Monday, February 5, 2018

February 2018


The shortest month starts with what might prove to be the year’s longest monthly report. A lot has been happening with Shakespeare in our lives. The most exciting is of course that we have booked our tickets at the Globe for Hamlet together with our oldest Shakespeare friends, EG and EG. We’re so happy that we will be able to spend time together with them in London. And how incredibly lucky we are that Hamlet is playing at the Globe!

As always, I will once again mention to visitors of this blog that Shakespeare Calling – the book is available for purchase. Please help promote the book by buying it, of course, and telling your friends about it, by liking and sharing it on Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Bokus…. And please encourage your local book shops and libraries to buy it.  Thank you. Your support is needed to keep this project alive.

FINALLY easily available for those of you in Great Britain and Europe on this site:

or
or Adlibris. Or contact the publisher info@vulkan.se

Shakespeare Calling – the book is promoted by
and

Shakespeare sightings:
  • In the novel A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara there is only one mention of Shakespeare in all the 800+ pages: someone sketched designs for a production of The Tempest. Fewer pages and more Shakespeare might have made this somewhat good novel the great novel some already think it is.
  • In the witches-coming-of-age YA novel Half Bad by Sally Green the author starts with one of my favourite quotes: ‘There is neither good or bad, but thinking makes it so’ from Hamlet. In her acknowledgements the author admits that she hasn’t read a lot of Shakespeare, but this quote was pivotal in her writing of this novel.
  • The title of Anita Shreve’s The Stars Are Fire is a quote from Hamlet which she includes before the novel starts but no mention is thereafter made of Shakespeare.
  • In The Night Is for Hunting, by John Marsden, Ellie compares herself to ‘that guy in Shakespeare who’s turned into an ass’ because she was listening so hard that she felt her ears were growing.
  • In Diane Setterfield’s The Thirteenth Tale the book lover narrator, when presented with the theoretical question of whether to save her beloved books or a human life concludes, ‘Of course all of Shakespeare was worth more than a human life.’ Oh dear! I hope we are never faced with that choice!
  • On the first page of Moi qui n’ai pas connue les hommes by Jacqueline Harpman (in English I Who Have Never Known Men, read in the Swedish Hon som aldrig kände männen) the narrator writes that she has started reading the introductions of books where, for example, it might be explained why a new translation of Shakespeare is needed. Further on in the novel
    • she considers that her story is as important as Hamlet’s or King Lear’s ‘as that Shakespeare has taken the bother to relate in detail’ (translated from the Swedish)
    • near the end of the book she wonders if she has understood Shakespeare
    • and as she lays dying, in pain, at the end, she asks, ‘How can prince Hamlet’s father appear and talk to him if he’s dead?’
  • Yuval Noah Harari mentions Shakespeare three times in his Sapiens – A Brief History of Humankind
    • ‘…even if a Neanderthal Romeo and a Sapiens Juliet fell in love, they could not produce fertile children, because the genetic gulf separating the two populations was already unbridgeable.’ Well, that, and being they were Romeo and Juliet they would die before they got that far….
    • ‘Attending gruesome executions was a favourite pastime for Londoners and Parisians in the era of Shakespeare and Molière.’
    • ‘Producing a film about the life of some super-cyborg is akin to producing Hamlet for an audience of Neanderthals.’
  • In Solaris, the sci fi classic by Stanislaw Lem, Snow, one of the astronauts/researchers on the space station studying the mystical planet Solaris, says to the narrator Kelvin, about fetishes, ‘the feeling he has for it is perhaps as overwhelming as Romeo’s feelings for Juliet.’
  • Margaret Atwood’s Hag-Seed has now been translated into Swedish. The review of it in Dagens Nyheter calls it a dark comedy and delightful interpretation of Shakespeare’s masterpiece (The Tempest). I couldn’t agree more.
  • In an interview with Carole Ann Ford, who played Susan, the first Doctor Who’s granddaughter, she said that though she has taught Shakespeare, she has never played Shakespeare but would love to.
  • In an interview with another Doctor Who actor, William Russell, he mentions that he played Lancelot in a school production of The Merchant of Venice and Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet at Oxford.
  • In describing two of the main characters in Erin Kelly’s The Poison Tree a minor character compares the brother and sister as lookalikes in a bizarre Shakespearean comedy. Later, the narrator comments that her friend, the actor Bibi, would have said that the run-down theatre in which she was performing would not matter because the language of Shakespeare or Ibsen is so powerful that the venue is unimportant.
  • In the film Their Finest the minister of war, Jeremy Irons, recites the ‘We few we happy few’ monolog to pep his staff.
  • In the novel Dust by Elizabeth Bear the author uses Shakespeare quotes to head some of her chapters. Sadly, it didn’t help. I gave up after about 50 pages. Just didn’t grab my attention.
  • In the TV series with Robert Carlyle Hamish Macbeth (bought both for the title and for Robert Carlyle), some smirks and giggles have met him when he introduces himself, but it is not until season three episode three that a clear reference is made. Says the villain: ‘Macbeth, eh?  To be or not to be, that is the question.’ Replies Hamish: ‘That’s Constable Hamlet. He’s up in the next village.’ 

Further since last time:
  • Read aloud with Hal: Twelfth Night.
  • Started writing: a text on Twelfth Night
  • Watched: the BBC and Branagh versions of same.
  • Played again with friends EG + EG: ‘Shakespeare – the Bard Game.’
  • Booked tickets for Hamlet at the Globe in July! Oh yes!
  • The insult for today, 5 February 2018, in our calendar of Shakespeare insults, a gift from JS, is ‘What a pied ninny’s this! Thou scurvy patch! From The Tempest. But who speaking to whom? Caliban? To Caliban? I’ll google it. Right, Caliban to Stephano and Trinculo. 
Posted this month
  • This report








Monday, January 1, 2018

January 2018

January 2018
Happy New Year! It has been a turbulent year, this 2017, but here we are, entering 2018 with perhaps more optimism than I would have thought possible. What fools these mortals be but also how noble in reason, how infinite in faculty, in form and moving how express and admirable.

As always, I will once again mention to visitors of this blog that Shakespeare Calling – the book is available for purchase. Please help promote the book by buying it, of course, and telling your friends about it, by liking and sharing it on Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Bokus…. And please encourage your local book shops and libraries to buy it.  Thank you. Your support is needed to keep this project alive.

FINALLY easily available for those of you in Great Britain and Europe on this site:

or
or Adlibris. Or contact the publisher info@vulkan.se

Shakespeare Calling – the book is promoted by
and

Shakespeare sightings:
  • ·       In the novel Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh the title character is a misfit, ‘like Joan of Arc, or Hamlet, but born into the wrong life – the life of a nobody, a waif, invisible.’ Later she had to leave school to take care of her mother and was secretly relieved but blamed her parents for her unhappiness and wished she was ‘in school again learning…the history of art, Latin, Shakespeare, whatever nonsense lay in store.’
  • ·       The Swedish YA fantasy novel Norra Latin by Sara Bergmark Elfgren is about the historical upper level school Norra Latin (which in reality is now a conference centre). In the novel it is still a school with a theatre program. It also has magic and ghosts but so much Shakespeare that the author was interviewed in the latest number of the journal of the Swedish Shakespeare Association.
  • ·       A literature critic compared the current turbulence in the Swedish Academy (brought about by the #metoo campaign) to a Shakespeare drama.
  • ·       In the rather sweet YA novel about werewolves, one of the two main characters, Sam, who is sometimes a wolf but often human, says to the other main character Grace’s mother, who claims not to be disappointed in her daughter’s practical nature: ‘Methinks the mom doth protest too much.’ Whether or not he knows he’s quoting Shakespeare is not mentioned.


Further since last time:
  • ·       Finished reading aloud with Hal: The Two Noble Kinsmen. Some by Shakespeare, more by Fletcher. Quite a strange play but not without interest.
  • ·       Wrote and posted: ‘Reflections’ on The Two Noble Kinsman
  • ·       Scheduled with friends E, E, A & L but not yet played: ‘Shakespeare – the Bard Game.’
  • ·       Had a book signing event, Saturday 9 December, with my alter ego Rhuddem Gwelin at the local bookshop Klackenbergs in Sundbyberg, Sweden. We mostly sold and signed the Merlin books but Shakespeare Calling – the book received not a little attention as well
  • ·       Received from friend JS – a calendar of Shakespeare insults. The insult for today, 1 January 2018, is ‘That quaffing and drinking will undo you’ (Twelfth Night). Very mild as Shakespeare insults go!
  • ·       Discovered that the public library in Östersund (northern Sweden) has Shakespeare calling – the book as an e-book.


Posted this month
  • ·       ‘Reflections’ on The Two Noble Kinsmen https://rubyjandshakespearecalling.blogspot.se/2018/01/the-two-noble-kinsmen-reflections.html 
  • ·       This report









The Two Noble Kinsmen - Reflections

Reflections
on
The Two Noble Kinsmen

     It’s worth reading. It has many themes one recognises from earlier Shakespeare – male friendship, female friendship, strong women, rivalry in romance, but all with a feeling of… more.
     The story: On the day of the wedding of Theseus and Hippolyta, three widows appeal to Theseus to go to war against Thebes because their husbands have not been given a proper burial. The two noble kinsmen, Palamon and Arcite, fight to defend their city but are captured. They both see Hippolyta’s sister Emilia from their prison window and though they have just declared eternal love and friendship for each other they both fall in love with Emilia and become rivals. Plot twists get them both out of prison. The jail keeper’s daughter goes mad with love for Palamon. Theseus demands that Emilia choose one of the two. She can’t so they must duel to the death for her hand. Arcite wins. Palamon is to hang. Arcita falls off his horse and dies. Palamon and Emilia are wed.
     It’s funny to the point of parody and then suddenly it’s not. All this we recognise in Shakespeare. Fletcher was a good student.
     I’m not going to do a great deep analysis, but I would like to mention a few points of interest.

  • ·       Hippolyta is a strong character, though she has but few lines. The three queens at the beginning appeal not only to Theseus but to Hippolyta as well:


Honoured Hippolyta,
Most dreaded Amazonian, that hast slain
The scythe-tusked boar… (Act 1.1).

When the soldiers then head off to war Hippolyta says

We have been soldiers and we cannot weep
When our friends don their helms… (Act1.3).

     Oh, that Shakespeare never wrote a whole play about Hippolyta! What a character he would have made her. Much more interesting than Cleopatra!

  • ·       The two noble kinsmen’s love for one another is so passionate that I’m surprised this play hasn’t become a flagship for the Pride movement.


Arcite:
We are one another’s wife, ever begetting
New births of love: we are father, friends, acquaintance.
We are, in one another, families:
I am your heir and you are mine…
Palamon:
Is there record of any two that loved
Better than we do, Arcite? (Act 2.2, Fletcher)

     I suppose the fact that two minutes later they’re both madly in love with Emilia and deadly rivals brings their sincerity somewhat into question but still, I find the quotes a bit sweet.

  • ·       The jailer’s daughter is very much an Ophelia character in her passion and madness. She shows, however, more insight and initiative. She has fallen in love with Palamon though she knows it is pointless:


Why should I love this gentleman?
‘Tis odds
He never will affect me: I am base,
My father the mean keeper of his prison,
And he a prince. To marry him is hopeless,
To be his whore is witless. Out upon’t!
What pushes are we wenches driven to
When fifteen once has found us! (Act 2.4, Fletcher)

            Fifteen she may be, but she is also feisty:

Let all the dukes and all the devils roar,
He is at liberty: I have ventured for him
And out I have brought him, to a little wood
A mile hence I have sent him…
…there he shall keep close
Till I provide him file and food, for yet
His iron bracelets are not off (Act 2.6, Fletcher).

            I could go on. As I write I discover that there is quite a lot of interest in this play. I wish Shakespeare had written it when he was in his most prolific and brilliant period – not to put down Fletcher, his writing isn’t bad either. I wish we had some filmed versions.
            In any case, if you haven’t read it, do. It’s worth it.


PS The RSC has done a production in 2016. Perhaps a DVD is on its way?

Monday, December 4, 2017

December 2017

Approaching the Winter Solstice. It’s a good time to read Shakespeare and play the newly acquired Bard Game (see below). If we can figure it out.
In this dark (literally and figuratively) time, don’t let us forget to light candles, to hope and strive for equality and a strong healthy planet. Why not continue to find inspiration in Shakespeare?
Happy holidays to all!

As always, I will once again mention to visitors of this blog that Shakespeare Calling – the book is available for purchase. Please help promote the book by buying it, of course, and telling your friends about it, by liking and sharing it on Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Bokus…. And please encourage your local book shops and libraries to buy it.  Thank you. Your support is needed to keep this project alive.

or
or Adlibris. Or contact the publisher info@vulkan.se

Shakespeare Calling – the book is promoted by
and

Shakespeare sightings:
  • In Star Trek, season 1 (from the 60’s – the original!) Kirk and Spock are watching Arcturian Macbeth played by Kodos the Executioner. Then Lady Macbeth (a young beauty) quotes Antony and Cleopatra to Kirk. Later the cast does Hamlet for the crew of the Enterprise. Clever use of quotes throughout, including the episode title ‘The Conscience of the King.’ Come to think of it, this was one of my early exposures to Shakespeare, when I watched the series faithfully every week as a teenager in the 60’s.
  • Christopher Hill opens the epilogue of his The Century of Revolution with one of my favourite quotes: ‘There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.’
  • In Philip Roth’s American Pastoral Lou, the avid glove maker, refers to Romeo and Juliet and quotes, ‘See the way she leans her cheek on her hand? I only wish I was the glove on that hand so I could touch that cheek.’
  • In the last episode of Season Five of Buffy the Vampire Slayer they are off to fight the evil god Glory: Spike – ‘Not exactly the St Crispin speech’. Giles – ‘We few, we happy few.’ Spike – ‘We band of buggered…’
  • The entire film The Dresser with Albert Finney and Tom Courtney is full of Shakespeare references. Finney plays a grand old Shakespearean actor. Great film. See it!
  • In Peter Ackroyd’s Civil War he mentions that
    • it is believed that Shakespeare introduced the masque in The Tempest to celebrate the marriage between James’s daughter Elizabeth to Frederick V of the Palatinate.
    • Frederick assumed the Bohemian throne and thus Bohemia became a concern for James though ‘it was a distant land of which he knew nothing, remarkable only for the scene of shipwreck in Shakespeare’s The Winter Tale, performed nine years before, in which it was miraculously granted a sea coast.’
    • The Tempest was performed before the king on 1 November 1611 and Ackroyd emphasises the importance of music to the play and to theatre in general at the time.


Further since last time:
  • Finished reading aloud with Hal: King Lear
  • Wrote: ‘Nothing’ in King Lear
  • Ordered, received but not yet played: ‘Shakespeare – the Bard Game.’
  • Gave: my lecture ‘Why Shakespeare’ at the English Bookshop in Uppsala on Tuesday 7 November. A full house!
  • Started reading aloud with Hal: Two Noble Kinsmen. Some by Shakespeare, more by Fletcher. Quite a strange play but not without interest.
  • Have booked: a book signing event, Saturday 9 December, with my alter ego Rhuddem Gwelin at the local bookshop Klackenbergs in Sundbyberg, Sweden. We hope to sign many copies of Shakespeare calling – the book and the Merlin Chronicles. Do stop by if you happen to live in the area!


Posted this month
  • ‘Nothing’ in King Lear
  • This report




'Nothing' in King Lear

Nothing
in
King Lear

Cordelia: Nothing.
Lear: Nothing?
Cordelia: Nothing.
Lear: Nothing will come of nothing.

