Monday, October 5, 2015

October 2015

What an eventful month. You can read about the release party below.
Since then my computer was taken over by a Trojan. Fortunately, I’d saved almost everything on a USB and much was recovered by my good friend KP who is a computer expert. If that wasn’t enough, our TV died and will not be brought back to life until today (hopefully.) So the two Henry IV:1 plays we’ve watched have been seen on my old laptop. Not the best quality but better than nothing.
The problems of trying to learn to become a marketing expert continue. Publishing a book in Sweden and hoping to sell it internationally is truly not an easy task.  But Shakespeare Calling – the book is out there. Below you will find the links for on-line purchase. Please encourage your local book shops and libraries to buy it! And once again, thank you all for visiting the blog throughout the years and for supporting this project.

Shakespeare Calling – the book

For those of you in the UK, Sweden and the rest of Europe:
or Adlibris, CDON or Bibliotekstjänsten

For those of you in the rest of the world and/or those who usually shop at Available soon (I hope) also as an e-book.

From Davis and Frankforter’s The Shakespeare Name Dictionary:
  • Venus is the Roman goddess of love and beauty and Shakespeare referred to her often, even writing a whole poem about her and her love affair with the reluctant Adonis.
  • Verona is one of the oldest towns in Italy and has had strategic importance since Ancient Greece. It is known for its art and architecture, for its Two Gentlemen of… and the famous balcony.

Shakespeare sightings:
  • Starter for 10 stars James McAvoy who is a student with posters of Hamlet and The Tempest on his wall. He quotes from Hamlet, he’s called Romeo, and on the quiz show in which he takes part there are Shakespeare questions.
  • Ewan McGregor is also called Romeo by Brenda Blethyn because he’s wooing her daughter Jane Horrocks in the film Little Voice.
  • In The Love Song of Queenie Hennessy one of the patients in the hospice where Queenie is dying and waiting for Harold Fry to walk his way through England to see her notes that Harold has passed Stratford upon Avon. Another patient remarks, ‘I was there once. I saw King Lear…’
  • In Muriel Spark’s novel Robinson one of the characters has learned his mangled English by reading Shakespeare and talking to allied forces after WWII. Another character has Shakespeare in his book collection.
  • Friend AR has sent an interesting link about Romeo and Juliet being performed in Syria and Jordan via Skype. It’s very inspiring. Read it! 
  • Still reading Beethoven biografin by Åke Holmquist. Beethoven admired Shakespeare very much and there are a lot of references:
    • Beethoven read Shakespeare in German and his Shakespeare books were well worn.
    • Shakespeare was performed often in Bonn theatres.
    • Beethoven thought about the tomb scene from Romeo and Juliet when he wrote the F major quartet Opus 18:1
    • Beethoven called one of his friends ‘Falstaff’ because of his obesity.
    • Beethoven described his D Minor Sonata Opus 31:2 as being based on The Tempest.
    • Beethoven planned to write an opera based on Macbeth and made notes about it but that never happened.
    • In a letter Beethoven mentions that Goethe translated Shakespeare into German.
    • More next time, I’m sure, there are still 400 pages left to read!
  • On the third season of The X Files Macbeth is mentioned in the discussion of prophesying one’s own death and in a description of the elaborateness of a victim’s revenge. 

Further since last time:

Posted this month
  • This report
  • ‘Bullingbrook Blues’ in Henry IV Part One

Bullingbrook Blues in 'Henry IV Part One

Bullingbrook Blues
Henry IV Part One

     One thing we’ve learned from Shakespeare is that kings don’t have a lot of fun.  Mostly they seem to have cares and woes, poor lads.  When they’re not being murdered, they’re regretting being murderers. Nobody ever likes them – well, not usually, anyway – and it seems they’re always being plotted against.
     Henry IV regrets, if not being a murderer at least having caused a murder to take place and he is definitely plotted against. And he doesn’t even get to be the star of his own play.  That position is shared by his hoodlum son Prince Hal, the bawdy irreverent Falstaff and the hot-headed Hotspur.
     But look carefully. Henry Bullingbrook holds it all together.
     It’s not easy, though. From the very first lines we see that the cares Richard has handed over with the crown are piling up. Henry tells his council:

So shaken as we are, so wan with care,
Find we a time for frighted peace to pant
And breathe short-winded acts of new broils
To be commenced in strands afar remote. (Act 1.1)

