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25 May 2016 @ 10:36 pm
So…the TNT show Will (which has apparently been picked up for ten episodes) has released a trailer:


1. Well, that looks cheap and terrible.
2. Seriously, why are the costumes so awful?
3. I guess you can tell that this show is "modern and edgy" because that One Woman (™) in the trailer basically wears her hair like a current-day high-school student.
4. ahahahaha ha what, can you imagine any Elizabethan playwright ever complaining that "you can't just make up words"??? Oooooh Will, you rebel, you made up words! Just…like everyone else in your profession!

Seriously, what even.

I hesitate to even put this under the "costume drama" tag, but I guess I'll go ahead.
23 May 2016 @ 01:18 pm
link via Twitter:

Art conservationists struggle with microscopic eruptions in masterpieces

Lurking in paint layers, metal soaps are forming and damaging paintings


Metal soap formation is not just a curious trait of Rembrandt’s “Anatomy Lesson” but a degradation phenomenon common to thousands of oil paintings over many eras—starting in the 13th century and increasing in prevalence in modern-day artwork. After Noble, Boon, and colleagues launched an international survey of conservators, they discovered paintings by artists as varied as Francisco de Goya, Marc Chagall, Vincent van Gogh, Piet Mondrian, and Georgia O’Keeffe that feature the curious paint chemistry. “We were all seeing metal soaps,” Noble says.

Metal soaps don’t just produce pockmarks; they can also lead to the formation of disfiguring crusts and reflective films on the surface of paintings. Formation of the soaps can even cause delamination, a process in which layers of paint deform, lift up, and flake off. “These are serious issues when you are talking about paintings whose value is measured in millions per square meter,” Boon says.</blockquote
Actual text from A Midsummer Night's Dream:

And I have found Demetrius like a jewel,
Mine own, and not mine own.

No Fear version:

I won Demetrius so easily, as if he were a precious diamond I just found lying around. It’s mine because I found it, but I feel like someone else could easily come and claim it was hers.

…what. These lines are about wonder, about something glimmering and awestruck, and to translate them like that…the mind just boggles.
09 May 2016 @ 03:06 pm
Just posting so I can find it later: All of the Guardian's Shakespeare Solos videos on YouTube:


(Incidentally, listening to Riz Ahmed doing Edmund's "Thou, Nature, art my goddess" soliloquy has made me annoyed all over again with the liberal hand most editors use in applying exclamation marks to the text - precisely because he doesn't exclaim the last line - "Now, gods, stand up for bastards" - but gets quiet instead, and I think it's a very effective choice…but one that a reader who sees an exclamation point might not even consider.)

(I checked, just to be sure - although I have yet to question an exclamation mark in a Shakespeare text and find it there in the earliest editions, but I look forward to that day - and there is no exclamation mark in either the First Quarto or the Folio text. There is an exclamation mark in the Pelican and Folger Digital editions, which are the two that I have on hand at the moment.)
08 May 2016 @ 01:01 pm
The story behind a Rembrandt painting's journey from a New Jersey basement to the Getty

(link via Twitter.)
08 May 2016 @ 11:30 am
I started reading this article expecting it to be one of those finger-wagging pieces about how the sheeple just like escapism and fancy dresses, and was pleasantly surprised. It has a little bit of that ("At this moment, what we want from our relationship with a national past is this: to draw the curtains, shut out the noise of the world, and put on a box set. Thinking about Tudor history is, at least in its laziest manifestations, an excellent way of not thinking about history"), but by and large it remains an exploration of why the Tudor story resonates with people:

Tudormania: Why Can't We Get Over It?

Tee hee:

Jessie Childs, a popular historian who has written about the period, said: “The Tudors are very clearly defined for children: you have Henry VII, the battlefield king; then Henry VIII, the tyrant who marries six times; then Edward VI, the boy king; then Lady Jane Grey, the nine days’ queen; then [the Catholic] Mary I who burns 300 people; and then Elizabeth I, the virgin queen. They are like a boyband: each has an identity. If you look at the Plantagenets, on the other hand – people don’t know which is which.”

I bought Jessie Childs' book God's Traitors ages ago - when it first came out in the States, in fact - but haven't yet found the time to read it…alas. Anyway, the author also speaks to Hilary Mantel, as well as to other historians who want to widen the scope of what we talk about when we talk about the Tudors.

[Edited to add: …huh. I got this link via Twitter, so I went back and clicked on the Twitter handle of the author of the article. It turns out that she wrote Under Another Sky, a book about Roman Britain that I…appear to have misplaced, actually, but I found a copy of it on sale in a bookstore in York when I was there, which is good because I don't think it was published in the US. But it also turns out that she wrote This New Noise, a book about the BBC that I read about a little while ago and wanted to look up. I did not know that these two books were even by the same person!]

Then there's an article on how aspiring actors from farther down the social ladder are increasingly being shut out of the profession in the UK. These have been bubbling up for a few years now; this one takes its starting point from the show The Night Manager. (I haven't seen it; it will probably go into the bin of "stuff about machinations that I really don't want to watch," along with House of Cards.) The article also takes a tiny swipe at costume drama, so these two articles wind up being a tiny bit related:

Why working-class actors are a disappearing breed

And what, you can’t help wondering, is our obsession with period drama all about? Downton, suggests Josie Long, comedian and co-founder of the charity Arts Emergency, “speaks to that certain weird thing that is going on in the UK. Something very repressive that is reflected in our art.”

