Tuesday, 12 June 2012

The journey continues. Just now I am reading Cymbeline and really enjoying it. Think it's going to be hard to see it performed after I have finished the actual reading, you never know, my best bet is probably, the BBC. The DVD for Coriolanus came in, the other day. My boy Tom, who went with me to the cinema to see it, wants to watch it again, isn't that fantastic! Trouble is trying to nail him down, to watch it. He watched the Globe production of Henry IV Part 1, on TV with me and I caught him laughing at Falstaff. He really enjoyed it,so proud off him. Have to work on Jack too. I know, I'm a sad git! Kathy says I'll have them as sad as me. She saw Macbeth with me and Jack last summer. She loved it, so I'll have to work on her too. I downloaded a couple of plays for my iPod. A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Tempest. I listened to them in my truck, they were fantastic. The Tempest was especially good, as I didn't really know anything about it. I knew it was a shipwreck, a bit like Twelfth Night. So it was great hearing for the first time. I have an Arden copy of the play and I've started reading the introduction, If you know Arden, they are quite, brilliantly, long. I keep looking at Hamlet, on Amazon. You think I should give it a whirl? I have the feeling I'd love it. I have the fantastic DVD, with David Tennant and I think if I read it at the same time as watching. It would blow my mind, I know it would. I recorded all the plays from The Globe, that were on Sky Arts. What a treat they are and, I've still to watch, Romeo and Juliet. Can't wait, as always its getting the time. Well as you can see Shakespeare still holds a place in my heart and always will. I'd like to mention a few people who have helped me along the road. Top of the list, as always, Dainty Ballerina, Ive not got the words, just thanks. Mathew Lyons has a blog that leaves me speechless when ever I read it. Sylvia Morris is incredible, amazing blog. You can find them on Twitter, along with other wonderful history tweepers like @HistoryNeedsYou, @Sarah_Peverley and not forgetting @ShakespeareBT for many an excellent blog post. Well, that'll do it for now George

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

My Shakespeare Festival

The brilliant Sky Arts 2 HD, have just run a full week, celebrating Shakespeare's birthday. I recorded everything, from documentaries, ballet, Opera, I love the ballet and Opera. Then of course the plays. A few of them were recorded live from The Glob theatre in London. King Henry IV Part 1 & 2, Othello, As You Like It and Romeo and Juliet. There was Macbeth from London's Roundhouse and Jonathan Millers Merchant of Venice, with Sir Laurence Olivier. It is going to take me some time to watch them all, it's going to be great catching up. I decided to have my own little Shakespeare Festival, haven't thought of a good name for it yet, like the Sundance Festival, if you have any suggestions, feel free to mention them. The opening ceremony started Monday night, sound's grand. It was me reading The Tempest in bed, after watching half of Henry IV Part 1. Day two was delayed, forgot I had promised to take Mum and Sister out for lunch at the garden center, Mum loves a garden centre. When I got home I watched the rest of Henry IV P1. I've been looking forward to it for ages and I was not disappointed. Armed with my Arden copy of the play, I sort of followed along, not quite reading it at the same time, but knowing who the characters were, as they entered and exeunt the stage. I found myself laughing alone at the antics of Sir John Falstaff, Prince Hal and all their cronies in the Boar's Head Tavern. I could see that, the relationship between these two, would end in sadness for Jack. At the same time, there is great tension between the King and his son. He doesn't approve of his life style. But, The civil war that leads to the battle of Shrewsbury, sees Hal fighting Hotspur and killing him, showing he is a man of courage and fit to be a future King. In Part two, we have the aftermath of the battle, there is still unrest as the rebels have not yet been defeated. The King is ill and dying. Once again It is Falstaff's play, but when the old King dies, Sir John goes to the young Kings coronation and thinks he will be looked after and have a wonderful future. Henry disowns and renounces his old friend. Falstaff is Left a broken man. Pure pathos. This was all filmed at The Globe, it was magic, I have to go, just have to. At the end of each play, all the actors came on the stage and performed a song and dance. Do they always do that? It was hilarious and totally natural. I want to be there one night, to be part of it all. That was part 1 of my Festival, a one man Festival, because no other jooker I know, likes Shakespeare. Part 1, because I have decided to extend it. Two and a half day's is to short a time, I'll give it another two day's, Sunday Monday. This post is part of the Festival. So this is end of part one. George

Sunday, 1 April 2012

But I am constant as the northern star,

I have just spent the last few weeks, reading and studying Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. Finishing up with watching the DVD. The old black and white one, with Marlon Brando as Mark Antony, James Mason as Brutus, John Gielgud as Cassius and Louis Calhern as Caesar. I love doing that, first reading the play, then watching it. Just wish I could more of them in the theatre, in the flesh. But as I've said before, in previous posts. I love my DVD collection and its getting bigger. I found Julius Caesar a relatively easy play to read, I read it twice, that is probably because I knew the story quite well. It is quite a short play, just over half the length of Hamlet. Its the story of Brutus, Cassius and other Roman Senator's who conspire to assassinate Caesar. The actual assassination and the civil war that follows.

