Monday, January 1, 2018

January 2018

January 2018
Happy New Year! It has been a turbulent year, this 2017, but here we are, entering 2018 with perhaps more optimism than I would have thought possible. What fools these mortals be but also how noble in reason, how infinite in faculty, in form and moving how express and admirable.

As always, I will once again mention to visitors of this blog that Shakespeare Calling – the book is available for purchase. Please help promote the book by buying it, of course, and telling your friends about it, by liking and sharing it on Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Bokus…. And please encourage your local book shops and libraries to buy it.  Thank you. Your support is needed to keep this project alive.

FINALLY easily available for those of you in Great Britain and Europe on this site:

or Adlibris. Or contact the publisher

Shakespeare Calling – the book is promoted by

Shakespeare sightings:
  • ·       In the novel Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh the title character is a misfit, ‘like Joan of Arc, or Hamlet, but born into the wrong life – the life of a nobody, a waif, invisible.’ Later she had to leave school to take care of her mother and was secretly relieved but blamed her parents for her unhappiness and wished she was ‘in school again learning…the history of art, Latin, Shakespeare, whatever nonsense lay in store.’
  • ·       The Swedish YA fantasy novel Norra Latin by Sara Bergmark Elfgren is about the historical upper level school Norra Latin (which in reality is now a conference centre). In the novel it is still a school with a theatre program. It also has magic and ghosts but so much Shakespeare that the author was interviewed in the latest number of the journal of the Swedish Shakespeare Association.
  • ·       A literature critic compared the current turbulence in the Swedish Academy (brought about by the #metoo campaign) to a Shakespeare drama.
  • ·       In the rather sweet YA novel about werewolves, one of the two main characters, Sam, who is sometimes a wolf but often human, says to the other main character Grace’s mother, who claims not to be disappointed in her daughter’s practical nature: ‘Methinks the mom doth protest too much.’ Whether or not he knows he’s quoting Shakespeare is not mentioned.

Further since last time:
  • ·       Finished reading aloud with Hal: The Two Noble Kinsmen. Some by Shakespeare, more by Fletcher. Quite a strange play but not without interest.
  • ·       Wrote and posted: ‘Reflections’ on The Two Noble Kinsman
  • ·       Scheduled with friends E, E, A & L but not yet played: ‘Shakespeare – the Bard Game.’
  • ·       Had a book signing event, Saturday 9 December, with my alter ego Rhuddem Gwelin at the local bookshop Klackenbergs in Sundbyberg, Sweden. We mostly sold and signed the Merlin books but Shakespeare Calling – the book received not a little attention as well
  • ·       Received from friend JS – a calendar of Shakespeare insults. The insult for today, 1 January 2018, is ‘That quaffing and drinking will undo you’ (Twelfth Night). Very mild as Shakespeare insults go!
  • ·       Discovered that the public library in Ă–stersund (northern Sweden) has Shakespeare calling – the book as an e-book.

Posted this month
  • ·       ‘Reflections’ on The Two Noble Kinsmen 
  • ·       This report

The Two Noble Kinsmen - Reflections

The Two Noble Kinsmen

     It’s worth reading. It has many themes one recognises from earlier Shakespeare – male friendship, female friendship, strong women, rivalry in romance, but all with a feeling of… more.
     The story: On the day of the wedding of Theseus and Hippolyta, three widows appeal to Theseus to go to war against Thebes because their husbands have not been given a proper burial. The two noble kinsmen, Palamon and Arcite, fight to defend their city but are captured. They both see Hippolyta’s sister Emilia from their prison window and though they have just declared eternal love and friendship for each other they both fall in love with Emilia and become rivals. Plot twists get them both out of prison. The jail keeper’s daughter goes mad with love for Palamon. Theseus demands that Emilia choose one of the two. She can’t so they must duel to the death for her hand. Arcite wins. Palamon is to hang. Arcita falls off his horse and dies. Palamon and Emilia are wed.
     It’s funny to the point of parody and then suddenly it’s not. All this we recognise in Shakespeare. Fletcher was a good student.
     I’m not going to do a great deep analysis, but I would like to mention a few points of interest.

  • ·       Hippolyta is a strong character, though she has but few lines. The three queens at the beginning appeal not only to Theseus but to Hippolyta as well:

Honoured Hippolyta,
Most dreaded Amazonian, that hast slain
The scythe-tusked boar… (Act 1.1).

When the soldiers then head off to war Hippolyta says

We have been soldiers and we cannot weep
When our friends don their helms… (Act1.3).

     Oh, that Shakespeare never wrote a whole play about Hippolyta! What a character he would have made her. Much more interesting than Cleopatra!

  • ·       The two noble kinsmen’s love for one another is so passionate that I’m surprised this play hasn’t become a flagship for the Pride movement.

We are one another’s wife, ever begetting
New births of love: we are father, friends, acquaintance.
We are, in one another, families:
I am your heir and you are mine…
Is there record of any two that loved
Better than we do, Arcite? (Act 2.2, Fletcher)

     I suppose the fact that two minutes later they’re both madly in love with Emilia and deadly rivals brings their sincerity somewhat into question but still, I find the quotes a bit sweet.

  • ·       The jailer’s daughter is very much an Ophelia character in her passion and madness. She shows, however, more insight and initiative. She has fallen in love with Palamon though she knows it is pointless:

Why should I love this gentleman?
‘Tis odds
He never will affect me: I am base,
My father the mean keeper of his prison,
And he a prince. To marry him is hopeless,
To be his whore is witless. Out upon’t!
What pushes are we wenches driven to
When fifteen once has found us! (Act 2.4, Fletcher)

            Fifteen she may be, but she is also feisty:

Let all the dukes and all the devils roar,
He is at liberty: I have ventured for him
And out I have brought him, to a little wood
A mile hence I have sent him…
…there he shall keep close
Till I provide him file and food, for yet
His iron bracelets are not off (Act 2.6, Fletcher).

            I could go on. As I write I discover that there is quite a lot of interest in this play. I wish Shakespeare had written it when he was in his most prolific and brilliant period – not to put down Fletcher, his writing isn’t bad either. I wish we had some filmed versions.
            In any case, if you haven’t read it, do. It’s worth it.

PS The RSC has done a production in 2016. Perhaps a DVD is on its way?