Monday, December 16, 2013

Monday December 16 2013

The year is drawing to a close.  It’s been a good Shakespeare year, the best part of course being the three plays we were fortunate enough to see at the Globe in June – The Tempest (with Colin Morgan and Roger Allam), The Taming of the Shrew, and Macbeth. You can read about them and the Globe in the texts under “Ruby’s Reflections” here in the sidebar.  No plans are yet made for next summer but Hal and I are checking things out and hope to get back to London for more Shakespeare.
For now though, this blog will be taking a little break, not because of Christmas but because for a couple of weeks I’ll be involved in another project (Shakespeare is, believe it or not, not my only addiction. I have several.)
So though we’ve finished reading Macbeth for this time we will wait until the new year to watch the films and I will wait to write the text.  It’s all worth waiting for and I look forward to it.
For now, I’d like to thank all of you from around the world for visiting Shakespeare Calling. I’m always astounded that so many find their way to the blog and it’s always interesting to see which texts are visited most frequently. That might be something to review in a New Year Chronicle!
Until then, I wish you all peace and a fine beginning to the New Year.  See you again in 2014.
From Davis and Frankforter’s The Shakespeare Name Dictionary.
  • Fate – do we believe in it? No, I shouldn’t think so…but it figures often in Shakespeare (and lots of literature of course). The Greeks called the goddess of destiny Moira but D&F point out that Shakespeare might not have known this.
  • Ferdinand is, according to D&F, a “traditional name among Spanish royalty” and “made its way to England’s Catholics during the reign of Mary I.” It also made its way into several of Shakespeare’s plays, including The Tempest in the form of the romantic young man who falls in love with Miranda.

Shakespeare sightings:
  • In the novel Ghana Must Go the author Taiye Selasi describes the family drama taking place as Shakespearean.  With good reason.
  • The fantasy novel Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence seems to take place in medieval times until suddenly the characters start quoting Shakespeare. Oh well, anything can happen in fantasy, right? Here’s what they say:
    • “’Now is the winter of our Hundred War made fearsome summer by this prodigal son.” To which the prince replies: “You maul Shakespeare worse than you abuse his mother tongue, Saracen.”
    • “Is this a dagger I see before me?” asks the prince as his father the king stabs him. They’re not on the best of terms…
    • “Shakespeare had it that the clothes maketh the man…”
  • Richard Wilson known best to me, and maybe you, as Gaius on Merlin, talks about Shakespearein an interview with Alan Titchmarsh.  It’s so refreshing to hear someone with similar views to my own on Lear. The Shakespeare part starts at around 5.55.
  • Another You Tube link of interest: Sir Ken Robinson talks on TED on the question “Do schools kill creativity?”  The Shakespeare part comes at about 6.30
  • From friend and colleague EÖ I was given an article from Svenska dagbladet (the other national Swedish newspaper) about A Midsummer Night’s Dream being performed in Mandarin from a 1929 translation in Peking at the Academy of Theater, directed by Mathius Lafolie.  So if you happen to be in Peking…
  • In Ian McEwan’s Solar, the obnoxious (but often right) main character, physicist Michael Beard, points out that in ten million years no one will remember Shakespeare. Well, true… Later, while giving a lecture and using a packet of crisps (potato chips to you AmEn speakers) to make a point, he compares himself to Hamlet with Yorick’s skull. (He has a very high view of himself, this Dr. Beard). And finally, he has a girlfriend in the ghost town of Shakespeare in Texas. Actually, if you Google it, you’ll find it doesn’t seem to be a ghost town.
  • In Dagens Nyheter’s theater supplement for the spring program we see that Macbeth will be performed in dance form – Bounce, in fact!

Further this week:
  • Finished reading aloud with Hal: Macbeth
  • Started reading: Macbeth – A True Story by Fiona Watson. It’s a fascinating book. She refers constantly to the play, mainly pointing out what is historically inaccurate (or just plain untrue) about it.  What is most interesting so far is that the reality of the historical Macbeth’s time (early 11th century) was even more brutal than the play, making Shakespeare’s Macbeth look like a pussy cat (relatively).  Haven’t got to the part about Lady Macbeth, whose name was Gruoch.

Posted this week:

  • This Monday report.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Monday December 9 2013

Nelson Mandela 1918 – 2013. The greatest man of our time has left us. The world is a poorer place without him but a much richer place for having had him in it.

The works of Shakespeare, disguised as a prayer book and belonging to Mandela’s fellow ANC prisoner Sony Venkatrathnam, was not confiscated by the guards on Robben Island, and the plays were read and signed by many of the prisoners.

On December 16, 1977, Nelson Mandela autographed these lines from Julius Caesar:

Cowards die many times before their deaths
The valiant only taste of death but once.
Of all the wonders that I yet have heard,
It seems to me most strange that men should fear:
Seeing that death a necessary end,
Will come when it will come.

That Mandela was valiant he proved time and again throughout his long life. That there is hope in the world, that there is a possibility to achieve equality, is in part thanks to Nelson Mandela. He was a true revolutionary and humanist. Like Shakespeare, Nelson Mandela will live on as long as we heed their words of profound wisdom.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Monday December 2 2013

December is a busy month for a lot of people, especially us teachers. National tests and grades don’t really affect my Shakespeare Mondays, that’s why it’s called leave without pay, but it seems the world of Shakespeare is sympathetic to my situation by lying low. In other words, again, not much has been happening. We are getting through Macbeth though, with a pile of movies waiting.

From Davis and Frankforter’s The Shakespeare Name Dictionary.
  • Ermengarde is the woman whose royalty Henry V exploited as an excuse to invade France. She was the daughter of Charles of Lorraine and her right to inherit the throne in 987 was ignored, but it came in handy four hundred or so years later.  We can always find reasons in history to do the things we want to and shouldn’t.
  • Eton was founded by Henry V’s unfortunate but long-lived son, the wimpy – or was he -? Henry VI.  He lost a bunch of wars but he founded Eton and Cambridge and they’re still standing. Not a bad legacy.

Shakespeare sightings:
  • In an unknown TV program, caught by accident, as we turned on the TV to watch the news, one of the characters said, “their pound of flesh.”
  • I’ve now finished the fascinating Swerve by Stephen Greenblatt and there are a few more Shakespeare connections. 
    • The hero of the book, Poggio, who found the lost Lucretius manuscript this book is about, actually got a job with Henry Beaufort, Bishop of Winchester. He was a historical person, and even more interesting for us, uncle of the above mentioned Henry V.
    • Greenblatt quotes Hamlet’s “a special providence in the fall of a sparrow” as part of the ongoing discussion on the existence and role of destiny, or as the Christians would have it, the will of God.
    • Though Shakespeare did not attend college his Latin would have been good enough to read Lucretius in the original and Greenblatt makes a good argument to show that it’s completely plausible that he did, or least met with the main points in Lucretius through his, Shakespeare’s favorite philosopher Montaigne.  Evidence of this abounds in the plays.  That’s pretty exciting! Read Swerve!
  • The well known Swedish actress Gunilla Röör has played Richard II,I Dagens Nyheter tells us.  I would have liked to see her in that.

