyheter
    • Reports on a new play called Gertrude’s Hen Party, a feminist spin off of Hamlet starring the great Finnish Swedish singer Arja Saijonmaa.
    • Writes that there has been much ado about the birthday boy and gives a list of some of the ways in which the 400th anniversary has been commemorated.
    • Has a long article about how little we know about Shakespeare’s own opinions and claims that today’s fixation with theoretical theatre is putting a stop to the art of acting. Hmmm.
  • In the film Arthur the butler John Gielgud is dying. Arthur asks, ‘Do you want me to read some Shakespeare? Hamlet was in trouble when we left off.’ The butler says, ‘No.’ It must have hurt the great Shakespearean actor to say that!
  • In the film The Kid there is a poster for Julius Caesar on the classroom wall and the teacher is trying to get the kids interested in King Lear.
  • In the book The House on the Thames by Gillian Tindall, which goes through the history of that wonderful narrow house near the Globe that we have walked by so many times, and so far Shakespeare has been mentioned four times:
    • We like to think that there was a tavern there which Shakespeare would have visited.
    • Sir John Fastolf, upon whom Falstaff is said to be based, bought the house in the early 15th century.
    • Because of Shakespeare’s connection to the area, Bankside’s theatrical history has loomed larger than it really should have because both the theatres and Shakespeare himself were there for such a short time.
    • In spite of diligent research, it has not yet been proven that Shakespeare ever lived in the area. 

Further since last time:


Posted this month
  • ‘The Method Actor’ in Richard III http://rubyjandshakespearecalling.blogspot.se/2016/06/the-method-actor-in-richard-iii.html 
  • This report







The Method Actor in Richard III

The Method Actor
in
Richard III

     ‘Since I cannot prove a lover,’ Richard says in the classic opening soliloquy, ‘I am determined to prove a villain.’ This after having described himself as ‘rudely stamped’, curtailed of this fair proportion’, ‘cheated of feature’, so deformed ‘that dogs bark’ at him – in other words ugly and unlovable.
     He pulls at our heartstrings immediately. How can we not pity this wretched man? We are drawn into his mind at once and there we stay. We are Richard as he convinces Clarence of his brotherly love even as he plots Clarence’s murder. Clarence believes him, we believe him though we know better. Because Richard is the ultimate method actor.
     From Clarence to Anne. Richard has just told us that although he has killed her husband and father he will marry her, and although she hates him, naturally, and calls him, ‘thou lump of foul deformity,’ she marries him. How is it possible? Because in this, her time of grief and utter vulnerability, Richard tells her that it was her beauty and his love for her that caused him to commit murder. He begs her to kill him if she will not have him.  When he ends by saying about Henry VI whom he has also murdered, ‘this noble king, I will wet his grave with my repentant tears’ (Act 1.2) she is on her way to succumbing. Because as the method actor that he is, not only does Anne believe him, he at the moment believes it himself.
     He continues to act the part of loving brother, friend, uncle. And people believe him.
     But not his mother, the Duchess of York.  A formidable woman. Again, we must pity the man, and we begin to see where his ‘I cannot be loved so I will be a villain’ persona comes from. In Act 2.2 he asks his mother for her blessing and grudgingly she says:

God bless thee, and put meekness in thy breast,
Love, charity, obedience and true duty. (Act 2.2)

     Hardly a loving personal blessing and Richard feels the sting of its meaning. Says he to Buckingham:

…And make me die a good old man.
That is the butt-end of a mother’s blessing;
I marvel that her grace did leave it out. (Act 2.2)

     He does not fool his mum but the mayor and citizens fall for his humility. When they have been urged by Buckingham and Catesby to appeal to Richard to become king Richard says:

Alas, why would you heap this care on me?
I am unfit for state and majesty.
I do beseech you, take it not amiss:
I cannot nor I will not yield to you.
…Will you enforce me to a world of cares? (Act 3.7)

     This time with prayer book in hand Richard plays the part of pious recluse, believing it himself just long enough for them to accept him as king. That’s long enough for his purposes.
     And maybe he knew that what he had murdered to achieve really was a ‘world of cares’ because once he is king things start falling apart. His continued viciousness doesn’t stop the process and when the ensuing war is about to break out, his mother the Duchess of York confronts him and this time there is no blessing, grudging or otherwise. She tells him she wishes she had strangled him in her ‘accurs√®d womb’ and goes on:

Thou toad, thou toad…
Thou cam’st on earth to make the earth my hell…
What comfortable hour canst thou name,
That ever graced me with thy company?
…take with thee my most grievous curse,
Which in the day of battle tire thee more
Than all the complete armour that thou wear’st!
…Bloody thou art, bloody will be thy end:
Shame serves thy life and doth thy death attend. (Act 4.4)

     A death curse from his own mother. Even the best method actor cannot pretend that this doesn’t hurt but Richard turns immediately to his sister-in-law, Elizabeth, Edward’s widow, and offers his hand in marriage to her daughter, also Elizabeth. He’s just had her two sons murdered so even less than Anne could Queen Elizabeth possibly agree to this preposterous proposal.
     The method actor takes over once again. In a long exchange he wears her down. Or seems to.  ‘Shall I be tempted of the devil thus?’ Elizabeth asks then says:

…Write to me very shortly,
And you shall understand from me her mind. (Act 4.4)

     Richard believes he has convinced her: ‘Relenting fool, and shallow, changing woman!’ (Act 4.4) What he doesn’t know is that Elizabeth consents to the marriage between her daughter and Richard’s mortal enemy Richmond, soon-to-be Henry VII.
     There remains only one role for Richard to play. He realises this when he awakens from his dream in which his victims one after the other have come to him with the damning words, ‘Despair and die!’
     That role is the role of the tragic villain.

I am a villain…
My conscience hath a thousand several tongues,
And every tongue brings in a several tale,
And every tale condemns me for a villain…
I shall despair. There is no creature loves me;
And if I die, no soul shall pity me.
Nay, wherefore should they, since that I myself
Find in myself no pity to myself? (Act 5.3)

     Richard, the method actor, finally converges with Richard, the man who was not loved so he made himself the man who was hated and feared. Richard the villain.
     And so he dies. King Richard, the crown achieved through method acting that fooled almost everyone. Himself included.
     But not for long. Acting, even the best method acting, is after all just acting.
     The great playwright knew that. And gave us Richard III.

Works cited:
  • William Shakespeare, the Complete Works, the RSC edition, 2007. Edited by Jonathan Bate and Eric Rasmussen

 Films seen this time:

 Seen on stage: Not since seeing the brilliant Jonas Karlsson at the Royal Dramatic Theatre in March, 2014.  See further in Shakespeare Calling – the  book http://www.amazon.com/Shakespeare-Calling-book-Ruby-Jand/dp/9163782626?ie=UTF8&keywords=ruby%20jand&qid=1464585465&ref_=sr_1_3&s=books&sr=1-3