At first, I thought Caesar was the main character, then I thought it was Mark Antony. But for me, I think, it's the story of Marcus Brutus. That's what interested me the most. Now, this is where I get nervous writing my blog. I wonder if I've missed the point and I doubt my ability to write a proper account. I'm here to write my thoughts and not to win prizes. So here they are. The conspiracy. Cassius, Caska, Cinna and some others, conspire to kill Caesar. Cassius speaks to Brutus who I feel reluctantly takes up with them. All through the play, it appears to me, Brutus is the only one who is doing it for the right reasons. He wants to end tyranny and make Rome a better place for her citizens. I'm not sure Caesar was a tyrant. After all He refuses Mark Antony and the the plebeians three times the opportunity to become King or Emperor. This was the end of Rome as a Republic, Which Caesar wanted to preserve. By killing him, they brought on a civil war and that led to Imperial Rome, with Octavius becoming first Emperor of Rome. Augustus Caesar. The Assassination. Beware the Ides of March. Caesar is warned by the Soothsayer. His wife Calphurnia, has a terrible nightmare in which she calls out, Help ho: they murder Caesar. There is a massive storm, with thunder and lightning and all the omens are bad. Caesar goes to the Senate, Mark Antony is led away and Caesar is murdered. Brutus has persuaded the others and against Cassius better judgment, to spare Antony's life. I think Cassius was right, they should have done the job properly and killed them all. Brutus allows Antony to speak to the citizens at Caesar's funeral. In a clever speech and a bit of play acting, he turns the people against the conspirators. And so. The Civil War. Mark Antony and young Octavius unite and cold bloodily, reek vengens on them all. Brutus and Cassius, at the head of there own armies meet and have a big argument. Another scene in which Brutus comes over as "The noblest Roman of them all" as Mark Antony calls him, over his dead body at the end of the play. Cassius thinks they should stand their ground and let Antony and Octavius come to them. Brutus thinks they should attack them, which they do. They are defeated and both fall on their swords. Brutus may have been noble, but he was very naive. I really enjoyed Julius Caesar. But, when I think about it, don't know if it's right to do this, I don't think it's as good as Coriolanus. Probably it's unfair to compare them. I still loved it and I will certainly come back to it in the future. There are lots of famous quotes in it like "Cry havoc and let slip the dog's of war" that's great! When Brando says it in the movie, he's really angry and roars it out, gives you shivers. Et tu Brute, Caesars last words which feel like a dagger through the heart and the look on James Mason's face is heartbreaking. The title of this post, "But I am as constant as the northern star" Which Caesar says just before he is murdered. That really annoyed me, trying to remember where I'd heard it before. It came to me in my wagon, courtesy of my ipod! It's in a Joni Mitchell song, A Case Of You. It's on her Blue album. I was playing it the other day, when it jumped out at me. I knew I'd heard it before!

So that was part of my Journey. Julius Caesar. What next? Well I'm tempted to go onto Antony and Cleopatra, but I'm not sure, maybe I've had enough of ancient Rome for a spell. I've not been so scientific about the way I go on my Journey. I could have read them in the order they were written. Or the way they followed each other historically. That would be the twenty first century way to do it, I think. When I was reading Julius Caesar, I was looking for references to Coriolanus, as if it were a sequel. I enjoyed doing that, as if Shakespeare was like Bernard Cornwall and his Sharpe storys's. Hell that's OK, I hope. We all love Shakespeare differently and I don't mean any disrespect and I hope I'm not being trivial, because that is not my intention. It's just the way my brain works, ho hum! I was in Rome, recently, for a weekend break and when we were looking round the ancient ruins of Rome, I kept looking for Coriolanus. Like Al Pacino looking for Richard. Oh god! I think, If you are still with me on my Journey, you will have noticed I go on about Coriolanus, a lot. I have no doubt at all that it is my favourite. When I started on this long road, I thought it would be Macbeth. I dearly love Macbeth, but no. It's definitely Coriolanus. I don't think I'm obsessed, but I feel as if its My Play. I wonder if others feel that way, about one of the plays. Or maybe even more than one. It's as if, I have some how discovered it and I am the first to read it. I know, I'm talking rubbish but that's how I feel. So that's it. Started talking about Julius Caesar and finished with Coriolanus, As usual.

Well as I said, that's it. feel free if you see anything that's not right, to let me know. Thanks to all you guy's who have encouraged me to keep trying to write. You know who you are. Hope you like it, so long for now.


