Monday, November 4, 2019

November 2019

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted a play analysis but this time I have. As I wrote last time, we were inspired by Mark Haddon’s book The Porpoise. I have written my text as a memorial for Professor Harold Bloom, Shakespearean extraordinaire, who died in October. He has figured many times in this blog, and of course in Shakespeare calling – the book. He will, no doubt, continue to appear in coming analyses.

The book is available for those of you in Great Britain and parts of Europe on this site:

Or in Sweden
or Adlibris. Or contact the publisher

Shakespeare sightings:
  • In Dagens Nyheter Netflix was mention as having produced ’The King’, a ‘wild mix of Shakespeare’s plays.’
  • In Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel, the anonymous interrogator doesn’t want to give his name, so he tells the man he is interrogating ‘So Romeo, were he not Romeo called, retain that dear perfection which he owes without that title.’
  • It would be very strange if the marvellous novel The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows didn’t have Shakespeare references. And indeed, it has:
    • Juliet calls her friend Sydney ‘too King Lear’ when he criticises her American beau.
    • Eben Ramsey believes that Shakespeare was thinking of men like him when he wrote his plays. His favourite quote is, ‘The bright day is done, and we are for the dark.’ It’s from Cleopatra (I cheated and Googled it).
    • Dawsey writes that the Society will be attending a performance of Julius Caesar because Society members John Booker and Clovis Fossey are playing Mark Antony and Caesar.
    • In the film, which we saw this weekend, Charles Lamb’s book of retelling the plays for children played a large part.

Further since last time:
  • Read aloud to Hal: Pericles.

Posted this month
  • Text ‘Jand and Bloom on Pericles
  • This report 

Shakespeare Calling – the book is promoted by

Read more about my alter ego’s books, in one of which Shakespeare appears live and in person, on:

Jand and Bloom on Pericles

Jand and Bloom

     Having recently read Mark Haddon’s The Porpoise, a wild spin-off of Pericles, it seemed a good time to re-read the play. It’s one of Shakespeare’s oddest ones but I’ve always quite liked it.
     While we were reading it, we heard on the news that Harold Bloom has died. This is a great loss for the academic world.
     Bloom and I did not always see eye to eye. I am a historical materialist, new historicist if you like, which Bloom definitely was not. Still, his analyses of Shakespeare were at times both exciting and inspiring.
     In honour of his memory I dedicate this text to him and his work and will highlight some of his insights into Pericles in his book Shakespeare the Invention of the Human.
     The first thing he tells us is that the first two acts are dreadful and cannot possibly have been written by Shakespeare. There seems to be a consensus on that amongst Shakespearean scholars. That’s good to know. They are quite bad.
     Bloom goes on to point out that neither Pericles nor Marina have any personality, unlike Hamlet, Shylock, Cleopatra, Rosalind and others. Instead they are the universal father and daughter and the only thing that interests Shakespeare is their relationship. I wasn’t going to argue against Bloom here, but I must say that there isn’t even much about their relationship. They spend scarcely two days together throughout the play and as Bloom observes, Marina isn’t even allowed any emotional response upon their reunion. Maybe it’s more about their ideas about each other that Bloom finds interesting but even there it is vague.
     If Pericles and Marina lack personality, Pander, Bawd and Bolt make up for it. The scenes with them are funny, appalling and candid in their view on survival in a society that exploits them and looks down on them. However, Bloom doesn’t even mention that Bolt becomes positively reasonable and helpful when he agrees to get Marina work as a teacher of music and other refined skills. Come to think of it, surely Marina’s own insistence on that, after having refused all advances upon her body, gives her a very determined personality, a very strong sense of her own self-worth?
     In my first text on Pericles, ‘Oddities’ (pp. 544-550) in Shakespeare calling – the book, I dealt with a few of the, well, oddities of the play. Though he didn’t use that word Bloom seems to have had a similar reaction to the play. He ends his analysis with, ‘Shakespeare took a high risk with this play. But what remained for him to accomplish? He had revived European tragedy and vastly perfected comedy and dramatic chronicles. What remained was vision, tempered by the necessities of stage presentation. He went beyond Pericles in the romances that followed it, but this play was the school where he learned his final art.’
     Nothing very radical. Nothing very aggravating. Well, just a little. Enough for me to feel the need to argue.
     And that is what I will miss most. The stimulation Harold Bloom offered to see things his way and know that I often saw things another way.
     His work will continue to poke and prod and inspire. So, thank you, Professor Bloom, for that.

Work cited: Bloom, Harold. Shakespeare – The Invention of the Human. 1998.


Film seen this time: None

Shakespeare calling – the book available here and other sites: