Monday, February 24, 2014

Monday February 24 2014

Confession time.  We’ve read very little in Antony and Cleopatra this week. We’ve done Act 4 and Antony has died but we left poor Cleopatra grieving in her loft.  The reason?  We’re doing a Harry Potter film marathon.  All eight movies in four days.  The last one this afternoon. We really will try to finish A+C this week though and since we only have one film to watch it shouldn’t take too long to get something written about it.  In the meantime there are connections in HP with Shakespeare (see below).  Maybe one day I’ll do an analytical comparison. On the other hand, it’s probably already been done. By cleverer scholars than myself. For now, I’ll just enjoy reflecting on the question in quiet solitude. In the meantime...

From Davis and Frankforter’s The Shakespeare Name Dictionary.
  • Hallowmas is of course the feast of All Saints and was added to the Christian calendar by Pope Gregory IV in the 9th century.  It is mentioned in Two Gentlemen of Verona, Richard II and Measure for Measure. And there was a Halloween feast at Hogwarts in the first Harry Potter film (connection number 1 in this report.  Very tenuous, I agree).
  • Harfleur is the port where Henry V had his first victory after crying, “Once more unto the breach, my friends, once more!” Hal and I have glimpsed the town from a bus window on one of our trips to France.  It’s changed a bit since the other Hal’s day.

Shakespeare sightings:
  • My major source of socialising with Shakespeare this week has been through the interesting book The Story of English – How the English Language Conquered the World by Philip Gooden. There are of course a lot of sightings, among them:
    • By Shakespeare’s time the third person singular “s” was replacing the “eth”. Shakespeare used “singeth” once in Hamlet. That’s it. The “s” ending originated in the northern dialects and is one of the few ways in which London English was changed by the dialects of other parts of England.
    • Gooden takes a very reasonable and sound stand on the question of authorship – Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare’s plays. All evidence points to it, not the least of which is that in all the contemporary opinions on Shakepseare, few of course but they do exist, there is not the slightest mention of doubt. He is regarded with respect and affection or contempt as an upstart but only as a playwright.
    • The word “gotten” – now more AmE than BrE, was still used in Shakespeare’s day but it was on its way out of BrE. Shakespeare used it five times (who sits and counts these words?? – But I’m glad someone did.)
    • Double negatives, taboo today in the English language, were used shamelessly (I assume) by Shakespeare, for example in Twelfth Night: “...nor your name is not Master Cesario; nor this is not my nose neither.”
    • In a crossword in Dagens Nyheter two Shakespeare clues were used: “Hamlet’s cranium” and “Shakespeare swam (or bathed) in...”  The answers would appear obvious but neither “skull” nor “Yorrick” nor “Avon” worked.  It was a very difficult crossword and I never did figure it out.
    • IN DN today there is a big article about Richard III which has its premiere on Thursday. Jonas Karlsson (Richard) and Stefan Larsson (director) were interviewed and had some very interesting things to say. For example, parallels can be drawn to today’s political situation in Sweden and the growing racism expressed by, among others, the xenophobic political party Sverigedemokraterna. The question of evil was also discussed and in answer to the question, “Is Richard evil?” Jonas Karlsson says, “Richard III is like all of us – only a little more.” The character himself is described as “charming, eloquent and cunning” and the headline for the article says, “Evil king seduces and draws laughter.” That sounds about right. We’re looking forward to seeing it on March 8.
  • And finally, Harry Potter: (both of these were mention before, we saw the films only a year ago after all...)
    • In The Prisoner of Azkaban the choir sings a long quote from Macbeth with the chorus being, “Double, double, toil and trouble.”
    • In The Goblet of Fire the rock group The Weird Sisters perform “Do the Hippogriff” at the Christmas party.
Further since last time:
  • Continued reading aloud: Antony and Cleopatra
Posted this week:
  • This Monday report.