Further this week:
  • Continued reading aloud with Hal: Macbeth.  It’s so impressive!
  • Finished reading: Sleep of Death by Philip Gooden. It turns out – surprise, surprise – that Shakespeare wasn’t guilty of murder after all.

Posted this week:

  • This Monday report.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Monday November 25 2013

This too will be a short report and this time it will be the only thing posted on the blog. That will give any newcomers or busy followers a chance to catch up on some of the older posts. Please note that because of technical problems I have not been able to list links to the texts in the lists in the sidebar but I think I have all the titles of the texts and links can be found in the archives.  So good luck in finding what you’re looking for.

From Davis and Frankforter’s The Shakespeare Name Dictionary.
  • English as the name of the language spoken in early Medieval England appeared before the name of the country itself. During the patriotic fervor of the Hundred Years’ War, English became the official language.  Shakespeare was of course instrumental in establishing the vernacular as the language we use today and the word “English” is used frequently in his works.
  • Epicurus has the undeserved reputation as a promoter of debauchery (he was actually a promoter of the pleasure to be found in scientific thought, as we can see in Stephen Greenblatt’s Swerve, mentioned in the last two Monday reports). Unfortunately, dear Shakespeare is partly responsible for this unfortunate misconception since a reference of this nature appears in King Lear.

Shakespeare sightings:
  • Our little local weekly newspaper Mitt i Sundbyberg (“In the Middle of Sundbyberg”) had a long article about actor Sven Wollter and his current role as King Lear (see “Like Father Like Daughter” under play analyses from last week).There isn’t really anything about Shakespeare in the article, and rather little about the play itself.
  • In the teachers’ union magazine was the advert for this year’s Shakespeare course in London arranged by the Swedish Shakespeare Society.  It’s the course Hal and I attended last year. Recommended!

Further this week:
  • Started reading aloud with Hal: Macbeth.  I do believe this is my favorite play. Or at least one of the top five.
  • Started reading: King Hereafter by Dorothy Dunnett, about the historical Macbeth. In fact I have read it before, many years ago. I have also read her Lymond and Niccolo series several times and loved them. But now…I could not get into this book. I gave up after 50 pages. Sorry, Dame Dorothy.  Maybe next time around.
  • Received from Bokus: Shakespeare’s London on Five Groats a Day by Richard Tames and Sleep of Death by Philip Gooden.
  • Started reading: above mentioned Sleep of Death by Philip Gooden. It’s a clever murder mystery in which our beloved Shakespeare is the prime suspect.  Amusing if not quite believable.

Posted this week:

  • This Monday report.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Monday November 18 2013

This has got to be the shortest Monday report so far. There have been only two Shakespeare sightings, we haven’t bought or ordered any Shakespeare books or DVDs or T-shirts or anything, haven’t watched any Shakespeare movies and haven’t started reading Macbeth (although we will this evening).  The text on Lear has been posted and that’s it. But I guess that’s enough for any week. Lear is rather draining and I’m not unhappy to leave him behind.

From Davis and Frankforter’s The Shakespeare Name Dictionary.
  • Ely is a cathedral city in Cambridgeshire and the bishop thereof plays a part in Henry V, Richard III and Henry VIII. It is also a tiny little town in the north woods of Minnesota to which my family sometimes drove when I was very little. To me it was a great outing during which I hadn’t the slightest inkling of England or Shakespeare…
  • England is the country where Shakespeare was born, did you know that?   He doesn’t actually mention his native land in all of his plays, but quite a few. Ah England, if I could only be in two places at once, there and here.

Shakespeare sightings:
  • Swerve by Stephen Greenblatt comes through as hoped and offers the only sightings this week.  Greenblatt shows – beautifully as he always does – how the philosophy of Epicurus explains how “there is a hidden natural explanation for everything that alarms or eludes you” and it will “inevitably lead you back to atoms…you will be freed from a terrible affliction – what Hamlet, many centuries later, described as ‘the dread of something after death,/ The undiscovered country from whose bourn/ No traveler returns’” (page 75).
  • On the next page Greenblatt describes the death of Epicurus and quotes Shakespeare to show that it is not always so easy to be comforted by remembered pleasures when one is in pain: “Who can hold a fire in his hand/ By thinking on the frosty Caucasus?” In case you have to Google that I’ll save you the trouble. I just did and it’s from Richard II.

Further this week:
  • Nothing!

 Posted this week:
  • Like Father, Like Daughter” in King Lear.
  • This Monday report.

King Lear - Like Father Like Daughters?

Like Father Like Daughters?
King Lear

                      Two questions always bother me when reading or seeing this, Shakespeare’s most emotionally gruesome play, King Lear: Are Goneril and Regan as awful as everyone says they are? And if they are – why?  What is there in the text that prompts directors to immediately show them as haughty, false, lying, hypocritical, vampy, etc., etc., from the moment they walk onto the stage?
                      To quote a few of the characters, my answer is, “Nothing.”
                      Maybe I’m missing something but in the whole first scene what I see are two respectable older daughters and a saucy younger one, and a manipulative, hypocritical, hot-tempered, frighteningly irrational father.
                      Here’s the situation. The old king, to the surprise of everyone and the dismay of some, is retiring and dividing his kingdom equally among his three daughters. Sounds good, right? But in the very first lines of the play we are informed that Lear tends to play favorites: Kent says to Gloucester: “I thought the king had more affected the Duke of Albany than Cornwall.” That is, Goneril’s husband more than Regan’s husband.  Gloucester agrees but goes on to say that now that things are to be divided equally, who knows?
                      Enter the king and the whole gang.  In the eleventh line he speaks, Lear reveals himself to be an emotional manipulator:

…Tell me, my daughters -
Which of you shall we say doth love us most?
That we our largest bounty may extend
Where merit doth most challenge it?. (Scene 1)

                      Wha’?! he just told them it would be divided equally, now they have to compete by loving him most?  I think the daughters can be excused for being a bit puzzled but Goneril and Regan are daughters to a king, wives to dukes and heads of great households. They are trained in the art of diplomacy as would all women of their class be. Goneril starts with, “Sir, I do love you more than words can wield the matter…” Regan ends with, “…I am alone felicitate/ In your dear highness’ love.”
                      Flowery yes, but hypocritical? Why should we think so?  This is a ceremonial moment. They are put on the spot.  They rise to the occasion and if we might think, “Why should they love the brutal old coot – I sure wouldn’t!”, I doubt that we would say so if we were in their position.
                      That Cordelia dares to go against this is in fact very strange. We find it admirable as do Kent, Gloucester, the King of France but I can’t help but wonder why they do. A saucy young daughter who sasses back to her royal father in public in the name of honesty – yes, of course we cheer her on but why do these three males who represent the patriarchal power structure admire her so much?  Would they want their daughters to…?
                      Lear’s reaction, at least his initial dismay, is understandable from him point of view but we still hate him for his virulent rejection of her and the alert spectator/reader will note that he, for all the court, proclaims, “I loved her most.”
                      That’s never a fun thing for siblings to hear and as we find out it’s not the first time Goneril and Regan have heard it.
                      That the three sisters are not the sweetest of friends we detect in Cordelia’s farewell to Goneril and Regan:

…I know you what you are,
And like a sister am most loath to call
Your faults as they are named. Use well our father,
To your professèd bosoms I commit him.
But yet, alas, stood within his grace
I would prefer him to a better place (Scene 1)

                      What?  What? What are their faults.  Why would Lear be better off somewhere else?  This is probably what directors base their presentation of the immediately nasty G&R on but for me it’s far too vague. Goneril says, “Don’t tell us what to do,” i.e. “Prescribe not us our duties” and Regan tells her to mind her own business.  Cordelia sweeps out with her new king after telling them their faults – whatever they are – we do not know, Shakespeare doesn’t tell us! – will be revealed.
                      Nor in the exchange between Goneril and Regan that immediately follows do we see anything other than two daughters concerned about the irrational behavior of their angry father but three things are clear: 1) they know that: “He always loved our sister best”, 2) that “he hath ever but slenderly known himself” (very astute of Regan!) and 3) that his irrationality is likely to continue and get worse.  Conclusion? Let’s stick together and do something.
                      These are not the evil intrigues of evil women.  They are the unhappy observations that most children make over their aging parents – even those of us who had lovely, or at least normal, parents – and the feeling of “we have to do something” is surely universal. And for Goneril and Regan it is, as it is for us, a new situation.
                      Let’s jump to Lear at Goneril’s. We learn in Scene 3 that Goneril is already at her wits’ end because Lear is not a gracious houseguest. You must agree that if Lear and his one hundred rowdy soldiers were staying with you, you’d be as angry as Goneril? That you’d be frustrated and impatient because the “idle old man” still wanted to “manage those authorities that he hath given away!” (Scene 3)?  Haven’t you ever been driven crazy by visiting parents, even the nice ones?
                      Still she speaks to him rather more respectfully and reasonably in Scene 4 than I would have managed to do in the face of the taunting of both Lear and his Fool.  Her appeal to him is filled with the words sir, safe redress, fearful, good wisdom, beseech, understand… And these words should be delivered in a manner to show a woman who wants to do what is right, who wants to be respectful but is desperate because her entire household is in an uproar caused by Lear’s and his soldiers’ totally unacceptable behavior.  Not as the evil conniving power-hungry daughter she is so often shown to be.
                      What follows is among the most painful scenes in Shakespeare, Lear’s curse on his daughter.
                      He starts by calling her “detested kite” (for us non-bird people the Norton edition tells us this is a carrion-eating hawk) and a liar, claims his soldiers are as sweet as lambs (come on! A hundred soldiers all in one confined place?!) and that he was wrong about Cordelia.  So before the curse even starts Goneril is called by her father King Lear a carrion eater and a liar and compared (for the umpteenth time) to his other, favorite daughter.
                      And then the curse:

…Hark, nature, hear;
Dear goddess, suspend thy purpose if
Thou didst intend to make this creature fruitful.
Into her womb convey sterility!
Dry up in her the organs of increase;
And from her derogate body never spring
A babe to honour her. If she must teem,
Create her child of spleen, that it may live,
And be a thwart disnatured torment to her.
Let it stamp wrinkles in her brow of youth,
With cadent tears fret channels in her cheeks,
Turn all her mother's pains and benefits
To laughter and contempt, that she may feel –
That she may feel
How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is
To have a thankless child.

                      I can literally find no words strong enough to express the profound, the absolute cruelty of this curse.  Most women want children. In Lear’s time and society (whenever that is) it is absolutely vital for noble women to bear children to carry on the family line, especially a royal line.  That Goneril has been married to Albany for some years is not explicitly stated but it’s fair to assume so. That they do not yet have children can – and must – be seen to be if not a sorrow for Goneril at least worrying.  In her society bearing children is essentially the only thing expected and demanded and accepted of her. And her father not only says he hopes she never has children, he calls upon the goddesses to “dry up in her the organs of increase” – the very fount of life and, at least sometimes, joy.
                      And then he adds the curse that if she does have children they will turn against her. With his famous line about thankless children Lear, the expert manipulator, turns himself into the victim.
                      I hate him. He is a terrible father and what he has done cannot be forgiven no matter how cuddly he gets with Cordelia in the end.  Surely somebody among all the Shakespeare scholars throughout the ages has not only seen this but turned the academic spotlight on the essential, vital significance of this curse in the play.  Yes, Lear later in his madness is given great credit for coming to some understanding of the suffering of his lower class subjects but he never expresses regret over the suffering he has caused his two older daughters.  He never comes to the tiniest insight, has the tiniest inkling, that he is in the wrong in this relationship.
                      You know what? I can’t go on.  I was going to analyze all the exchanges between Goneril and Lear and Regan and Lear but this is enough.  Regan is far nastier than Goneril ever gets to be and with less visible cause but I’ll have to leave her and the two sisters’developing rivalry for Edmund’s favors for another time. For now I will simply leave this text with the image of a daughter devastated by the cruelty of her father and abandoned by her judgmental husband (also to be dealt with another time) and turned thereby into a cruel and manipulative villain.
                      Like father, like daughter.

Works cited:
  • The Norton Shakespeare, based on the Oxford Edition. Ed. Greenblatt, Stephen et al. Second edition. 2008.

