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As part of the whole #shakespeare400 thing, the Guardian is posting videos of various actors (among them Adrian Lester, Roger Allam, and Eileen Atkins) performing Shakespeare speeches, starting on February 1:


There's a trailer up now, if you're interested in that sort of thing.

And while I'm here, an opinion piece about Shakespeare's language, and Emma Rice's suggestion that it's better to change "chimney-sweepers" to "dandelions":

In defence of Shakespeare's difficult bits

And some letters in response to that piece:

I admit that I've been kind of worrying about this ever since I read that article in which the author mentioned that Emma Rice changed the name "Fidele" to "Ian." I don't know anything about her, really, so I guess we'll wait and see, but...
30 January 2016 @ 08:09 pm
From the Pepys' Diary daily feed:

A solemn fast for the King’s murther, and we were forced to keep it more than we would have done, having forgot to take any victuals into the house.


People are people, even across the centuries.
30 January 2016 @ 12:07 pm
Young William Shakespeare TNT Pilot ‘Will’ Casts Lead, Shekhar Kapur To Direct


(Deadline is marked as spam on LJ, so I hope this will get around it)

*runs in singing 'I hate everything about this paragraph, la la la'*

Elizabeth helmer Shekhar Kapur is directing the pilot, which comes from Craig Pearce, the longtime writing partner of auteur filmmaker Baz Luhrmann. It tells the wild story of young William Shakespeare’s (Davidson) arrival onto the punk rock theater scene that was 16th century London – the seductive, violent world where his raw talent faced rioting audiences, religious fanatics and raucous side-shows. It’s described as the hot, contemporary, dangerous version of Shakespeare’s life, played to a modern soundtrack, exposing all his recklessness, lustful temptations and brilliance.

*runs back out again screaming 'look it's not your grandma's Elizabethan period, aren't we soooo contemporary'*

ugh ugh ugh

(also, weirdly, I can't tell whether this has any connection to that "Shakespeare-in-Love-meets-Game-of-Thrones" CW pilot that involved witches and conspiracies or whatever, or if this is in fact an entirely different Shakespeare pilot.)
22 January 2016 @ 10:24 pm
So…the last couple of trips I've made to the bookstore and library have resulted in running across several books that seem to be arguing that Princess Elizabeth was really attracted to Thomas Seymour? Like, are we doing that again? Because I really don't want to be doing that again, dude was a child molester. I mean, I am no historian, so I can stick my fingers in my ears on this subject if I want to, and I really want to, because that entire story has always given me the heebie-jeebies, and I am irrationally unwilling to consider "the evidence" on this one. Call me unobjective if you want, but when a man sneaks into a girl's bedroom, slaps her on the rear end, and slices her dress to ribbons while she's still wearing it, I am really not interested in hearing about how the girl in question might have been attracted to him or found the whole thing titillating.

Anyway. Is anyone else encountering these books?

For example: https://books.google.com/books?id=P_zHBQAAQBAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=elizabeth:+renaissance+prince&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwijxNnx_L7KAhVLRyYKHR4lCS4Q6AEIHTAA#v=onepage&q=%22elizabeth%20flirted%20back%22&f=false

(from Elizabeth: Renaissance Prince by Lisa Hilton)

And this is the book I saw earlier this week, which actually gave me the creepy-crawlies as I was flipping through it:
The Temptation of Elizabeth Tudor by Elizabeth Norton

"She would never allow her heart to rule her head again," eww eww ewwwwwwwwwww...
03 January 2016 @ 06:27 am
I have been on vacation with my mother for nine days (more on that later, perhaps: we decided to do something really special and go to London and Paris; my mom had never been to either, and I had never been to Paris since I mostly haven't been anywhere but London, not that I am complaining; when a man is tired of London &c).

One thing we weren't able to do while in London, sadly, was see a play in the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse; if we'd gotten to London a day earlier we could have seen Cymbeline (sob), but our trip fell right in the middle of the holidays, so while the Globe was open (I made good use of the gift shop), nothing was playing while we were there.

