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What's this? An announcement about Shakespeare on Great Performances? Not tucked away in the comment thread of some other random post? Not the week or the day before the first episode is set to air? My stars, has someone at PBS finally figured out that people are much likely to watch things if they tell the audience when those things will be airing?


Although that December 25 airing of the Richard III episode is going to make for some odd Christmas viewing. And I guess we'll see whether they actually advertise for it...
24 June 2016 @ 03:19 pm
I tried to watch the Fassbender Macbeth last night, but wound up finding it unfinish-able. (I made it through Duncan's murder and Macbeth's coronation.) Not good if you like tones of voice other than whispering and facial expressions other than blank; possibly good if you like mud and close-ups of people having their throats slit. Or droning music, to go along with all the monotonous low voices.

Meh. It was just boring, and that play should never be that.

We spent quite a bit of time on Juliet's "vial" soliloquy in class this year - which is not particularly relevant to anything, except that we spent a lot of time talking about how the verse picks up the pace as it goes along, as Juliet's shorter, more measured sentences become this long tangle of a sentence that keeps breaking off and starting over, as she gets more and more frantic. It's interesting to listen to an acclaimed Victorian actress recite the speech, presumably in a way that audiences approved of,* as it's so different: stately, and magisterial, and I'm sure thrilling, but not frantic in the way I'd expect it to be based on the language. But acting styles change, of course.

*My favorite Ellen Terry story - not that I have tons of them or anything - is still that guy who proposed to his sweetheart by saying basically, "Since Ellen won't, will you?" I should find that anecdote again.
22 June 2016 @ 01:37 am
Medieval graffiti brings a new understanding of the past by Matthew Champion
22 June 2016 @ 12:31 am
A tour of the internet a couple of days ago brought me a portrait I'd never seen before:
under the cutCollapse )

I've been thinking about it ever since, as I find the image quite arresting (among other things, I love the set of her chin), but since I saw it on a website with nearly no attribution (*shakes fist at Tumblr*), all I know about it is that it is by a "Netherlandish artist" circa 1540. And reverse image search only pulls up a tiny handful of Tumblr and Pinterest links with no further information; they probably saw the image on the same Tumblr site I did (history-of-fashion). I assume that the artist is unknown, as is the subject, but even if I could just figure out where the portrait is currently located, that might give me leads for finding out whether any art historians have written about the painting, whether it's included in any museum catalogues or books on Dutch painting, that sort of thing.

Hmph. I might spend some time flipping through art books next week, if I can make it to the fine arts library.

Also, I am not sure what sort of fruit she's holding. An apricot?
19 June 2016 @ 02:29 pm
A Post from the Oxford University Press blog about the music Austen might have known:

15 June 2016 @ 06:14 pm
Pieces like this make me sad(der) that The Toast is going away:

Two Linguists Explain Pseudo Old English in The Wake

I particularly liked the end of the piece, which makes me feel better about the rather arbitrary way in which this book has been raising my hackles ever since I first heard about it, and then again when I picked it up in the bookstore and tried reading a bit before putting it down again:

Kate [Wiles]: Well said. The reduced vocabulary, simplified syntax, and avoided punctuation/capitalization also take readers in a particular direction, making the Anglo-Saxons seem less capable of complex thought. As an artistic decision, I’ll defend to the end of the world an author’s right to muck about with language however they like; but as a decision that’s explicitly meant to put readers into the Anglo-Saxon “worldview”, I need to point out that the world we’re viewing is through glass that’s more cracked and warped than it needed to be.

Gretchen [McCullough]: Yeah, and instead, he’s actively choosing to perpetuate a certain mindset associated with Anglo-Saxons, that they had the same taboos as a modern reader, which is just so many kinds of false. But it’s the type of false that most people aren’t going to catch, and therefore highly misleading. Throwing around Ren Faire thees and thous might not be completely accurate either, but adding an extra letter to a pronoun isn’t wholesale cultural revisionism the way altering their entire taboo system is.

Kate: Exactly. All of this feels like cherry-picking the best olde bits that most match his preconceptions of Anglo-Saxon England, rather than building the world from the roots up. Which is fine, but by using the language in this way it gives such a message of ‘authenticity’ that everything that’s expressed in his shadow tongue is represented as ‘historical truth’.

And this is one of the dilemmas of creating historical fiction; what do you sacrifice because it would be misunderstood by modern audiences? What do you alter because it’s important to the story? Are these little extras like bonus Easter Eggs, or are they just a shortcut to history?
15 June 2016 @ 02:59 pm
So on the one hand I think this satirical piece is kind of mean in terms of how obviously pointed it is - it has an unmistakable cartoonish drawing of Emma Rice right at the top, so the Guardian hasn't even gone for deniability - but on the other hand, every time Emma Rice gives an interview, she pretty much sounds exactly like this:

Modern Tribes: The Shakespeare Hater
07 June 2016 @ 12:28 am
So I've been watching the Pepys diary feed a little more closely lately because Pepys is basically wracked with jealousy that his wife might be having an affair with the dancing master who has been coming to their house. (His reasoning is basically, "well, I would, with a woman, so how can I believe that she wouldn't?" The thing is, he knows that this is terrible reasoning; he just can't stop doing it.)

But that context is not entirely helping me figure out exactly what he's thinking here:

Up betimes, and my wife and Ashwell and I whiled away the morning up and down while they got themselves ready, and I did so watch to see my wife put on drawers, which poor soul she did, and yet I could not get off my suspicions, she having a mind to go into Fenchurch Street before she went out for good and all with me, which I must needs construe to be to meet Pembleton, when she afterwards told me it was to buy a fan that she had not a mind that I should know of, and I believe it is so.


I feel like I've missed something. Is he thinking that if she doesn't put on drawers, she is preparing for illicit sexytimes? But I thought that it was wearing underwear in this period that was scandalous? So puzzled!
01 June 2016 @ 12:44 pm

The texts – written on Roman wooden writing tablets and found deeply buried in waterlogged ground just 400 metres east of St Paul’s Cathedral – have given the first ever relatively detailed series of brief written accounts of what London was like in the first forty years of its existence.


Virtually all the early Londoners and other British-based Romans mentioned in the newly studied documents are individuals who were previously unknown to history.

And then there's this fascinating oath, which I had never heard before:

In another document a man seems to be desperately pleading for his business associate to send through some urgently needed funds. “I ask you, by bread and salt, that you send as soon as possible the 26 denarii in Victoriati [older coins with higher silver content] and the 10 denarii of [the man] Paterio.”

The author of the piece writes that this most likely means "by our friendship" - I suppose because you'd share those things with friends, like the etymological origins of the word "companion"?