 Spinoffs and Lear related films seen:
  • A Thousand Acres 1997. Director: Jocelyn Moorhouse. Cast:– Jason Robards -King Lear;– Jessica Lange Goneril; – Michelle Pfeiffer - Regan; – Jennifer Jason Leigh –Cordelia (they all had other names of course).  This might be the best Lear film so far. The parallels are clear, the story tragic, but from the sisters’ point of views.
  • Ran Akira Kurosawa 1985. Cast: see the movie review on the movie blog.  These are not names I recognize, except for Kurosawa.  The film is visually impressive and at times very dramatic.  It is a masterpiece, I can agree, and must be seen. But it doesn’t grip me.

 Films seen:
  • BBC, 1982. Director: Jonathan Miller. Cast: Michael Horden - King Lear; Gillian Barge– Goneril; Penelope Wilton– Regan; Brenda Blethyn– Cordelia; Michael Kitchen – Edmund; Anton Lesser – Edgar; John Shrapnel - Kent; Norman Rodway - Gloucester.  In hindsight, having seen all the other versions, this one stands out as perhaps the best.  Quite straightforward, as the BBC productions tend to be, and with many strong actors in the cast, this one is definitely an OK version to watch.
  • Olivier 1983 Cast: Laurence Olivier– King Lear; Dorothy Tutin – Goneril; Diana Rigg – Regan; Anna Calder Marshall – Cordelia; Robert Lindsay– Edmund; David Threllfall – Edgar; Colin Blakely- Kent; Leo McKern- Gloucester.  It starts out good with perhaps Olivier’s best performance and much of the cast is strong but it loses momentum in the storm.
  • Nunn and Hunt 2008 Cast: Ian McKellen – King Lear; Frances Barber – Goneril; Monica Dolan – Regan; Romola Garai– Cordelia; Philip Winchester – Edmund; Ben Meyjes – Edgar; Jonathan Hyde - Kent; - William Gaunt - Gloucester.  Ian McKellen is unbeatable but the production is even more uneven than Nunn usually is and really doesn’t reach the heights that one expects.
  • Davenall 1974. Cast: Patrick Magee – King Lear; Beth Harris – Goneril; Ann Lynn – Regan; Wendy Allnutt – Cordelia; Patrick Mower – Edmund; Robert Coleby – Edgar; - Ray Smith - Kent; Ronald Radd - Gloucester.  This one is almost a disaster.  It was almost impossible to watch but I stuck with it.
  • Brook 1971 Cast: Paul Scofield – King Lear; Irene Worth – Goneril; Susan Engel – Regan; Anne-Lise Gabold – Cordelia; Ian Hogg – Edmund; Robert Lloyd – Edgar;  Tom Fleming - Kent; Alan Webb - Gloucester.  Some very dramatic and powerful filming but another uneven production that didn’t carry it off.

 All of these except the BBC version have been reviewed on

 Seen on stage:
  • December 11, 2011 with 1-2-3 Schtunk, a comedy trio who had us laughing from start to…almost to the finish, which was as tragic as the play is supposed to be.
  • On October 26, 2013 at Stockholm’s Stadsteatern with the Swedish acting legend Sven Wollter in the lead.  Set in a modern day psychiatric geriatric clinic with outstanding stage settings and visual effects, this is in some ways better than all the films put together. But it too has its flaws which make it less than the original.


Monday, November 11, 2013

Monday November 11 2013

 Finally our Lear marathon is over.  The movies have been watched and reviewed, my text is done, at least the rough draft.  Next week, for sure, barring unforeseen happenings, it will be ready to post here. With all the buildup you’re probably expecting something extraordinary. I don’t know about that but I can promise you a bit of good old Lear pathos.  But that’s next week.

From Davis and Frankforter’s The Shakespeare Name Dictionary.
  • Eglamore is the name of a nobleman who helps Silvia flee from Milan in Two Gentlemen from Verona, then runs away. It could be a reference to a figure in the Merlin legend in which there is a runaway knight called Eglame.
  • Elsinore, as we all know, is the castle in Hälsingör in Denmark (my computer can’t make the Danish ö so you’ll have to put up with the Swedish one) in which Hamlet takes place. It’s a real castle. I’ve been there.  It’s probably not quite the same now though as it was in Hamlet’s day. Or rather, Shakepeare’s.

Shakespeare sightings:
  • Dagens Nyheter had a report about a cultural figure named Svante Grundberg in honor of his 70th birthday.  When asked what he’s reading now the answer was, “Before I read Shakespeare, Scott Fitzgerald, Kafka and all that jazz. Now it’s mostly biographies of musicians and old Hollywood oddballs.”
  • The Crossing Places by Elly Griffiths started out as an interesting detective novel starring an archeologist who runs across a case requiring knowledge of Shakespeare. The quotes “A little touch of Harry in the night” (Henry V) and “A man may see how the world goes with no eyes” (King Lear) are used and volumes of Shakespeare are lying around the characters’ bookshelves.  Unfortunately this, the landscape and the history were the highlights.  The story itself was uninteresting in the final analysis.
  • Open City by Teju Cole is about a scholar who got a poor grade in a Shakespeare seminar but learned bits of the Sonnets.
  • Swerve by Stephen Greenblatt is starting out with a bang. I’ve only read the introduction so far, and Shakespeare has only been mentioned once as Greenblatt’s primary interest, but already I’m excited about it. It’s about the lost manuscript of Lucretia’s The Nature of Things being found and becoming instrumental in kicking off the Renaissance.  I’m sure there will is Shakespeare to come. And  I think I’ll have to start a Stephen Greenblatt fan club. 

Further this week:
  • Watched: two films of Lear, the one with Patrick Magee and the one with Paul Scofield.
  • Wrote and posted: reviews of same.
  • Ordered from Bokus: Sleep of Death by Philip Gooden, a detective novel that takes place in Shakespeare’s London. The main character is a member of the Chamberlain’s Men.  Should be interesting.
  • Ordered from Bokus: Shakespeare’s London on Five Groats a Day by Richard Tames.  Also sounds interesting. We’ll have to start saving our groats!  

Posted this week:

Monday, November 4, 2013

Monday November 4 2013

The big event this week was supposed to be seeing Hamlet at Stadsteatern in Uppsala. But we had just made the hour long drive north with our friends and sat down to a late lunch when YW’s cell beeped to signal a text.  The performance had been cancelled due to illness. What?? Not possible!  Don’t they have understudies??  Apparently not. When we went to the theater after our meal to get the refund the nice young woman with blue hair said, “No theater can afford that these days.” Hm.  But can they afford to lose the income from several hundred ticket buyers? Guess so. Anyway, no Hamlet. We were very disappointed but that’s life.
Remaining to deal with is Lear and progress is being made.  See below. But first:

From Davis and Frankforter’s The Shakespeare Name Dictionary.
  • Duncan, who we will be meeting shortly when we launch into the upcoming Macbeth, had no more claim to the throne historically than Macbeth did and Macbeth didn’t murder him.  Oh Shakespeare, can’t you stick to the facts? Lucky he didn’t!
  • Edward is the name of an awful lot of people. The most interesting Shakespeare Edward is the IV who usurped the throne from poor old Henry VI and who fathered the hapless princes mean brother Richard is supposed to have murdered in the Tower. Historically Edward has been portrayed as “indolent, irresolute, avaricious, self-indulgent, and much more incline to drift than lead.”  But that’s the Tudors writing history.  Shakespeare, according to D&F, “treated him kindly” to make his villain Richard III look bad. Modern historians think Edward VI was probably an OK king.