Monday, February 17, 2014

Monday February 17 2014

Antony and Cleopatra continues, bit by bit. How am I going to find something to write about in this play I cannot take to my heart? We’re in Act 4 now, maybe something will happen. Well, of course something will happen and everybody knows what. But I don’t want to write about that. Oh well, I’ll figure something out.  This week, anyway, has had a few more sightings than for awhile, so I’ll get to the report.

From Davis and Frankforter’s The Shakespeare Name Dictionary.
  • Grimalkin is a spirit who calls the witches in Macbeth. It was a common name for a cat in Shakespeare’s time.  If we had a cat, we’d name it Grimalkin, but we don’t.
  • Guinevere, as we all know, is the Queen of Camelot, and her name is derived from the Welsh Gwenhwyfar. Her story varies in the legends. I like the one in the most recent version, the BBC series Merlin, best. Shakespeare mentions her in Love’s Labour’s Lost to evoke ancient times.  Even in his day Camelot was an ancient legend.

Shakespeare sightings:
  • To complete London the Biography, Peter Ackroyd has an essay on sources and mentions Shakespeare as one of them.  As well he might.
  • In another book about London, Shakespeare’s London on 5 Groats a Day by Richard Tames, Shakespeare is mentioned often. Hardly surprising with a title like that. There isn’t much that we don’t already know but here are a few items of interest:
    • Shakespeare’s father was once an ale-conner, i.e. an official appointed to test the quality of ale and beer on sale to the public
    • It’s always fun to read about words and phrases invented by Shakespeare.  A few favourites: in a pickle, blinking idiot, good riddance, vanish into thin air
    • Venus and Adonis cost one shilling when bought in a stall at St. Paul’s churchyard
    • One might run into Shakespeare in Clerkenwell at the office of the Master of the Revels, where approval to present a play on stage must be sought.
  • In The Big Bang Theory Amy wants to go to a costume party with Sheldon as Romeo and Juliet.  Sheldon wants to go as R2-D2 and C-3PO. Silly Amy.
  • In the novel The House at Riverton by Kate Morton there is a sea of troubles and a Shakespeare room where pictures of the heroines “from the finest English playwright that ever lived” hang. Romeo and Juliet are mentioned and Tennyson is badly quoted and accredited to Shakespeare.
  • The theatre supplement for the spring season has been issued in Dagens Nyheter. Not a whole lot of Shakespeare is happening but these items are listed:
    • Hamlet, a Stand Up at the Boulevard Theatre in Stockholm
    • William the Musical, also at the Boulevard as well as the Victoria in Malmö and Storsjöteatern in Östersund.
    • A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Stadsteatern in Malmö
    • And there’s a big advert for Richard III at Dramaten here in Stockholm which we will be seeing on March 8.
  • On the big crossword in DN on Valentine’s Day, there were two clues: the town where Romeo and Juliet lived and the kind of verse Shakespeare is known for.
  • This is an oblique sighting: In The Ninth Gate Johnny Depp’s character, a shady book dealer, is said to be the kind of person Julius Caesar didn’t trust. In case this one is too vague for you, see my text on Julius Caesar.
Further since last time:
  • Continued reading aloud: Antony and Cleopatra
Posted this week:
  • This Monday report.


Monday, February 10, 2014

Monday February 10 2014

Antony and Cleopatra crawls along. The war bits are boring. Two of the blog’s followers have commented directly to me about their views – A.T. promised to tell me on Wednesday what her “somewhat likes” means. M.R. told me yesterday evening that she saw it at the Globe and didn’t understand a thing.  In other words I haven’t yet been enlightened. Nevertheless, our tickets to the Globe performance have now been booked.

From Davis and Frankforter’s The Shakespeare Name Dictionary.
  • Robin Goodfellow, also known as Puck, is one of the major characters of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  A rather likeable fellow, actually.  D+F tells us that Shakespeare makes his fairies nicer than earlier legends would have it. In fact, Shakespeare’s version seems to have led to our view of fairies as sweet little things…
  • Gorboduc, a legendary British King, is mentioned in Twelfth Night but may also have inspired Lear.