It’s what happens, she thinks, “when you don’t have different voices coming through”. And “posh fetishisation… posh as aspiration” becomes a defining feature of our culture.

Posh is at the very heart of mainstream viewing, a cornerstone of all TV schedules and a guaranteed seller abroad. The Night Manager is currently being broadcast in America on the cable channel AMC, which contributed a large part of its £18m budget. It’s a vision of Britain that sells.

The piece itself is a more interesting look at this phenomenon than simply "Downton make drama all posh now." But I'm sure there is some sort of "Downton effect," even if it is more about making money than having it: just as it's harder to sell comedies internationally because they tend to rely more on specific cultural contexts than action and superhero films, it is probably easier to sell costume dramas and literary adaptations abroad - if only because costume drama tends to assume that you have to explain the historical setting at least a little bit, and that explanation works just as well overseas. It is frustrating, though, to be a fan of costume drama and have it assumed that you must just want to watch posh people lounging about in frocks, as opposed to being interested in fictional explorations of what life was like in the past. I would love to have a wider range of costume drama available - even just getting a show set in the Tudor period that didn't take place at court would feel like Christmas!

That's separate from the main point of the piece, though, which focuses on how hard it is to pay for a place at drama school, and then to find work in the industry if you do. (And as always, don't read the comments: Guardian articles about the arts are always overrun by people who fling about the word "luvvies" and seem to think no one should ever expect to be paid for art, because it's not a real job like plumbing. One wonders whether these people watch TV or movies, or listen to music, and what they think would happen to their own lives if we made it impossible for people to make a living while making art.)
If you’ve ever struggled to read a Shakespeare play, don’t feel bad: Ian McKellen is here to assure you that reading Shakespeare is impossible. In fact, he argues, actually reading and interpreting a Shakespeare play is a task meant only for actors, in much the same way reading sheet music is a task meant only for musicians. In both cases, the audience should ideally hear the final product, not just read the behind-the-scenes text. At least that’s the thinking behind his new iPad app, Heuristic Shakespeare, which gathers together some of Britain’s best Shakespearean actors to make Shakespeare’s work more comprehensible.


I mean, the app itself sounds interesting:

But could we put this "Shakespeare never intended his plays to be read, so you are KILLING THE CHILDREN by making them have to read Shakespeare" thing to bed? I am so over it. Also, even if Shakespeare didn't intend his plays to be read - and I think Lukas Erne would argue with you on that point - John Heminges and Henry Condell were a-okay in favor of it in 1623:

But it is not our prouince, who onely gather his works, and giue them you, to praise him. It is yours that reade him. and there we hope, to your diuers capacities, you will finde enough, both to draw, and hold you: for his wit can no more lie hid, then it could be lost. Reade him, therefore; and againe, and againe: and if then you doe not like him, surely you are in some manifest danger, not to understand him. and so we leaue you to other of his Friends, whom if you need, can bee your guides: if you neede them not, you can leade your selues, and others. and such Readers we wish him.

I feel like this argument never goes the other way; I don't know anyone who teaches Shakespeare who actively discourages students from seeing the plays performed, but actors frequently declare that Shakespeare shouldn't be read, only seen.
07 May 2016 @ 12:10 am
Tor.com is hosting a reread of Kage Baker's Company series; they're partway through In the Garden of Iden:


I often want to recommend the Company series to people but can't because of the…ah, developments at the end of the series. But In the Garden of Iden manages to do a lot of what I want Tudor-set historical fiction to do, in the way that it sits with the characters for a long time, showing us the squabbles and daily interactions of the people under one roof. I'd want to write historical fiction like that, if I could.

Kage Baker also writes a very nice version of Tudor English. :)
04 May 2016 @ 10:53 pm
This whole entry, man (various emphases mine):

So made myself ready and to church, where Sir W. Pen showed me the young lady which young Dawes, that sits in the new corner-pew in the church, hath stole away from Sir Andrew Rickard, her guardian, worth 1000l. per annum present, good land, and some money, and a very well-bred and handsome lady: he, I doubt, but a simple fellow. However, he got this good luck to get her, which methinks I could envy him with all my heart. Home to dinner with my wife, who not being very well did not dress herself but staid at home all day, and so I to church in the afternoon and so home again, and up to teach Ashwell the grounds of time and other things on the tryangle, and made her take out a Psalm very well, she having a good ear and hand. And so a while to my office, and then home to supper and prayers, to bed, my wife and I having a little falling out because I would not leave my discourse below with her and Ashwell to go up and talk with her alone upon something she has to say. She reproached me but I had rather talk with any body than her, by which I find I think she is jealous of my freedom with Ashwell, which I must avoid giving occasion of.


…well yeah Samuel, who wouldn't be jealous when you're eying up ladies at church and teaching girls how to play the triangle (by which he apparently means the virginals, according to the note*) instead of spending time with your wife? You goober.

Trust Pepys to always give you the hard-nosed pecuniary details about a potential match, though.

*The Shakespearean in me is very "wink wink nudge nudge" about this detail. Saucy jacks, still virginalling upon his palm, etc.