Shakespeare sightings:
  • Dagens Nyheter tells us that the Swedish 19th century poet Gustaf Geijer after his trip to England in 1809-1810 printed the first translation of Shakespeare into Swedish. It was Macbeth. Two years later Shakespeare was first performed on stage in Swedish in Stockholm. The Swedish Shakespeare Society (of which I am a proud member) is reissuing this first work together with the Geijer Society.
  • Angels in America was shown on TV some time ago and it was good the first time.  It seems almost better now that we’re watching it again.  In the first episode the old rabbi (played by Meryl Streep) quotes Lear to a young man estranged from his family, first in Hebrew and then in English: “How sharper than a serpent’s tongue it is to have an ungrateful child.”

Further this week:
  • Bought actually last Monday but I forgot to list it here: tickets for Rickard III with Jonas Karlsson in March
  • Watched: Nunn’s film of Lear.
  • Tried to attend Hamlet (see above).

Posted this week:

Monday, October 28, 2013

Monday October 28 2013

Monday, October 28, 2013
The big event this week is that we saw Kung Lear at Stadsteatern here in Stockholm. We’re still mulling over our reaction.  As a whole I liked it and will write a short review of it with the Lear text which is slowly formulating itself in my mind.  We’ve also watched Olivier’s King Lear; see the link below for my review on the Movie Blog.

From Davis and Frankforter’s The Shakespeare Name Dictionary.
  • Dorothy wasn’t a popular name in the Middle Ages but came into fashion in Shakespeare’s day. He used it in Henry IV Part Two for Doll Tearsheet and a servant in Cymbeline.  Not a name for a noblewoman, in other words.
  • Dover and its white cliffs are now so connected to our image of England that probably no one hears the word Dover without immediately seeing those white cliffs in their mind. So it has been since ancient times. Surprisingly, perhaps, they only figure in three Shakespeare plays, Henry VI Part One, Henry V and King Lear.

Shakespeare sightings:
  • Dagens Nyheter had a clever cartoon this week. Sweden’s conservative tax-reducing prime minister is shown dressed in Renaissance clothing and holding a skull thinking, “Welfare or not to welfare…that’s maybe an important question…” You might well ask, Fredrik.
  • Dagens Nyheter again: An ad for Richard III, premiering at the Royal Dramatic Theater on February 27, 2014, starring Jonas Karlsson of Caliban fame. Oh I’d like to see that!...  In fact, we just booked tickets for it in March.
  • The Night Climbers is a novel by Ivo Stourton about a gang of students at Cambridge so of course there’s a Shakespeare sighting, but only one: “…since old Lord Soulford had shuffled off the mortal coil…”
  • The Little Friend by Donna Tartt also has one (so far, I’m not finished) but unlike in the example above, I doubt the character even knows she’s quoting Shakespeare when she says, “Methinks the lady doth protest too much!”

Further this week:
  • Started reading aloud with Hal: Harold Bloom’s analysis of King Lear.  
  • Watched: Olivier’s film.
  • Attended: the play at Stadsteatern. If you live in Stockholm, it’s well worth seeing. It’s going until December.

Posted this week:

Shylock Meets Morgana

Shylock Meets Morgana

                      Stephen Greenblatt is always inspiring. The Harvard Shakespearean has stimulated much of my work on Shakespeare Calling.
                      But I never expected him to explain Merlin to me.
                      Merlin.  That is to say Merlin, the enormously popular BBC TV series starring Colin Morgan (also Ariel in the Globe’s The Tempest) as the appealing, funny, powerful young warlock in Camelot where witchcraft is forbidden upon pain of death.  I came to the series late. We started watching it after all five seasons had been broadcast. Hal and I are now in our second time through, watching two or three episodes four evenings a week. We’re addicted.
                      What does this have to do with Shakespeare?
                      That’s where Stephen Greenblatt comes in.
                      I was calmly, with interest as always, reading the professor’s Shakespeare’s Freedom (fascinating, read it!) and started Chapter Three, “The Limits of Hatred”.  On the first three pages a nameless voice tells us about the aliens in our midst who hate us because they are weaker while “we embody the dominant value, embrace the dominant beliefs, control the dominant institutions” (page 49).  The reader soon realizes that this is the voice of an Antonio type person explaining the dangers of the presence of the Jews in Venice. It’s a chilling picture and Greenblatt goes on to explain why The Merchant of Venice is more relevant today than ever.  Just exchange “Jew” for “Muslim” and you have today’s Western fear for The Other.
                      And exchange Antonio for Uther Pendragon and Shylock for Morgana and…
                      “Oh come on,” you might well say.
                      Yes, you’ll find a lot of holes in my argument but there was a flash of recognition when I read Greenblatt. Uther Pendragon is the king of Camelot. He’s the one with the dominant values, beliefs and institutions and he hates witches and sorcery. He has forbidden all magic, he hunts and kills anyone even slightly suspected of sorcery, but he demands the use of magic for his own purposes when necessary.
                      Antonio hates, fears and mistreats Jews.  His religion condemns usury. But he exploits both when necessary.
                      Shylock embraces hatred and revenge because of the oppression. Morgana embraces hatred and revenge because of the oppression.
                      The Merchant of Venice is a comedy that disturbs us deeply. Merlin is a TV adventure series that delights us.  There is darkness and tragedy in both.  We see why the villains have become villains. We wish they hadn’t become villains. We wish for a happy ending but that’s impossible. It doesn’t happen.
                      Shakespeare is Shakespeare.  Merlin is a popular contemporary TV series.  They both grab onto us because we are all close to becoming the hater and the hated.  We need to tell these stories and be told these stories.  We all need to confront and avert this danger and our fears. In comedies. And in adventure stories.
                      We are all Uther and Antonio, Shylock and Morgana.
                      And hopefully a little Merlin too.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Monday October 21 2013

We’ve finished reading Lear and have started the movies.  I had thought I had decided what to write about but after watching the BBC version I’m in doubt again.  I probably won’t start writing for a week or so, there’s too much other stuff going on and this will take concentration. In other words, not much will be happening on Shakespeare Calling for a couple of weeks.  But here’s what this week has to offer:

From Davis and Frankforter’s The Shakespeare Name Dictionary.
  • The devil was more of a presence in Shakespeare’s day, I suppose, but he made surprisingly few appearances in the plays. Listed in D&F are Henry VI Part One and Measure for Measure.
  • Doomsday, even more sinister than the devil, being that it signifies the end of history, is mentioned in Richard III, The Comedy of Errors, Love’s Labour’s Lost, Romeo and Juliet, Henry IV Part One, Julius Caesar, Hamlet, and Antony and Cleopatra.

