Tuesday, August 2, 2016

August 2016

Hamlet is back. We’ve read the play again and seen several spin-offs and films. You can read some of the reviews on my movie blog (see links below).  Unlike last time we did Hamlet, I’m not agonising about what to write but since my plan involves the movies it will be a while because we have several left to watch. But next month I should be able to post a new text on Hamlet. This month what I have to offer is a ‘book of interest’ (see below).

As always, though, I will start with a reminder that Shakespeare Calling – the book is available for purchase and I appreciate all your support.

Please help promote the book by liking and sharing it on Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Bokus…. And please encourage your local book shops and libraries to buy it.  Thank you.

or Adlibris, CDON or Bibliotekstjänsten

Or contact the publisher info@vulkan.se

From Davis and Frankforter’s The Shakespeare Name Dictionary:
  • Z. As you know it’s the last letter of the English alphabet so this will be the last entry under this heading. And the Shakespeare connection? It’s a lovely one: Kent, in King Lear, calls Oswald ‘whoreson Z, thou unnecessary letter.’ Poor Oswald. Poor Z. How would we write zoo or zoom or buzz without you? 

Shakespeare sightings:
  • In the novel And Another Thing by Eoin Colfer (Part Six of Three in the Hitchhiker’s Guide series, written as a tribute to Douglas Adams) a bird spoke in a voice that reminded the hearer of the actor who had played Othello at the Globe. Sadly, though I loved the Hitchhiker’s Guide books, I did not finish this one. It just wasn’t the same.
  • In the book This New Noise by Charlotte Higgins, about the history of the BBC, the first general manager John Reith had the goal of developing the BBC to ‘show that mankind is a unity…for the good of all…[The wireless] ignores the puny and often artificial barriers which have estranged men from their fellows. It will soon take continents in its stride…It will cast a girdle round the earth with bands that are all the stronger because invisible.’ Higgins points out that ‘Reith was drawing on Shakespeare: it was Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream who boasted that he could “put a girdle round the earth”. Reith cast himself as magician – more Prospero than Puck…’
  • In the excellent and sad series River starring Sweden’s pride Stellan Skarsgård and the wonderful Nicola Walker I’ve noted two sightings:
    • In the first episode a copy of Romeo and Juliet is found amongst the murder victim’s belongings. Later this proves to be a vital clue to discovering two teens in a suicide pact.
    • River follows his psychiatrist across the Millennium bridge and I say to Hal: ‘They must be going to the Globe.’ As indeed they are. And there we suddenly are, feeling right at home. They don’t show enough of the play that we can identify it but it is lovely to get a glimpse.
  • In the musical The Music Man, which is one of my favourites and which we watched again recently, there are some classic sightings:
    • Marian’s mother says when telling Marian not to be so fussy about her choice of men that she shouldn’t concentrate on ‘Balzac and Shakespeare and all them other high-falutin’ Greeks.’
    • Marian counters with her modest demands on a man: ‘And if occasionally he ponders what makes Shakespeare and Beethoven great, him I could live ‘til I die…’
    • Professor Harold Hill sings of his hometown (well, probably not really, most of what he says is a lie) Gary, Indiana, that the name, ‘as Shakespeare would say, trips along the tongue this way.’
    • Tommy and Zaneeta are reading Romeo and Juliet while Professor Hill sings ‘Marian the Librarian.’
    • Professor Hill again: ‘A coward dies a thousand deaths, a brave man…only five hundred.’
  • A report on the Hong Kong Book Fair on Kulturnytt showed a picture of Shakespeare.
  • In the sci-fi novel Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson, as starvation threatens on the spaceship headed back to Earth, Freya tells the others stories to keep their spirits up, stories of survival like Shackleton and Robinson Crusoe and Swiss Family Robinson and the computer narrating this part of the novel says, ‘… it was hope she was trying to fill them with. We happy few. Hope, yes, of course, there is hope…But hope needs food. Helpful as hopeful stories might be, you can’t eat stories.’
  • In the novel The Likeness by Tana French
