Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Quote #010

“We were, fair queen,
Two lads that thought there was no more behind,
But such a day to-morrow as to-day,
And to be boy eternal.”

Polixenes - 'The Winter's Tale', Act I scene 1


10 - The Winter's Tale

Whoa there! This is a comedy? The whole first half of the play is nothing but unfounded envy, accusation and imprisonment leading to death, abandonment and bear mutilation! (That’s mutilation by a bear in case you’re wondering, so Winnie the Pooh and Paddington are safe.) Then Old Man Time shows up and suddenly it’s a Panto season with idiot clowns, singing rascals and a shed load of shepherdesses! This is the Bard at his barmiest!

Before you know it you’ve hit Act V and you can’t help but feel that our boy Bill might have panicked a bit, suddenly realising that he was running out of time and still had a lot to do. So scene 2 is all exposition between three gentlemen very quickly passing over the “she’s your daughter”, “he’s my son”, “her husband was bear fodder”, “I’ve missed you”, “I’ve missed you more”, “let’s have a party at Pauline’s” bit! And is it me or are Autolycus, the shepherd and the clown the unfunniest comic relief ever?

Personally I feel that Leontes, the catalyst for all this mayhem and merriment, is deserving of a horrendously sticky Shakespearean ending. I’m thinking death by insanity or choked when forced to eat a bear! But instead he gets his dead wife back! And she still loves him!! And then to cap it all the master of jealousy acts as matchmaker between Camillo and Pauline, who before that had hardly spoken to each other! 

Sorry, there are some odd flashes of William's brilliance in among the madness but all in all this is not up to his usual standard. And anyone who disagrees is welcome to step outside and settle it like men... 

Exit pursued by a Bard  

Final thoughts – The play that launched the careers of a million living statues!


Monday, 12 March 2012

Quote #009

"From face to foot
He was a thing of blood,"

Cominius - 'Coriolanus', Act II, scene 2


9 - Coriolanus

"If she says your behaviour is heinous 
Kick her right in the Coriolanus"
'Brush Up Your Shakespeare' - Cole Porter

And so we enter the realm of the Romans (and Kenneth Williams can be heard warming up in the wings.)

I am quite surprised that this play and it's story was previously unknown to me. Coriolanus is a strong character and worthy anti-hero who could easily stand shoulder to shoulder with Hamlet and Macbeth. Maybe it’s the size of the cast that puts people off producing it, as the crowds of citizens and battles must either need an extensive cast or some very imaginative staging. The citizens, soldiers, senators and ‘voices’ put me more in mind of a play from ancient Greece that Shakespeare. But then I know little of any of the Bard’s Roman plays so it may be the style for them all.

It took some reading to understand the politics of the Rome; tribunes, consuls, senators and the like. Saying that, I loved watching West Wing and never understood a word they were saying either. Also, not knowing anything of the plot I was more on the edge of my seat than I have been for a long time reading Shakespeare. Coriolanus' switch of allegiance and march on Roman had we wondering and fearful of what the outcome would be. And the final 'twist' came so fast at the end that I didn't see it coming at all.

There is conveniently a film just out staring 'he must not be named' (unless it's to call him Ralph Fiennes) as the 'bloody' general Coriolanus. I haven't seen it myself but then trying to watch all the Shakespeare dramatisations, adaptations and 'films inspired by' are a challenge in themselves. Also, as with any good book, I would rather read the text first or, in the case of plays, experience it first unabridged before seeing it partially played on a screen.  

Final thoughts – I'm not sure that loitering in market places, wearing cheap clothing and offering to show people your 'wounds' is any way for a politician to behave. But then again...


Dice Dearly

"To be or not to be"

'Dice Dearly'


Thursday, 8 March 2012

'Shakespeare in the Park'

ALVY: You're an actor. You should be doing Shakespeare in the Park.
ROB: Oh, I did Shakespeare in the Park, Max. I got mugged. I was playing Richard the Second and two guys with leather jackets stole my leotard.


Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Shakespeare Bites Back

'Shakespeare Bites Back' is a useful (and free) eBook which acts as a simple introduction into the mystery surrounding Shakespeare's authorship (or in fact the mystery of the mystery).


Monday, 5 March 2012

Quote #008

FALSTAFF: Banish plump Jack, and banish all the world

PRINCE HENRY: I do; I will.

'King Henry IV, Part One', Act II, scene 5


8 - King Henry IV Part One

Although I’ve read this play many times, due to the fact that I studied it at A-level, I had forgotten how particularly well written this is. From the King’s disquiet to Hotspur’s fire mixed with the comedy of Falstaff and the inevitable rise of Hal. There are too many great lines and speeches to list here; from the Prince’s reasoning for his bad behaviour to Sir John’s opinion on honour. But for all this I still can’t spot Ivy! (Maybe she shows up in part 2!)

During my college days I got to see the English Shakespeare Company’s excellent performance of this play. It was shown as part of ‘The Henrys’ at The Old Vic, where they would perform back to back Henry IV (1 & 2) and Henry V. A marathon only topped a few years later when they added another Henry to the mix and a Richard at either end to give you the full ‘War of the Roses’ (now that must have been something to watch!). 

It was the staging I remember the most and in particular the costumes which involved an excellent blending of periods from ancient to modern. It was as if a reality bomb had exploded resulting in a world where knights wore full armour, courtiers Edwardian frock coats and Falstaff a pinstripe suit and also where a berserker Scot wielding two claymores could fight side by side with soldiers in modern fatigues.

In addition to the plethora of excellent speeches and soliloquies there are also plenty of good insults thrown between Hal and Falstaff -
“...thou clay-brained guts, thou knotty-pated fool, thou whoreson obscene greasy tallow- catch”
 “...you starveling, you elf-skin, you dried neat's tongue, you bull's pizzle, you stock-fish! ... you tailor's-yard, you sheath, you bowcase; you vile standing-tuck”
But my favourite insult belongs to Hotspur on how tedious it is to talk with Glendower-
“I had rather live with cheese and garlic in a windmill, far, 
Than feed on cates and have him talk to me 
In any summer house in Christendom”
Final thoughts – Douglas is one lucky bugger! Kills everything in sight, twice ends up on the losing side and on both occasions is set free!