Shakespeare sightings:
  • Inget är i sig själv varken ont eller gott, det är tanken som bestämmer vilket det är. This was the quote of the week last week in my teacher’s calendar. For those of you who haven’t brushed up on your Swedish the original is: “Nothing is good or bad, but thinking makes it so” and if you know who says it to whom and why and in which play, well, we haven’t had a contest for awhile. Write a comment here (not on Face Book please) and win…
  • In Dagens Nyheter last Monday (I missed it because I read the morning paper at dinner) was the report which I actually saw refuted on The Globe’s Face Book, that Downton Abbey writer Julian Fellowes simplified the text of Romeo and Juliet because not everybody has enough education to understand Shakespeare. Fiona Banks at the Globe answered: the actors are capable of making the story understandable and engaging. Thank you, Fiona (I liked this on FB). Silly Julian, I didn’t think you were such a snob…
  • Dagens Nyheter again: Anthony Hopkins has written to the star of the series Breaking Bad (which I haven’t seen) Bryan Cranston, praising the series as similar to a drama from James I’s time, a Shakespearian or Greek drama.  Hmmm, maybe I should see it.
  • One of the members of our local English book circle talked about the New Zealand writer Ngaio Marsh, known for her detective novels and, according to the blurb on the book RL had with her to the circle, a renowned Shakespearean director who was instrumental in bringing Shakespeare to modern New Zealand.
  • On Swedish TV there was an interview with the popular song writer Lasse Holm who said that he likes Verdi’s version of Macbeth.
  • Our dear friend NM managed to get a ticket to one of the last performances of Mats Ek’s Julia & Romeo and was lyrical about it. “Soooooooo good!” said NM.
  • Ali Smith has done it again, written a wonderful novel, this time Hotel World in which a homeless woman thinks of Shakespeare, a dead girl has a poster for Romeo and Juliet on her wall and the child actor Solomon Pavy, who died at the age of thirteen, haunts the Globe. The ghost telling this informs us that Shakespeare had written The Comedy of Errors before Solomon was born, Julius Caesar while he was alive and acting and Antony and Cleopatra after his death.

Further this week:
  • Finished reading aloud with Hal: King Lear and the introduction to the Norton edition.
  • Watched: the BBC version of play.
  • Premiered: the Kung Lear we’re going to see at Stadsteatern with Sven Wolter next Saturday.  So far the play has gotten mixed reviews but Wolter has evoked positive responses.  A colleague, TG, who saw part of the dress rehearsal, says it’s really good but the show was cancelled before the second half because someone slipped in all the rain on stage and hurt themselves. Not Wolter though! Lots of water and blood, TG reports. More next week when we’ve seen it!

Posted this week:

  • Only this Monday report.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Monday October 14 2013

We’re getting close to the end of Lear, reading it that is.  We have five films to watch and busy weekends ahead so it will still be a long process. As always at this point in reading a play I wonder what in the world I’ll write about it but there is no shortage of fascinating aspects.  I’m not sure how much I like this play but then I’m not sure “like” is the issue here.  Does one “like” Shakespeare?  I don’t think so…

From Davis and Frankforter’s The Shakespeare Name Dictionary.
  • Deborah was the first woman mentioned in biblical history to become a leader and a military general. In Henry VI Part One Shakespeare invents a “Deborah’s sword” to compare her to Joan of Arc.
  • Denmark, in Shakespeare’s time, was a world power though in decline. They were uneasy Protestant allies to the English, who were nevertheless suspicious of the Danes because they were allied to Scotland and traded with Spain.  Then Anne of Denmark became queen of England in 1603 and they all had to be friends.  By then Hamlet had done its Danish thing.

Shakespeare sightings:
  • In the novel The Song House, by Trezza Azzopardi, Shakespeare sightings abound:
    • The main character Maggie treasures the Shakespeare her mother had given her for her eleventh birthday. Precocious Maggie.
    • When the other main character Kenneth asks where a handkerchief is mentioned Maggie answers “Othello.”
    • Kenneth recognizes as Shakespeare the quote Maggie utters: “These strong Egyptian fetters I must break…” and she pretends not to remember that it’s from Antony and Cleopatra.
    • When Maggie goes off to town, Kenneth stays in the garden with his Shakespeare.
    • Kenneth tells his son Will as he dashes off for a dip in the dirty river, “’Tis a naughty night to swim in!” Because Hal and I had just read that very line, I recognized it as King Lear. Did you?
    • Will complains that his father is losing his mind: “He’s reading bloody Shakespeare!”
    • Will’s friend Alison tells Kenneth that William is worried about him: “That’s William your son, by the way, not Shakespeare.”
  • Dagens Nyheter tells us that Mats Ek’s ballet Julia and Romeo with the Royal Ballet has been invited by the Paris Opera to perform in Paris. We haven’t managed to see it here in Stockholm. Maybe we’ll have to go to Paris to see it.
  • Dagens Nyheter, same day: Copenhagen is celebrating Verdis 200th birthday by performing his three Shakespeare operas, Macbeth, Falstaff and Otello.  
  • The Saffron Kitchen by Yasmin Crowther is about a woman from Iran and her English born daughter Sara who is a teacher. On page 2 we are told that that she has sixth form essays on Othello and Desdemona to read.
  • The film Sin Nombre was called by the Swedish TV presenter “a kind of brutal Romeo and Juliet in a gang environment.” That’s as far as we got.  We weren’t up to a brutal movie yesterday evening so watched something else.  We’ll get back to Sin Nombre

Further this week:
  • Continued reading aloud with Hal: King Lear
  • Ordered from the Globe shop: DVDs of Globe productions of Henry V, Twelfth Night and The Taming of the Shrew (not, unfortunately, the one we saw this summer) and various other goodies.
  • Answered comments left on Blogging Shakespeare

Posted this week:
  • Text on Shakespeare and Popular Music by Adam Hansen
  • This Monday report.

