Monday, March 2, 2015

March 2015

The month starts with a highlight. Yesterday Hal and I saw Othello at Stadsteatern in Stockholm. We were doubtful because it’s such a depressing play but in the end we decided we wanted to see what Karl Dyall, an actor we’ve seen in several productions, does with the role. I’m glad we did. See below for a short review.  And many thanks to my colleagues for the gift certificate to the theatre!

From Davis and Frankforter’s The Shakespeare Name Dictionary.
Shakespeare sightings:
  • On posters in the underground and an advert in Dagens Nyheter we see that Twelfth Night has had its premiere at the Royal Dramatic Theatre. There was also a review in DN: “Playing with identities, music, song and joy of costumes create an almost carnival feeling”.
  • In the still very interesting A People’s History of London by Lindsey German and John Rees,  the winter before Margaret Thatcher came to power is called “Winter of Discontent.”
  • In the novel Where She Went by Gayle Forman one of the characters rubs spilt beer off her hands “like she’s Lady Macbeth”. The opening chapter of another of Forman’s novels, Just One Day, is included at the end and it seems to be about a group of teenagers who take a trip to Stratford, and there’s a lot of Shakespeare in the chapter.
  • After tidying my desk yesterday (an event that occurs at least once a year whether it needs it or not) I found the article I was looking for in January: in Dagens Nyheter there was a small notice about a copy of the 1623 edition of the plays being found in the library of an unnamed port town in northern France. The book is one of the most valuable in the world. Hmmmm, maybe if I tidied my desk even more I’d find one like it.
  • Nora Roberts’s novel Blue Dahlia has nothing whatsoever of value except for a couple of references to Shakespeare. One of the characters says, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,” and another character is asked if she was named after Rosalind in As You Like It, but she wasn’t, it was after Rosalind Russell.
  • In my Latin book Get Started in Latin there is an explanation about pronunciation. It is pointed out that our reconstruction is “a somewhat incomplete jigsaw puzzle, but so too is that of Elizabethan English, and that hasn’t stopped production of Shakespeare’s plays.”
  • In Christopher Hitchens’s God Is Not Great he writes that “the serious ethical dilemmas are better handled by Shakespeare and Tolstoy and Schiller and Dostoyevsky and George Eliot than in the mythical morality tales of the holy books.”  He also mentions that the rabbi who officiated at his second marriage had an Einsteinian and a Shakespearean bent. Later he writes about the question of the authorship (he seems to agree that the author was Shakespeare) and he goes on: “Shakespeare has much more salience than the Talmud or the Koran or any account of the fearful squabbles of Iron Age tribes...loss of faith can be compensated by the newer and finer wonders we have before us, as well as by immersion in the near-miraculous work of Homer and Shakespeare and Milton and Tolstoy and Proust...”
  • In the novel Us by Davis Nicholls inhibited pedantic main character Douglas tries to learn to appreciate culture with his artistic wife and sees “a blood-soaked Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Later he suffers through a dreadful visit to Verona and the touristy balcony
  • In the novel Where No Man Cries by Emma Blair one of the characters encounters an old woman he compares to one of the witches in Macbeth.
  • In the sixth book about Anne by L.M. Montgomery, Anne suggests that there is more to a name than Shakespeare allows. The character Bertie Shakespeare appears now and then. One of her sons loves his dog,  not wisely but too well. And on the last page Anne thinks of the trip planned to England where she will see the moonlight over the church by the Avon where Shakespeare slept.
  • Listening to the old Dire Straits CD “Brothers in Arms” we came across the song “Romeo and Juliet”. Can’t say that I remember it much. It’s not one of the strong songs on this otherwise mostly strong collection.
  • There was a long article in Dagens Nyheter, written by Jonas Karlsson, the actor we’ve seen as Caliban and Richard III. He was sent to explore the new archaeological findings of the king in the car park in Leicester. Karlsson writes in detail about his meetings with various Richard experts and enthusiasts, all of whom have had to adjust their stories a bit after the discovery. Karlsson is a good writer as well as a superb actor and his article was fun to read. And, as I suspected, he will be doing Richard III again this spring. By popular demand, no doubt. It was indeed a fantastic production.
  • In the London/Southwark based detective novel Now You See Me by S.J Bolton, Detective Constable Lacey Flint interviews a victim outside the Globe which she describes as “the black and white, surprisingly tiny, circular theatre.”
  • In Tobias Hill’s What Was Promised, also based in London from the 40’s to the 80’s, one of the characters owns two books important to her, the bible and a Shakespeare.  She is also familiar with “the rules of the Shakespeare sonnets.”
  •  Nick Hornby has frequently referred to Shakespeare and he does so in his Funny Girl too: one of the actors in the story “always wants to do Shakespeare”; a highbrow snob is put in his place after sneering at the sit-com this novel is about by being reminded that Shakespeare wrote for yobs too, and at the end of the novel old age has dimmed the main character’s infinite variety.
  • In the very interesting book on the historical evidence of the life of Merlin, Finding Merlin by the convincing Adam Ardrey, the fanatical Christian priest Mungo, still today the patron saint of Glasgow, is described, when murdering one of his enemies (not Merlin, though he and Merlin were bitter enemies), as playing “the part of Claudius when he poured poison into the king’s ear.”
Further since last time:

  • Worked on: the book version of Shakespeare Calling.
  • Bought: our tickets to the Globe: The Merchant of Venice on April 26 with six friends and Romeo and Juliet on April 27 with two friends.
  • Saw: Othello at Stadsteatern in Stockholm. We had heard mixed reports, so were curious, especially because it’s such a difficult play to watch, emotionally.  Our own reactions were mixed. The scenography is starkly minimalistic. White floor curving up into white walls, with a white tent in the middle.  That’s it. The play itself has been chopped to just an hour and a half and only five characters.  The language is modern Swedish with some of Shakespeare recognisable throughout. It starts out vague and hard to follow. Iago is too fanatical and perverse and has none of the subtle evil that makes him so scary in Shakespeare’s original. The first half is funny, a farce.  The second more serious. Othello’s breakdown works well as does Desdemona’s increasing dismay and heartbreak over her husband’s unwarranted jealousy.  Her sudden burst into the song “I Will Always Love You” is startling and odd but Maja Rung certainly has a powerful voice, unexpected in her rather whimsical portrayal up to that point. Emilia, the character I wrote about in my text on the play, gives a strong performance.  In the end I was gripped by the tragedy. I’m glad we saw it. But oh, those dreadful brown polyester flared 70’s trousers that Othello and Desdemona wore! And that hideous pale green collared golf T-shirt that Othello had on! They almost ruined the play for me. Karl Dyall’s strong stage presence rescued it from debacle. He is a very good actor. 
Posted this month
  • This report

Posted March 2, 2015


  1. Great to have come across your blog through Blogging Shakespeare. How about adding the "signing up for updates option" to receive them in our mail inbox?

  2. Hello SBC! Thanks for writing. I would be very happy to do as you suggest but you are speaking to an Internet idiot and I can't find a "signing up" tab to click on... Any ideas?

  3. Hello SBC! Thanks for writing. I would be very happy to do as you suggest but you are speaking to an Internet idiot and I can't find a "signing up" tab to click on... Any ideas?

  4. Hi Ruby! I presume it would require a web page designer to set up the tab. Best of lucks!