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28 November 2015 @ 11:34 am
A Shakespeare book coming out in 2016:

The One King Lear by Brian Vickers

Here's the website copy:

King Lear exists in two different texts: the Quarto (1608) and the Folio (1623). Because each supplies passages missing in the other, for over 200 years editors combined the two to form a single text, the basis for all modern productions. Then in the 1980s a group of influential scholars argued that the two texts represent different versions of King Lear, that Shakespeare revised his play in light of theatrical performance. The two-text theory has since hardened into orthodoxy. Now for the first time in a book-length argument, one of the world’s most eminent Shakespeare scholars challenges the two-text theory. At stake is the way Shakespeare’s greatest play is read and performed.

Sir Brian Vickers demonstrates that the cuts in the Quarto were in fact carried out by the printer because he had underestimated the amount of paper he would need. Paper was an expensive commodity in the early modern period, and printers counted the number of lines or words in a manuscript before ordering their supply. As for the Folio, whereas the revisionists claim that Shakespeare cut the text in order to alter the balance between characters, Vickers sees no evidence of his agency. These cuts were likely made by the theater company to speed up the action. Vickers includes responses to the revisionist theory made by leading literary scholars, who show that the Folio cuts damage the play’s moral and emotional structure and are impracticable on the stage.</blockquote Things to think about...
22 November 2015 @ 01:27 am
YouTube offered up this lecture I had no idea about after I clicked on a Globe video about their clothing demonstrations: an hour-plus lecture on Elizabethan and Jacobean clothing of the common people, hosted by the Jamestown Settlement:


Looking forward to listening to it! (Also, I like that the lecturer is actually in costume. Hee.)
21 November 2015 @ 01:25 pm
For reasons that don't need exploring at this juncture, I was looking for an online text of Chaucer's House of Fame this morning. But look what I also found:

For ye be lyk the sweynte cat,
That wolde have fish; but wostow what?
He wolde no-thing wete his clowes. (Book III, ll. 1785-7)


I'm sure I didn't think anything of this when I read The House of Fame in grad school, because I didn't know Macbeth nearly as well as I know it now, but here's the same cat:

Wouldst thou have that
Which thou esteem'st the ornament of life,
And live a coward in thine own esteem,
Letting 'I dare not' wait upon 'I would,'
Like the poor cat i' th' adage? (Macbeth, 1.7)

These little things that persist through time make me very happy.
08 November 2015 @ 02:01 pm
Black Soldiers in the English Civil War

(Actually contains information about eMod Black communities aside from the Civil War as well, plus some citations)
08 November 2015 @ 10:54 am
I can't quite figure out how I feel about this review of Branagh's production of The Winter's Tale (and Harlequinade):


For example:

This time, Branagh’s following in the footsteps of Michael Grandage and Jamie Lloyd, whose West End seasons have proved a new working model for commercial theater. But where those projects hung off an individual director’s style and vision, Branagh’s sits in the actor-manager tradition. It shows. Playing triumphs over purpose.

…What does that even mean? Because it sounds like the reviewer is saying that Branagh cares more about putting on the play than making it about his "vision" or whatever (I tend to be skeptical of "vision"; Cumberhamlet had one of those, presumably - it's not always a good thing), and if I have to choose, I am way more interested in the "playing" part. If you give me a production that does a good job with the play, then it will, through that process, reveal new things about the play - and that's purpose enough. (Maybe I would feel differently about this if my entire job were going to see plays. But the thing about traditional stagings is that they don't feel traditional if you have little to no experience with the play. They're just stagings, then.)

But then the reviewer says,

Too often, though, the actor’s vanity becomes visible, and key handovers and reconciliations are played out in slow motion. Branagh pulls focus like a barman pulls pints — that is to say, for a living. Everything he does just seems so earnest.

…Are vanity and earnestness the same thing? I don't think they are. The production may well show signs of both, at different times, but it feels to me like the reviewer is mixing up his terms somehow. (Also, you know, I have a hard time understanding why I am assumed to be able to see the inherently pejorative nature of "earnestness." I'm gonna need more details on that one, because I don't automatically see earnestness as a flaw.)


The buttoned-up Victoriana and its family values, from which Leontes laments this “bawdy planet,” neatly flags up the play’s sexual politics. Bohemia, by contrast, is a place of dancing and delight, where Jessie Buckley’s breezy Perdita can grow her hair down to her waist. Women are in control here, whipping off their partners’ shirts at will, whereas in Sicily, Miranda Raison’s dignified Hermione can only plead her case and wait her husband’s verdict.

This sounds like he's basically objecting to the logic of the play itself - which is fine, but not really a review of how the production handles the play. I mean, okay, it sounds like Branagh's production is pretty traditional - it's no Young Vic Measure for Measure with blow-up sex dolls all over the stage, that's for sure - but I feel like this review is written from the perspective that traditional can't be good, as opposed to making a case for whether or not this production is traditional and good. If the Victorian setting makes sense for the play's sexual politics, then isn't it a reasonable choice even if it isn't the most outré? At the beginning of the review, the reviewer suggests that the Victorian setting is "only" pretty - allusions to mulled wine and Christmas cards - but the rest of the review gives me the impression that the reviewer probably wouldn't ever see a Victorian-set production as worth doing, anyway: that any Victorian production would only ever be "pretty" to him. So I can't tell.


In sort of related news, the praise in this review of the National Theatre's As You Like It sort of sounds like the reviewer hasn't seen As You Like It in decades: at this point I have seen more somber Forests of Arden with "subdued palettes" than anything else; do they even still do "Robin Hoodery"? (This isn't entirely a complaint, as I happen to believe that the Forest of Arden is about communal effort to create a joyful space; you shouldn't just get the happy larks for free because people are in a forest. I have seen some As You Like Its that forgot to create the joy, though.) But the ending of the review made me happy I already had my ticket for the NT Live screening, because I adore Celia more than reason:

At the centre, Rosalie Craig and Patsy Ferran are a combustible duo. Craig has a fervent, poised androgyny as Rosalind: no swagger, all silk. Agile and bugle-eyed, as sceptical as she is supportive, Ferran makes Celia one of the most vital of Shakespearean roles. Together they illuminate a vital truth about As You Like It. One of the loves it celebrates is not a romance but a marvellous, complicated sisterly affection.
07 November 2015 @ 07:06 pm
Came across this today in following various links on the interwebs:

John Blanke, Henry VIII’s Black Trumpeter, Petitions for a Back Dated Pay Increase

07 November 2015 @ 05:02 pm
I made some soup this afternoon. See, I bought two heads of romaine lettuce at the farmer's market last Friday before I remembered that I don't really like romaine lettuce (I guess I don't dislike it; it's just kind of - there, as far as leafy green vegetables go) - so I cleaned it and made salad, but was totally uninspired to finish eating the romaine. Today I took the (somewhat wilted) romaine and sautéed it with shallots in olive oil and a bit of butter, then simmered it with some frozen peas and parsley, and pureed the lot. Not bad - and leftovers for lunch tomorrow, which is nice. If I'm feeling really ambitious tomorrow, I might make a potato pancake to eat with the soup, but it may just be toasted bread from the freezer and butter.
24 October 2015 @ 08:58 pm
Oh, Dom Drom, what is this article?


I say it with affectionate bemusement, but bemusement nonetheless.
17 October 2015 @ 10:46 pm
Shakespeare's comedies are getting a book in the Oxford "Very Short Introductions" series:


The book is by Bart Van Es, and is set to come out in March 2016. No word on whether it has a particular angle on the comedies or not.
17 October 2015 @ 05:54 pm
link via Twitter:

Tower of London staff 'used magic to repel the forces of the Devil'


From the article:

Archaeologists, carrying out survey work in the residence of the Queen’s representative in the Tower, have found dozens of ‘ritual protection’ marks literally burnt into the timber uprights holding up the roof.

Historic Royal Palaces, which run the Tower of London, says that the discoveries are “hugely significant”. It is believed that the marks – 54 in total – were put on the timbers, mostly between the mid-16th and earlier 18th centuries, as a way of trying to magically protect the building from fire and lightning and to repel the forces of the Devil and the spells of witches.