     All is not well in Henry’s England. Immediately after these lines fresh reports come. From the north, we and Henry are told, ‘gallant Hotspur’ and ‘brave Archibald’ of Scotland are conniving, and Hotspur’s uncle Worcester is ‘malevolent to you in all aspects’ (Act 1.1). We soon learn that Hotspur’s cousin Mortimer and the flamboyant Welshman Owen Glendower as well as the archbishop of York are also plotting against Henry.
     These are not just petty personal quarrels or family feuds. As Jean E Howard points out in her introduction to the play in the Norton edition, Henry is being confronted by the ‘monarch’s central problem: how to maintain control over and enforce unity upon the territories over which he claims dominion but which threaten to break away or assert a worrisome autonomy’ (p. 1179). Hotspur’s Northumberland, Glendower’s Wales, York and Scotland – all of them were unruly and wild rebellious territories and Henry had his monarchically unity work cut out for him.
     As if it’s not enough to have his own aristocratic friends and relatives from all sides of the country against him Henry is also having trouble closer to home.  The working class of London are not gentle meek lambs. They go about robbing travellers and carousing and joking crudely, not the least about the king.  Worst of all is someone who should know better, someone who should be on Henry’s side, a knight no less. We speak of course of the gloriously crude and irreverent Sir John Falstaff who’s not on anyone’s side but his own and though we love his ‘what is honour’ monolog, Henry would have been appalled had he heard it, as were many who heard it on stage in Shakespeare’s day, no doubt.
     Closer still to home, to Henry’s very heart, is the rebellion of his own beloved son, the hooligan Prince Hal.  In very moving monologs Henry compares the hot-headed but noble and honourable Hotspur to his own Hal:

… I, by looking on the praise of him,
See riot and dishonour stain the brow
Of my young Harry… (Act 1.1)

     He wishes it could be proven that the two had been switched by fairies at birth and that Hotspur were his son. In Act 3.2 he upbraids Hal for the young prince’s wild behaviour, unworthy of the king’s own reputation. He compares Hal to the scorned Richard, jeered at because he ‘mingled his royalty with carping fools,’ he tells Hal that Hotspur ‘hath more worthy interest to the state / than thou’ and complains

Why, Harry, do I tell thee of my foes,
Which art my near’st and dearest enemy? (Act 3.2)

     Hal comes round and does his princely duties, as he has always said he would, and Henry has reason in the end to be proud of his crown prince.
     As the war approaches Henry takes firm control and shows himself to be a rather good king by asking the rebels what their grievances are and offering to grant them, thus avoiding war.  This doesn’t happen, the war goes on. Henry is victorious.
     But the memory remains of Henry Bullingbrook’s final words in Richard II:

Lords, I protest, my soul is full of woe
That blood should sprinkle me to make me grow.
Come, mourn with me for that I do lament,
And put on sullen black incontinent.
I’ll make a voyage to the Holy Land,
To wash this blood off from my guilty hand. (Richard II Act 5.6)

     In this play’s opening scene he’s still planning a crusade but at hearing of the turmoil at home he says

It seems then that the tidings of this broil
Brake off our business for the Holy Land. (Act 1.1)

     So his conscience – maybe his worst enemy? – is not to be cleared this time either.
     As the war ends victoriously for him, Henry Bullingbrook says confidently enough

Rebellion in this land shall lose his way,
Meeting the check of such another day.
And since this business so fair is done,
Let us not leave till all our own be won.

     Storm clouds are still threatening on the horizon. Henry IV Part Two is about to unfold. Bullingbrook’s blues continue.
Works cited:
  • William Shakespeare, the Complete Works, the RSC edition, 2007. Edited by Jonathan Bate and Eric Rasmussen
  • Howard, Jean E. Introduction in The Norton Shakespeare, based on the Oxford EditionEd. Greenblatt, Stephen et al. Second edition, 2008. 

Films seen:
  • BBC, 1979. Director: David Giles. Cast: Prince Hal – David Gwillim; King Henry – Jon Finch; Falstaff – Anthony Quayle; Hotspur – Tim Pigott-Smith; Mortimer – Robert Morris; Lady Mortimer – Sharon Morgan; Owain Glyndwr – Richard Owens. 
    • This is a well-done production. Jon Finch is very good as Henry, Quayle is a convincing Falstaff and the others are generally very good too.  The only question mark is Gwillim as Hal, probably because I saw Branagh as Henry V first. Gwillim was better the second time (or was it the third) that we watched the play, but for me Hal will always be Branagh.
  • The Globe, 2012. Director: Dominic Dromgoole. Cast: Prince Hal – Jamie Parker; King Henry – Oliver Cotton; Falstaff – Roger Allam; Hotspur – Sam Crane; Mortimer – Daon Broni; Lady Mortimer – Jade Williams; Owain Glyndwr – Sean Kearns. 
    • This is a very boisterous production. Roger Allam is the star; he’s an excellent Falstaff. Jamie Parker is good as Prince Hal and Sam Crane is a handsome Hotspur. Oliver Cotton isn’t nearly as good as Jon Finch but the rest of the cast is fine. It’s very funny at times but is a bit slow at others. But as always, the Globe itself is a very strong presence and carries the play all by itself at times.