Shakespeare sightings:
  • Continuing with London the Biography by Peter Ackroyd:
    • In describing “typical” London women, Ackroyd mentions Mistress Quickly as a good example of a female role “immortalised…but endlessly renewed ever since.”
    • In the chapter about Southwark both Falstaff and his namesake Sir John Falstolfe are noted for being frequenters of local taverns.
  • In The Mapping of Love and Death by Jacqueline Winspear, the children of Doreen are said to have “borne the slings and arrows of their mother’s distress”. Main character Daisie’s friend Priscilla is trying her hand at matchmaking.  When Maisie tells her that she should leave it to Cupid, who has a better aim, Priscilla replies, “Not if you read your Shakespeare, he doesn’t.”
  • In Charles Dickens’s first novel The Pickwick Papers, well, it’s not necessarily a Shakespeare sighting but a mention of a character: Mr Weller says, “Business first, pleasure arterwards, as King Richard the Third said wen he stabbed t’other king in the Tower afore he smothered the babbies.” Referring more likely to Shakespeare than history class in school, don’t you think?
  • On a report about the security measures taken at the ongoing Olympic Games in Sochi by the Swedish authorities, a DVD on a shelf in the background was visible. The title: “Readiness is All”.  Clever Swedes.
Further since last time:
  • Received from friend and colleague EÖ: Aspects of Shakespeare by Erik Frykman and Göran Kjellmer, found amongst the books of her father’s cousin. Thank you, EÖ! I’m very much looking forward to reading it.
  • Ordered on line from the Globe: tickets to Julius Caesar and  Antony and Cleopatra in June
  • Continued reading aloud with Hal: Antony and Cleopatra

Posted this week:
  • This Monday report.


Monday, February 3, 2014

Monday February 3 2014

It’s been another slow Shakespeare week.  We continue reading Antony and Cleopatra but due to other activities it’s been slow going.  And to tell the truth, it’s hard to get into this play; it’s hard to like it.  If you see this report, and if you like the play, please write a comment telling us what we’re missing.  We’d like to appreciate it since it’s one of the plays on at the Globe when we get there in June. So, help! – if you’re a A+C fan, write please!

From Davis and Frankforter’s The Shakespeare Name Dictionary.
  • George is the patron saint of England and half a dozen other countries (indeed as St. Göran, he is a slayer also of Swedish dragons, as we can see in a fancy statue in a church in Stockholm’s Old Town). D+F tell us that it was “the flowering of chivalry and the romance that made the saintly knight a European hero.”  Shakespeare uses him in a lot of plays.
  • Owen Glyndwr was a Welsh nobleman who rebelled against Henry IV. He was an educated man having studied law at Westminster and his conflict with H4 became a war of independence for Wales.  It should have been an easy match for Henry but as in later wars the rugged terrain of the invaded country, Wales, proved difficult for the invaders, the English, to prevail.  Glyndwr was rumoured to be a magician.  In the end, though Henry V offered him a pardon, he never surrendered.  He appears vividly in Henry VI Part Two, Richard II, Henry IVParts One and Two.
Shakespeare sightings:
  • Continuing with London the Biography by Peter Ackroyd there has been but one sighting in the week’s hundred pages: Shakespeare uses the image in Coriolanus of a pack of dogs to describe the common people, but he was not the inventor of this image.  That’s how many in power had seen their subjects even before Shakespeare created his kings.
  • The actor Ralph Fiennes (pronounced, we are told, “Rafe Fines” in case you didn’t know) was interviewed in Dagens Nyheter in connection with his appearance for the viewing of The Invisible Woman at the Gothenburg Film Festival. The article mentions that he made his directorial debut with Coriolanus (how about that, two mentions in the same report of one of the more obscure plays), which is set in the Balkan war.
  • In Tuesday’s Gone by Nicci French the main character, psychotherapist Frieda Klein, has been written about nastily in the newspaper and she tells a friend, “I haven’t been murdered. It’s just my reputation.” And adds sharply, “Don’t go quoting Shakespeare.”
Further since last time:
  • Continued reading aloud with Hal: Antony and Cleopatra
Posted this week:
  • This Monday report.