    • Abby is asleep in the bath in her pyjamas ‘like some postmodern Ophelia.’
    • Daniel talks about old herb gardens and suggests they make a Shakespeare salad.
    • Trying to encourage her friends to indulge in a drunken binge Abby says to Lexie that though Daniel is drunk and analysing Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream he’s not yet drunk enough.
    • On the same drunken binge Rafe claims that Henry V ‘…was a raving psycho…All that heroic Shakespeare stuff was pure propaganda.’
    • Daniel continues to rant on this binge but claims he’s speaking in monologues: ‘If Hamlet can have them, why can’t I?’
    • Abby tells Lexie about the first time she met Rafe. He came into the lecture room, soaked from the rain, and she said, ‘Check it out, it’s King Lear.’
    • After the stabbing and Daniel won’t allow them to move the knife and they are all near hysterics and Rafe is twitching and looking as though the knife were hovering in mid-air, Rafe denies his twitchiness: ‘Oh, for God’s sake. Bloody Lady Macbeth - ’
  • Even more sightings in Helene Hanff’s 84 Charing Cross Road/The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street:
    • To her friend Maxine in London Helene writes, ‘Write to me about London – the tube, the Inns of Court, Mayfair, the corner where the Globe stood…’ This was before the now-standing Globe existed.
    • Her friends Ginny and Ed send a postcard from Stratford: ‘Thought you’d like to see the house where your Sweet-William was born.’
    • Frank writes: ‘We are sending off by Book Post today the Johnson on Shakespeare…with introduction by Walter Raleigh.’
    • Helene writes to Frank: ‘…enough Chaucer-made-easy, it has the schoolroom smell of Lamb’s Tales from Shakespeare.’
    • Helene: ‘I wanted to see London the way old people want to see home before they die…this was natural in a writer and booklover born to the language of Shakespeare…’
    • When Helene finally gets to London a friend ‘drove me to the corner where the Globe Theatre stood. Nothing is there now, the lot is empty, I made him stop the car and I got out and stood on that empty lot and I thought the top of my head would come off…He took me to a pub called the George, and as he opened the door for me he said…’Shakespeare used to come here.’ I mean I went through a door Shakespeare once went through, and into a pub he knew…I leaned my head back, against a wall Shakespeare’s head once touched…’ And as she looks around at the people Helene sees Justice Shallow, Bottom the Weaver, a sharp-faced Bardolph and a laughing Mistress Quickly.
    • Tourist exhaustion prevents Helene from queuing for last minute tickets to Peter Brook’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream but she is later invited by a new friend who had tickets left over.
    • She describes reading Arthur Quiller-Couch who takes it for granted that all of his readers know all the Shakespeare plays.
    • Before going to Stratford-upon-Avon she finds herself surprising to be excited because ‘to me, Shakespeare was born in the Globe Theatre.’ 

Further since last time: 

Posted this month
  • ‘Book of Interest’. Peter Brook’s Quality of Mercy
  • This report


The Quality of Mercy by Peter Brook

The Quality of Mercy – reflections on Shakespeare by Peter Brook
Having recently seen for the second time Peter Brook’s wonderful production of Hamlet with Adrian Lester in the title role I became inspired to read this little book bought a few months ago.
             It is a modest collection of essays and all the more interesting for its modesty. In the first essay Brook calmly refutes the silly notion that someone else wrote Shakespeare by pointing out that these plays had to have been written by someone who spent every waking hour working in the theatre and, quite simply, none of the other candidates spent all that much time in the theatre at all. He concludes with the simple statement that the question is out of date.
            In another he describes his problems with producing a Romeo and Juliet with young actors, breaking with the tradition that only experienced older actors could handle the challenge, but how it all became stiff anyway because of sticking too faithfully to each scene and losing the flow of the whole.
            Titus, Lear, Prospero all make their appearances and Brook ends his book thus: ‘Shakespeare. Quality. Form. This is where our work begins. It can never end.’
            A most pleasant read.