Shakespeare and Popular Music

Shakespeare and popular Music by Adam Hansen, 2010.  Read in May-June 2011.

                      Those of us who grew up in the western music culture of the 50’s and 60’s no doubt remember the song “Just like Romeo and Juliet”. Do you remember who first did it? Well, I didn’t but now I know because this book told me.  It was the Reflections. That’s about the only song they did.  But it certainly wasn’t the only song produced with Shakespeare connections. There are four columns of songs in the index that are mentioned in this book.
                      Hansen sets out to show how his two passions, Shakespeare and popular music, relate, or more importantly, to prove those wrong who claim that they don’t relate and never can.  He does this admirably. It’s a fun book with a lot of “Oh yeah, that one!” – for example Peggy Lee’s “Fever” (“Romeo loved Juliet, Juliet she felt the same. When he put his arms around her he said ‘Julie, baby you’re my flame, thou givest fever”) and Springsteen’s “Point Blank” (“I was gonna be your Romeo you were gonna be my Juliet. These days you don't wait on Romeo's you wait on that welfare check..”) and Donavan’s “Under the Greenwood Tree”.
                      But Hansen goes back a lot farther than that, starting with Shakespeare himself who included a lot of what has to be called popular music in his own plays.
                      One chapter deals with how popular music is used in today’s Shakespeare movies, for example Baz Luhrman’s Romeo and Juliet or Julie Taymor’s Titus.
                      Another chapter deals with Shakespeare and jazz by which Hal and I were inspired to order Cleo Laine’s Shakespeare and All That Jazz and Duke Ellington’s Such Sweet Thunder. We learn further about British rap artist Akala who runs workshops on Shakespeare.

                      Hansen also explores Shakespeare in county music, punk and world music. And as always when it comes to Shakespeare, there seems to be no end to it.  Hansen ends his very enjoyable book with the wise words: “This is something to celebrate, not lament, as Caliban counsels: ‘Be not afeard’…And the beat goes on…”

Monday, October 7, 2013

Monday October 7 2013

Lear continues. Unfortunately the technical problems I had last week also continue.  I still cannot save the text for Timon of Athens in the “Play Analyses” side bar and I simply don’t know what to do.  The link is this if you want to find it this week
Free blogging is nice but it means there’s no one there to help you when glitches turn up.  I just hope it’s a onetime thing and that everything works today. Keep your cyberfingers crossed.

From Davis and Frankforter’s The Shakespeare Name Dictionary.
  • The Cotswolds, a range of hills near Shakespeare’s home town Stratford, is an area with which he would consequently be very familiar.
  • Cupid is the Roman god of love and is used often in the plays, often “mocking or pointing up the disasters that follow from impetuous love matches.”

Shakespeare sightings:
  • In the novel After This, by Alice McDermott, “Once more into the breach” is spoken by one of the character and “Something rotten in Denmark” is mentioned by another. As You Like It and Henry V are mentioned as is “Shakespeare” (just generally). Unfortunately none of these lifted this rather bland novel.
  • Sven Wolter, who will be premiering as Lear in a couple of weeks (we have tickets for the 26th) was interviewed on Gokväll, a popular program on SVT (/Swedish TV). Says Sven (in rough translation and paraphrase): “The play is about a ruler who becomes a person. The play has fantastic lines and lyricism. After playing Lear on Gotland in 2001, when my wife was very sick and shortly thereafter died, I want to do the play again because there is so much existentialism in it. It‘s the only role I’ve wanted to do again. How has it changed? I’ve gotten old! I’m now 80 years old. The younger actors don’t ask my advice, I learn just as much from them as they do from me.”

Further this week:
  • Continued reading aloud with Hal: King Lear
  • Finished reading: Shakespeare’s Freedom by Stephen Greenblatt
  • Continued the King Lear film watching with: Ran
  • Ordered: Duke Ellington’s CD Such Sweet Thunder.
  • Ordered and received: The Hollow Crown, a trilogy of Richard II, Henry IV Parts 1 and 2 and Henry V with Jeremy Irons, Patrick Steward, John Hurt, Julie Walters and lots of other people.
  • Blogging Shakespeare posted the two texts and

Posted this week:

Shakespeare Behind Bars

Shakespeare Behind Bars, Jean Trounstine.  Read in May 2011.

                      Being an English teacher I have long harbored the dream of actually reaching out to troubled students and helping them find the inspiration to get their lives together.  Working with women in prison has been a thought. It probably won’t happen for me.  It did for this author. 
                      Jean Trounstine gets a teaching job in a New England women’s prison. The inmates are not into Shakespeare but Trounstine experiments. Focusing on six women, who come to the classes mainly to pass dreary time, she writes about how by putting on The Merchant of Venice these women work their way through past traumas and tragedies, how they protest, refuse to continue, complain about the language, deal with ornery prison guards, and then after months of hard work, lots of aggression and anger and tears and heartbreak, they actually perform the play for their fellow inmates. And prove a lot of things to themselves and the skeptics.

                      There’s a touch of the Hollywood feel-good to the book but it is nevertheless a good read and shows once again that Shakespeare is for everyone.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Timon of Athens When You're Down and Out

