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review 2019-05-13 23:30
Titus Andronicus
The Complete Works (Oxford Shakespeare) - William Shakespeare,John Jowett,Gary Taylor

Well, I guess Titus Andronicus was more complex than The Two Gentlemen of Verona and The Taming of the Shrew but lacked the depth and thorough purposeful plotting of the Henry VI series. I'd even go so far as to say it's entertaining if one is into mindless violence but I can't see it working as anything else, not even a cautionary tale... tho I am kind of intrigued how it compares to other revenge plays of its time (even if I doubt that I'll rush to find out). 

 

Needless to say, there has been only one overwhelming reaction to this play that has stayed with me all the way through it:

 

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text 2019-05-10 21:02
A Quick Update...

on the Will's World project: My mum sent me my old copy of Stanley Wells' excellent Shakespeare: A Life in Drama, including the pieces of paper I left in it as bookmarks when I first read this about 20 years ago. 

 

 

Also, I have wine. I have found some of the wine we had in Milan, and contrary to the usual experience of wine not tasting as good as when first tasted on a trip, it is really nice. 

 

So, I am all set for the next of the plays: Titus Andronicus. Except,... I will postpone this one until tomorrow, and instead jump ahead to a re-read of The Tempest

 

Reading Miranda in Milan by Katherine Duckett while travelling earlier this week left me wanting to re-read the original play, because I seemed to have had issues with the portrayal of some of the characters in Miranda in Milan, and I want to find out whether I just misremembered Shakespeare's characters or whether there is an actual reason that this grated on me so much. Not that this was the only thing that grated on me in Duckett's book, but this will have to wait until I get around to write a review.

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text 2019-05-05 22:52
Reading progress update: I've read 56 out of 204 pages.
Miranda in Milan - Katharine E.K. Duckett

The ladies looked out at her from behind birdlike masks, and Miranda tried to embody her own mask’s painted pout, to talk prettily of court intrigue and hunting seasons. But she faltered every time she went to speak and found herself moved from cluster to cluster, always on the outside of the circles, always watching the scene as though it were a shadow play. Her mask felt tight on her face, and the heavy velvet and satin of her dress chafed and pinched. She felt like the phantom Milan treated her as, forced to witness the joy of the living but never to claim it as her own. She found herself pushed to the very edge of the crowd and took refuge in the quiet of a loggia, watching pairs of young lovers dash beneath its shelter to exchange fervid kisses before laughing their way into the crowds again.

I picked this one up without knowing anything about it. Well, other than that it is connected to The Tempest, and so far I am intrigued but also puzzled by what all is going on.

 

There is certainly the same sort of veiling going on as in The Tempest in the sense that it is hard to figure out which agency belongs to which character. 

However, having read the section quoted above, I have a feeling I know where this is going.

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text 2019-05-05 09:00
Topical Reading
Miranda in Milan - Katharine E.K. Duckett

I'm sort of skipping ahead in the Shakespeare project but since I'm already familiar with The Tempest this won't be a big deal. 

 

It's just that, as I am waiting for the taxi to the airport, I yet again could not make up my mind which book to take. So, I am going with a topical read, checking off two boxes: Shakespeare and Milan.

 

Happy Sunday!

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review 2019-05-04 19:27
Henry VI (Parts 1, 2, and 3)
The Complete Works (Oxford Shakespeare) - William Shakespeare,John Jowett,Gary Taylor

I meant to write up a short note about the Henry VIs (parts 1, 2, and 3) after finishing the plays last week, but then RL - travel and becoming a citizen - interfered at short notice.  

 

I originally meant to only explore Henry VI, Part 1, but I enjoyed it so much that I just kept reading the other two parts, too. (I'm not including Richard III as part of the series even if it is meant to be. RIII stands independently for me. Blame Josephine Tey for that.)

 

What I loved best about Henry VI, Part 1, was that is was so different from the two earlier plays. Where Two Gentlemen of Verona and The Taming of the Shrew had been disappointing and superficial, Henry VI was gripping and complex right from the outset. 

 

Maybe it was the historical topic, maybe it was the influence and / or contribution of other writers to the play - and comparing the depth of thought between the previous plays (including Henry VI Parts 2 and 3, which were written before Part 1) and this one alone makes a persuasive argument for this play being a collaboration of Shakespeare and others - but there was a distinct difference to the earlier plays.

 

Right from page 1, we are thrown into high drama, when the nobles mourn the passing of Henry V amidst the ongoing war between England and France. 

Two pages later, we are introduced to Joan of Arc.

This really was gripping from the start and no historical inaccuracy - and there were lots - could lessen my enjoyment of this Part. 

 

Now, I set out to read the parts of Henry VI in order even tho Part 1 was written after Part 3, and I have no regrets about this. Part 1 was the most engaging of the three - aristocratic bickering, war, witches, bitches, intrigue, murder, fabulous swear words... what's not to love? 

 

Parts 2 and 3 suffered from the drama of Part 1. Had I started with Part 2, the one written first, I am not sure I would have made to Part 1. 

 

Tho, I liked Parts 2 and 3 as part of the bigger story of the War of the Roses, and there is much to like about the portrayal of political intrigue in Part 2 and the impact of the war on the people in Part 3, each of those parts need the bigger frame work of the story, whereas Part 1 was a satisfying play in and of itself.

 

I'll have to add a qualification, however, Henry VI Part 3 has another thing going for it:

The rise of Richard of Gloucester, the subsequent Richard III. Richard is already portrayed as as the glorious villain that we come to love to despise in Shakespeare's later play, irrespective of the historical inaccuracies. 

 

 

RICHARD

I'll hear no more. Die, prophet, in thy speech,

[He stabs him]

For this, amongst the rest, was I ordained.

 

KING HENRY

Ay, and for much more slaughter after this.

O, God forgive my sins, and pardon thee.

[He dies]

 

(spoiler show)

 

RICHARD OF GLOUCESTER

What—will the aspiring blood of Lancaster

Sink in the ground?I thought it would have mounted.

See how my sword weeps for the poor King's death.

O, may such purple tears be alway shed

From those that wish the downfall of our house!

If any spark of life be yet remaining,

Down, down to hell, and say I sent thee thither—

[He stabs him again]

I that have neither pity, love, nor fear.

Indeed, 'tis true that Henry told me of,

For I have often heard my mother say

I came into the world with my legs forward.

Had I not reason, think ye, to make haste,

And seek their ruin that usurped our right?

The midwife wondered and the women cried

'O, Jesus bless us, he is born with teeth f—

And so I was, which plainly signified

That I should snarl and bite and play the dog.

Then, since the heavens have shaped my body so,

Let hell make crooked my mind to answer it.

I had no father, I am like no father;

I have no brother, I am like no brother;

And this word, 'love', which greybeards call divine,

Be resident in men like one another

And not in me—I am myself alone.

Clarence, beware; thou kept'st me from the light—

But I will sort a pitchy day for thee.

For I will buzz abroad such prophecies

That Edward shall be fearful of his life,

And then, to purge his fear, I'll be thy death.

Henry and his son are gone; thou, Clarence, art next;

And by one and one I will dispatch the rest,

Counting myself but bad till I be best.

I'll throw thy body in another room

And triumph, Henry, in thy day of doom.

[Exit with the body]

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