But here is a BBC Radio recording about Shakespeare's late plays, recorded in the SWP and featuring Simon Russell Beale among others:

I haven't listened to it yet, but I look forward to it.
20 December 2015 @ 05:16 pm
So I'm reading a sweet interview with Jamie Parker, giggling at his self-deprecation and all, when this paragraph happens:

Parker says he’d like to “branch out a little bit”, in directions as yet unspecified, and indeed he nearly pulled off the branching-out coup of the decade by making it through to the final round of interviews to succeed Dominic Dromgoole as artistic director of the Globe Theatre, a job that eventually went to Emma Rice.




13 December 2015 @ 01:26 pm
I finally finished reading Hild by Nicola Griffith (which I started in September, but then had to put it down until Thanksgiving; since then I've been reading it on Saturdays when I really ought to be doing work). I enjoyed it - although the pause in the middle wasn't great; it was hard to keep the politics straight and I kept getting my Eadfriths and Osfriths and Osrics confused. I especially liked that this was a story set in the seventh century that didn't just shrug and go, "well, ladies had no rights or power then, am I right; who'd want to hear about that? Bring on the dudes!" which is the kind of thing that drove me crazy (along with, it is true, everything else) in The Tudors. As a seer, Hild is extraordinary, and she does have a lot more access to the World of Men (™) than most women - but the novel nevertheless recognizes the power and importance - or, for those women who are not influential, even just the real and rounded existence - that other women have, rather than doing that obnoxious thing where the historical heroine does nothing but chafe against the restrictions of the female world, and want to spend all of her time with men. It is true that there are restrictions, and those aren't downplayed - Hild's sister, Hereswith, for example, is married off as "peaceweaver" without so much as a by-your-leave, even though her husband-to-be has a woman and children that he refuses to set aside even after the marriage. But Hild also learns much of her political savvy from her mother, Breguswith, who has been grooming her since she was a child. She forms relationships and alliances with queens as well as kings, and recognizes that perfume - when it's a recognizable scent given by the queen, as a mark of her favor - can be just as important as carrying the king's token. She thinks about "soft power," about winning over people with food and gifts, as well as carrying a weapon into battle. (As seer, Hild winds up at a lot of battles and does have to protect herself and even kill, although she is not a Warrior Maiden (™) as such.) The novel is full of daily, "domestic" life just as much as war: the rhythms of weaving and herb gathering, cheese making and child minding, are all important in this book. And there is even a character of color, a deacon named James who comes to the king's court as part of the retinue of the king's new, Christian, wife Aethelburh; he doesn't have a huge role, but he becomes one of the people Hild turns to for advice and comfort, and he adds some welcome lightness to the book as the choir director who cares passionately about something that isn't battle and power.

The book is the first of a trilogy, according to the author, although nothing about the book itself makes that explicit before you start reading it, and then realize that you are definitely going to run out of pages before Hild - who is the woman who eventually is known as Saint Hilda of Whitby - runs out of life. The book does not at all get you to the point where Hild goes from being "pagan" seer to Christian future saint (although she does get baptized late in the book, this is largely a political maneuver and much of King Edwin's court does the same thing when he does). But I am certainly intrigued enough to read the next book, once it exists. And yet, I still don't feel like I've wrapped my mind around this novel yet…Did I enjoy it for itself, or because it does so many worthy things that I always want, but rarely get, in so much historical media? Does it even make sense to ask that question, as though those elements can be sifted out to get at the "objective" quality of my enjoyment, or of the book itself?

It did make me want to know more about this period, though: beyond a few flashes of delighted recognition at some cameos - the cowherd Caedmon who seems to have a knack for rewriting the prayers that Hild recites to him; someone mentioning how the scop sang a story about "the Geats and the dragon" - it's not a period I know at all well, so I could definitely stand to read some more things about it.
10 December 2015 @ 02:58 pm
I must have written this the day after I saw the Cumberbatch Hamlet, but then I got distracted by writing a blog post instead, and never came back to finish this. Anyway, I just found it on my computer, so for completeness' sake:

Further thoughts, about Benedict Cumberbatch this time – or at least about his Hamlet. Hamlet thoughtsCollapse )
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...