When You’re Down and Out
Class Conflict

Timon of Athens

                      If you see Timon as a particularly odd individual who is extremely generous in the beginning of the play only to become extremely vicious when he loses his money and his friends shun him in his need, then this is, as Professor Harold Bloom sees it, “somewhere between satire and farce” (page 589). Some have thought it impossible to perform and indeed it seems that the play was never performed in Shakespeare’s lifetime. But as we know, Bloom refuses to see any of his (and our) beloved Bard’s works in any kind of socioeconomic or political context. This often clouds his perception of what is most interesting in a play, certainly in this case.
                      Timon is, to be sure, a fascinating character and it’s hard not to say, “Well, duh, if you give away all your wealth and borrow a lot of money and never actually make any new money, whaddya expect?”  He didn’t expect bankruptcy (wrong word – no banks in those days but same principle) but that’s what he got.
                      An oddball? An exceptionally foolish man? Not at all, according to Katherine Eisaman Maus in the introduction to the Norton Edition.  Timon is simply a representative of the aristocracy of Shakespeare’s time during which “the traditional aristocratic virtues of openhanded generosity and carelessness of expense were coming into acute conflict with the limited means upon which the great nobles could actually draw” (page 2265). She goes on to explain that while the bourgeois class grew in power and wealth and not only traded in more and more luxury goods but could afford to buy them for their personal use, the aristocracy had to increase the value of their gift-giving in order to retain their superior status. Timon wasn’t the only one giving away things, it’s just that the others more openly expected something other than love in return. Poor old aristocrats.
                      Hugh Grady, in his essay on Timon of Athens in A Companion to Shakespeare’s Works, the Tragedies, is even more explicit in showing how the Athenian society, in a clear parallel to Shakespeare’s London, “consist[s] of a hypocritical exterior of entertainment, friendship and (oddly female-less) domestic life actually organized to enrich a class of merchants and usurers and corrode ancient bonds of loyalty and service” (page 434). Grady goes on to cite Coppélia Kahn who shows that “Timon’s suppliers – and ultimately Timon himself – fantasize an endless fecundity” in the Marxist sense that money is “no longer simply money but capital; that is, money expended not for tangible commodities but for profits” (page 435). Timon isn’t seeking profit, he’s seeking the power over others of being the virtuous selfless gift-giver, putting them into a debt of obligation. But it is the Merchant, the Jeweler (members of the bourgeoisie), the other lords (his competitors within the aristocracy) the Poet and the Painter who end up with the financial profit.
                      This is getting complicated.
                      Timon is…upset by the demands of his creditors and the refusal of his friends to help him.  In fact he goes stark raving mad.  He really hates these people and calls them
                                            Most smiling, smooth, detested parasites,
                                            Courteous destroyers, affable wolves… (Act 3.7)

                      And that’s the mild stuff. It’s not enough to hate these individuals; he leaves Athens, becomes a hermit and hates the whole human race.  But poor old Timon, digging for roots to eat he finds a bunch of gold coins. Ah, he just can’t get away from money that he hasn’t earned.
                      So money, the real main character in this play, makes a new entrance, in the form of some kind of mythical profit.
                      In one of Shakespeare’s more clear-sighted monologs, he has Timon expose money for what it is:

                      Gold? Yellow, glittering, precious gold?
…much of this will make
Black white, foul fair, wrong right.
Base noble, old young, coward valiant.
Ha, you gods! Why this, what, this, you gods? Why, this
…yellow slave
Will knit and break religions, bless th’accursed…
…This is it
That makes the wappered widow wed again…
…Come, damned earth,
Thou common whore of mankind, that puts odds
Among the rout of nations; I will make thee
Do thy right nature (Act 4.3).

                      Money.  Lots of it can change bad things into good.  We know that. Money pays our rent, buys our food, gives us status and self-confidence (maybe). This yellow slave. It does what we tell it to do. We use it to create gods to give us harmony (maybe) and power (definitely). It is our slave.  And then suddenly we are its slave.  We become its whore.  We sell body and soul for it.  And more of it.  And more.
Timon’s outrage at finding the gold coins is so significant that Karl Marx himself wrote page after page of analysis in his Economic & Philosophic Manuscripts from 1844. He writes:
Shakespeare stresses especially two properties of money:
1. It is the visible divinity – the transformation of all human and natural properties into their contraries, the universal confounding and distorting of things: impossibilities are soldered together by it.
2. It is the common whore, the common procurer of people and nations.

                      Oh that word “whore”.  It’s a nasty word used several times in the play itself and Marx isn’t the only one to make use of it in his analysis.  It has often been noted that Timon of Athens is unusual in Shakespeare’s works because there are almost no women. Only the “ladies” presented in the directions as Amazons who come to entertain the banquet in Act 2.1 (interesting in itself) and Phrynia and Timandra (female form of “Timon”?) who accompany Alcibiades in his visit to Timon in Act 4.3. Timon insults them, as he does everyone.  He tells them to use their diseased bodies to spread disease. And he gives them gold. When they reply, “Believe’t that we will do anything for gold (Act 4.3)”, we are not to see these two women as greedier, more immoral, than everyone else because they are “whores” but that, as Kay Stanton points out, “gold, rather than woman is called the ‘root’ of whoredom, so all who must live in the material conditions of a market economy are in some sense whores” (page 97).
                      Ouch. That hurts. But it’s hard to deny.  We’re caught up in an economic system not to our liking and we do what we can and must do to get by.  And even if we play by the rules we don’t all succeed.
                      Timon was playing by the rules of aristocratic generosity.  His creditors were playing by the rules of dawning capitalism demanding the repayment of their loans to him.  His friends? The rule of “I don’t have to because someone else will”? Or, “Not right now, it’s not a good time…later”?
                      This is a cynical hopeless play in which the choice is “Timon’s extravagant imprudence” or a “dog-eat-dog world of untrammeled self-interest.” In Marxist Shakespeares Scott Cutler Shershow writes further that “Shakespeare simply cannot imagine any realistic social model beyond these two alternatives, and since the play deplores both it has absolutely nowhere to go” (page 260).
                      Maybe not.  But does it have to?  We know what happens because we have four hundred years on Shakespeare. We know the aristocracy lost and the bourgeoisie won, what’s amazing is that Shakespeare so accurately describes this happening. Of course we say down with the aristocracy (as many of us more or less say down with the bourgeoisie today). In the historical perspective it was inevitable and desirable that the system of generosity based on non-production should give way to a market economy, just as it is necessary today for the market economy to give way to an economic system based on need, equality and ecological soundness. Sooner rather than later, if we are to survive.
                      But still, caught in this historical process, Timon doesn’t have a chance. It’s a fine line between love and hate. Or more accurately, when one’s entire essence is based on a lie that is exposed in the harsh glare of reality, hate can quickly, fiercely and completely replace love.
                      It does, so magnificently in Timon of Athens.
                      Poor Timon?

Works cited:
  • The Norton Shakespeare, based on the Oxford Edition. Ed. Greenblatt, Stephen et al. Second edition. 2008.
  • Bloom, Harold. Shakespeare – the Invention of the Human. 1998.
  • Marx, Karl. Economic and Philosphic Manuscripts of 1844. “The Power of Money”.
  • Shershow, Scott Cutler. “Shakespeare Beyond Shakespeare” in Marxist Shakespeares. Jean E. Howard and Scott Cutler Shershow, editors. 2001.
  • Stanton, Kay. “Use of the Word Whore in Shakespeare’s Canon” in A Feminist Companion to Shakespeare. Dympna Callaghan, editor. 2001.

Films seen:
  • BBC, 1981. Directed by Jonathan Miller. Cast: Timon – Jonathan Pryce; Alcibiades – John Shrapnel; Apemantus – Norman Rodway; Flavius – John Welsh; Timandra – Diana Dors; Poet – John Fortune; Painter – John Bird. A competent production with competent actors. It’s a difficult play but this clarifies it and brings it alive.

Seen on stage: no.