     Cordelia’s ‘nothing’ is everything. Lear has already destroyed the two older sisters by his blatant favouritism and he has already brought strife upon his kingdom by splitting it then refusing to really relinquish his power. Cordelia’s ‘nothing’, which in Lear’s defence could be interpreted as he did, was just one more frightening shift in a world already in doubt of its identity.
     Friends of numbers will note that the word ‘nothing’ is used eighteen times in Act One and thirty-four times throughout the play. Lear loses his hold on reality, Gloucester loses his eyes, Edgar loses his father, Goneril and Regan have lost everything long ago but don’t know it yet. These individuals – kings and lords and princesses – are supposed to have power. From the first scene onward their power crumbles, their control over their lives and their world – the control they believed they had had – is wrenched from them and their world explodes in storms and madness.
     Lear who had the most and who is the cruellest loses everything but so do the daughters he has destroyed. His most loyal friends commit treason for his sake, those loyal to the kingdom are vicious villains.
     Never never never never never.
     Nothing.
     That’s what this play leaves one with.
     I’m beginning to appreciate that. 



Sunday, November 5, 2017

November 2017


It’s not quite blow, winds, rage blow but it is November and windy and often grey and dark but that’s a good time to read and give lectures on ‘Why Shakespeare?’ (see below) and listen to new CD’s with Shakespeare music (see below). Yes, I’m OK with November!

As always, I will once again mention to visitors of this blog that Shakespeare Calling – the book is available for purchase. Please help promote the book by buying it, of course, and telling your friends about it, by liking and sharing it on Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Bokus…. And please encourage your local book shops and libraries to buy it.  Thank you. Your support is needed to keep this project alive.

or
or Adlibris. Or contact the publisher info@vulkan.se

Shakespeare Calling – the book is promoted by
and

Shakespeare sightings:
  • In the novel The Shining by Stephen King Wendy jokingly calls her author husband Jack ‘the American Shakespeare’ and some 300 pages later when things have started to go wrong she reflects that the untidy half-mad Jack resembled ‘an absurd twentieth-century Hamlet, an indecisive figure so mesmerized by onrushing tragedy that he was helpless to divert its course or alter it in any way.’
  • In the novel At Yellow Lake by Jane McLoughlin, Etta’s hard-living mother says when Etta expresses surprise that her mother might go back to college, ‘Yeah. College. Why do you sound so shocked...I finished a whole semester before I had Jesse…English Lit, that was my major. Shakespeare. Jane Austen…’
  • Dagens Nyheter informs us that the brilliant Shakespearean (and elsewise) actor Jonas Karlsson has received the O’Neill award for his ability to awaken sympathy for dark characters, citing his interpretation of Richard III as an example. Jonas Karlsson was quoted as saying that to celebrate he would be playing Richard III that evening.
  • In the film Gideon’s Daughter with Bill Nighy and Emily Blunt, an excerpt from Richard III (popular play!) is performed at the daughter’s end of term assembly.
  • In Love Actually (watched the next evening because we can’t get enough of Nighy)
    • Hugh Grant as the prime minister boasts to the American president, ‘We are the country of Shakespeare, Harry Potter and David Beckham’s right foot.’
    • Colin Firth, a mystery writer, as his pages blow into the lake: ‘It’s not Shakespeare.’
  • In Christopher Hill’s The Century of Revolution he writes
    • in his introduction: ‘Shakespeare had thought of the universe and of society in terms of degree, hierarchy; by 1714 both society and the universe seemed to consist of competing atoms.’
    • ‘Shakespeare’s historical plays illustrate the Elizabethan sense that a strong monarchy was essential to defend national unity against foreign invasion and domestic anarchy.’
    • of the ‘boundless individualism’ in Macbeth and King Lear, Coriolanus and The Merchant of Venice, and that in Hamlet ‘the conflict has entered the soul of the hero.’
    • that in the late 17th century: ‘Tragedy and comedy, which Shakespeare had integrated in his plays, are now as sharply distinguished as prose and poetry….’
  • In the modern version of King Kong one of the sailors says to screen writer Adrien Brody as he passes, ‘Excuse me, Shakespeare.’
  • In the novel Lie of the Land by Amanda Craig
    • Lottie is worried about her teen-aged son and her mother Marta says, ‘that way madness lies.’
    • Hugh, Lottie’s father-in-law, about her and her husband Quentin’s marriage problems: ‘Love is not love that alters when alteration finds or bends with the remover to remove.’ Which sonnet? Any guesses?
    • Quentin, when discussing problems in sleeping arrangements in the crowded house with Lottie, who protests that her son can’t sleep in her bed: ‘No, that’d be altogether too much like Hamlet. Jesus, Lottie!’
    • Hugh, who does not have a good relationship with his son Quentin, tells him: ‘I’ll come back to haunt you like Hamlet’s father.’ 

