Sunday, June 4, 2017

June 2017

Finally, after half a year, we’re back to reading Shakespeare! For various reasons we chose Antony and Cleopatra, which might be considered an odd choice since we didn’t much like the play the last time we read it, or even when we saw it at the Globe. We still don’t like it! Please, can someone who loves the play, please please explain why it’s a good play? I’m sure we must be missing something!
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Shakespeare sightings:
  • Dagens Nyheter
    • Reports that the Norwegian Shakespeare Magazine does everything right. It’s quite a long review.
    • Tells us that again this summer the Park Theatre will be performing A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which I already knew because I’m FB friends with Pontus Olgrim of the Polar Eclipse Theatre after seeing the play last summer. I hope we can see it again.
  • In the novel The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead a minor character involved in the emancipation movement had had connections with a printer who had published Shakespeare’s plays.
  • In Leila Aboulela’s novel The Kindness of Enemies the actor Malak Raja had played one of Macbeth’s witches on stage.
  • In Rosalind Franklin the dark lady of DNA, a biography by Brenda Maddox, it is pointed out that it was almost impossible ‘to get through English schooling in the twentieth century without knowing of Shakespeare’s Shylock, with his ‘Jewish heart’ moaning over his lost ducats’ (relevant because Franklin was Jewish). Later it is mentioned that Franklin, in patriotist fervour, saw Laurence Olivier three times as Henry V.
  • On the TV program Vem vet mest? (Who knows the most?) the question was: What’s the name of Romeo’s beloved in Shakespeare’s play?  The contestants were kids so maybe the question wasn’t as easy as it seemed.
  • In Karsten Alnaes’s Historia om Europa Uppvaknande 1300-1600 (Europe’s history, awakening) I’ve come to the chapter about Elizabethan England:
    • The prevalence of travelling is shown by the comparison to Antonio in Two gentlemen of Verona saying about  his son that he was wasting his time and nothing would come of him until he travelled and learnt something.
    • Essex and his revolt is mentioned and the playing of Richard II the evening before, supposedly to show that even Elizabeth was a tyrant and could be dethroned. It didn’t help the revolt.
    • Shakespeare’s world, we are told, is one of poverty and misery, not just the luxury of Shakespeare’s major characters.
    • Historian George Macaulay Trevelyan pointed out that Shakespeare was lucky having been born in and living in the best of countries.
    • In a book that covers Europe’s history for three hundred years, Shakespeare gets six pages all to himself. Not bad! Other than dealing with his biography and giving quotes from Macbeth and The Tempest Alnaes writes: ‘In this country lived Shakespeare. He embraces a whole world. A poet for all time, who probes the deepest abysses in the human soul. His visions expand human knowledge, but still mirror his environment’s bitter irony and reflect with the insight of darkness the existential crisis created by violence and evil. Because he frees himself from all yardsticks he belongs not primarily to the era of Elizabeth but to the future… Of course Shakespeare is history, but he is also of the present. And it is his significance in our present, his sense of both the human and the mysterious outside the human that makes him an important part of history. He is one of the geniuses who unites us in a common frame of reference…it is that which has made him a part of the common European heritage.’  Fine words! 
Further since last time:
  • Started reading aloud with Hal: Antony and Cleopatra
  • Ordered and received: CD From Shakespeare with love – the best of the sonnets because David Tennant reads several of them
  • Translated into Swedish for the Swedish Shakespeare Society’s magazine: ‘Richard and Henry do history’

 Posted this month
  • This report

1 comment:

  1. I've recently finished a re-reading of "Antony and Cleopatra", and though I think it is one Shakespeare's greatest plays, I find it hard to explain why. I've tried several times but without success.

    To try again, some possible reasons might be the intensely alive and complex and contradictory title characters; their love which, for all that seems to the contrary, gives the impression of a world well lost for it (Dryden was more right than he knew when he titled his own version of the story); the gorgeous verse that manages to be stirring and visionary without the overblown rhetoric and clumsy verbosity that sometimes affect Will's earlier plays - up until and including "Hamlet"; the elaborate structure that covers the whole known world of the 1st century BC and the swift, cinematic exchange of scenes; the character of Enobarbus, Will's original creation and one of his finest tragic characters; the marvellously individual minor characters, notably Octavius (a major character, really), Charmian, Pompey, Agrippa, Lepidus and even Mecaenas; the final scene in which Cleopatra is transformed from shallow to sublime and the Romans are taken in completely.

    Does all this make any sense at all? :-)