Dear Shakespeare friends,
Today, 1 May, is the day for international solidarity. It’s needed more than ever. Things do not look good in the world at the moment. Racism, sexism, fear and hatred, religious fanaticism amongst followers of all the religions, environmental catastrophe and blindness and denial of science, all of this is frightening. But let us remember: ‘The web of our life is of a mingled yarn, good and ill together,’ Shakespeare wrote in All’s Well that Ends Well. And surely together we can, in solidarity, counteract the ill and strengthen the good.
Meanwhile, again life has conspired against Hal and me and we have been unable to read any Shakespeare plays together. Hopefully next time!
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- The Time Traveller’s Guide to Elizabethan England by Ian Mortimer is, as I mentioned last time, a wonderful book. Here are some more sightings that are well worth repeating:
- Shakespeare often mentions bad breath, which was indeed a big problem in Elizabethan England. There were many rotten teeth due to eating too many sweets.
- Considering the vicious delight Elizabethans take in seeing bear baiting and other cruelty to animals, Mortimer wonders how they could also appreciate Shakespeare’s humanism.
- One of the most famous bears in England’s bear-baiting enthusiasm was called Sackerson and Shakespeare mentions him in The Merry Wives of Windsor.
- Seeing that Elizabeth loves to go to Paris Garden to enjoy the bloodshed of bear-baiting Mortimer finds it odd that she never went to the Globe to see Shakespeare.
- Music plays an important part in Elizabethan society and Mortimer writes: ‘Although no one has yet conclusively proved that music is the food of love, there is little doubt that Shakespeare himself thinks it is. More than 170 passages in his plays allude to music or musicians…’
- Many musicians live in the parish of Saint Helen Bishopsgate, as does Shakespeare.
- ‘Shakespeare has given voice to so many of our feelings. Probably no other Englishman has been more influential. His influence is not militaristic or nationalistic, nor is it the discovery of a scientific phenomenon; it is simply that his writings are the biggest step ever taken along the path towards understanding the human condition. It is a path we are still following.’
- ‘If Shakespeare is ‘for all time’, then so too is Elizabethan England.’
- Norda Mullen, flutist for the Moddy blues, compares Justin Hayward’s lyrics to Shakespeare – ‘everyone can relate’. Well, I wouldn’t go that far.
- In the musical film Singing in the Rain aspiring actor Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds) tells silent star Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly) that real acting is only done on stage such as Shakespeare and Ibsen. When she shortly thereafter pops up out of a cake as a dancing girl he asks her for Hamlet’s soliloquy or some lines by Juliet. Later in the song ‘Make ‘em Laugh’ Cosmo (Donald O’Connor) sings that you could do Shakespeare but it’s better to make ‘em laugh. The song writer had apparently never seen a Shakespeare play.
- On the TV quiz show Vem vet mest? (Who knows the most?) the question was who directed The cook, the thief, his wife and her lover? The answer: Peter Greenaway and the program leader said, ‘He also directed a film of Shakespeare’s The Tempest.’
- On another TV quiz show Smartare än en femteklassare (Smarter than a six year student) one of the kids is going to be in a summer production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
- In Dagens Nyheter Johan Hilton writes: ‘Without having a doctorate in the subject I can still claim that all political leaders in the world, now and historically, can find their role model in one of Shakespeare’s kings. Emmanuel Macron? Henry V, with a little luck. Theresa May? Henry VI. Vladimir Putin? Undoubtedly Richard III. With Donald Trump it’s harder. Richard II, the vain title role in one of Shakespeare’s best plays maybe? …History professor Rachel Weil writes that Trump is unpredictable, lives in a dream world and solves conflicts with the help of narcissistic impulses. He therefore risks, like the king, undermining the legitimacy of the whole administration. I don’t know though. Trump is closer to the swashbuckling liar Falstaff. Minus the charm.’ Hmmmm.
- In Tana French’s novel The Secret Place Detective Stephen Moran finds a book amongst one of the suspects’ belongings: ‘…it looked old, Shakespeare old.’
Further since last time: Well, that’s it.
Posted this month
- This report