Further since last time:
  • Started reading aloud with Hal: King Lear
  • Ordered, received but not listened to: the 10-CD box Shakespeare in Music
  • Preparations made: for my lecture ‘Why Shakespeare’ at the English Bookshop in Uppsala on Tuesday 7 November

Posted this month
  • This report





Sunday, October 1, 2017

October 2017

There’s been a bit more Shakespeare action this past month, both in my little world, and out there in the big one. After much struggle I finished a text on that difficult play, Measure for Measure, which seems to become more problematic each time we read it. I’m not completely unhappy to leave it for this time, but what to choose next? A more pleasant problem!

As always, I will once again mention to visitors of this blog that Shakespeare Calling – the book is available for purchase. Please help promote the book by buying it, of course, and telling your friends about it, by liking and sharing it on Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Bokus…. And please encourage your local book shops and libraries to buy it.  Thank you. Your support is needed to keep this project alive.

or
or Adlibris. Or contact the publisher info@vulkan.se

Shakespeare Calling – the book is promoted by
and

Shakespeare sightings:
  • In the novel A Separation by Katie Kitamura the narrator compares her mother-in-law to Lady Macbeth. She’s not terrible fond of her mother-in-law.
  • In Stephen King’s massive It (1090 pages) he only manages two references to Shakespeare:
    • One of the characters is taking a writing course and the teacher asks, ‘Do you believe Shakespeare was just interested in making a buck?’ implying of course that he wasn’t. Well, he probably was, maybe not only but quite a lot.
    • When Beverly insists that it’s her husband who has all the talent, not her, friend Richie says, ‘Methinks the lady doth protest too much.’
  • In Lisa McInerney’s The Glorious Heresies one of the thugs is called Shakespeare ‘because he was as verbose a thug as you could find.’
  • In the film Genius the author Tom Wolfe (Jude Law) considers himself Caliban, ugly and deformed, and his editor Max Perkins (Colin Firth) exchanges some quotes with him.
  • Dagens Nyheter
    • had a long article about a children’s illustrated version of Hamlet by Barbro Lindgren and Anna Höglund. It’s called Titta Hamlet (Look Hamlet) and the first line is, ‘Look Hamlet. Hamlet not happy.’ The reviewer thinks it’s a small masterpiece. ‘This is not just a good start for those who want to meet Shakespeare for the first time, but a surprisingly strong interpretation even for those who have kept company with Hamlet for a long time.’
    • is selling tickets to Rickard III (with Jonas Karlsson, we saw it a couple of years ago – brilliant!).
    • had an article about great finds in used book stores and mentions William Shakespeare – comedies, histories and tragedies. Published according to the true original copies. The second impression.’ It’s the most expensive book on antikvariat.net, printed in 1632 and sold for 2 440398 Danish crowns in the Aanehus Aarhus antikvariat.
  • The TV program Go’kväll also talked about the above-mentioned kids’ version of Hamlet and the reviewer said essentially that the kids she’s read it to love it.
  • In the YA fantasy novel City of Bones the author Cassandra Clare starts out with a quote from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar: ‘I have not slept. /Between the acting of a dreadful thing /And the first motion, all the interim is / Like a phantasm, or a hideous dream’. Sadly, though the novel is entertaining (somewhat), this quote does not make it great literature.

Further since last time:
  • Started reading: James Shapiro’s 1606 – The Year of King Lear
  • Finished reading aloud with Hal: Measure for Measure
  • Started reading aloud with Hal: the Sonnets, then reading the Swedish translation by Walter Dan Axelsson, then listening to those that are on the CD From Shakespeare with Love (bought because David Tennant reads many of them). So far we’ve read up to 18 (‘Shall I compare thee…’). Sadly, I really don’t like many of these early sonnets.

Posted this month