Saturday, 4 February 2012

from man to dragon

One day off, last Sunday. So I grabbed my chance to go to the Cinema and see the much anticipated, on my part, Coriolanus. I enjoyed the film immensely, but this is not a film review, at least I'm not intending to make it one, but it might be later on. I had been reading the play for some time, see previous post, and it was a struggle. The reason it was a struggle was because I was reading it in small installments. That doesn't really work for me. Reading Shakespeare is so different from watching it being performed. I cant read it as I would read a novel, no one can. The writing is so rich and complex, you have to give it your full concentration. I will have to be disciplined and set aside time, so I am able to read large swathes of a play at a sitting. Hopefully finish, say Macbeth in one or two goes. The longer ones, like Hamlet, a few more.

So Coriolanus. Or, The Tragedy of Coriolanus. It is set in ancient Rome in the early days of the Republic, hundreds of years before Julius Caesar. It starts of with the citizens of Rome, hungry and short of grain, complaining about the rich, with their grain stores crammed full. Caius Martius, appears to treat the people with contempt. When Rome goes to war with the Volcaisians, Caius Martius attacks and defeats the city of Corioles. In the battle he fights hand to hand with Aufidius. They are both cut up pretty badly and are helped away by their men. When he goes back to Rome, victorious. He is given, in his honour, the name Coriolanus. He is then appointed consul by the Senate but he refuses to show the people his wounds, as is custom and will not humble himself, still treating the citizens with contempt. So the Tribunes encourage the citizens, to turn against him and accuse him of treason. They have him banished. Coriolanus, in a rage, seeks out the Volscian army, finds Aufidius and offers to lead them against Rome. Back in Rome they hear of the impending attack, they send out, first Cominius, who comes back without even having a chance to speak with Coriolanus. They then persuaded Menenius Agrippa, his friend to try and talk him out of the attack. Coriolanus barely acknowledges him. Finally his mother Volumnia, with his wife Virgilia and son have their chance. His mother, in a great speech pleads with him. Coriolanus finally agrees not to attack Rome. Meanwhile close advisers of Aufidius have been telling their General that Coriolanus has become too powerful and popular with their own army. They kill him and Aufidius tramples on his body. It is not easy explaining the whole play to you. All I will say is it had a wonderful effect on me, I loved it. Reading the play was difficult but so rewarding. A few of the great speeches, as when his mother, Volumnia, is pleading with Coriolanus not to attack Rome, had me hooked. When, Menenius speaking to Sicinius, about the chances of Volumnia, persuading her Son not to attack Rome.
Sicinius says "Is't possible that so short a time can alter a man".
Menenius replies, "There is differency between a grub and a butterfly; yet your butterfly was a grub. This Martius has grown from man to dragon: he has wings: he's more than a creeping thing.
Sicinius "He loved his mother dearly"
Menenius "So did he me: and he
no more remembers his mother
now than an eight year-old horse. The
of his face sours ripe grapes: when he
walks, he
moves like an engine, and the ground
shrinks before
his treading: he is able to pierce a corslet
his eye; talks like a knell, and his hum is a
battery. He sits in a state, as a thing
made for
Alexander, What he bids be done is finished
his bidding. He wants nothing of a god but
and a heaven to throne in.
I love that scene. I think I could spend a large part off my life on Coriolanus, alone. That's the thing with Shakespeare, I'll be dead, before I get to the end of my journey. The thing is, I love the plays and writing of Shakespeare and it will be a life long joy to read his plays and once in a blue moon, see them performed live on stage. I hope they make more and more of the plays into movies. I know its not the same as live theater, but I love watching them on DVD.

I'd like to say some things about the movie, Coriolanus. I thought it was fantastic. Ralph Fiennes as Caius Martius and afterwards Coriolanus, was brilliant. Lets hope he dose more Shakespeare. Gerard Butler as Aufidius, was no surprise, I knew he would be great. He looked like that mad Spartan from 300 but played the part brilliantly. I thought Jessica Chastain as Virgilia was really good. I noticed while reading the play, she doesn't have a lot to say. So in the film, she didn't say much, her presence and her acting were superb. Lubna Azabal, playing one of the citizens, was excellent. James Nesbitt as Sicinius, well I knew, like Butler, he'd be great and he was. Jon Snow reading the news, was a surprise, he was excellent, read his lines like a keen school teacher. I thought Vanessa Redgrave was good but, and I think I will have to see it again, she didn't bring her big speeches alive, for me. That leaves the mighty, Brian Cox. As Menenius, I just thought he was fantastic. I might be biased, he is one of my favourite actors, but I think his part held the whole film together. Going from Citizens to Tribunes, from Volumnia to his friend Coriolanus. Acting the fool with his son. He just seemed to have more complexity than most. I'm not saying the other characters lacked complexity, far from it. As I've said, The Tragedy of Coriolanus, will keep me busy and entertained for ever.

Well that was, Coriolanus. I may not mention him in my blog again. But that doesn't mean I'm finished with him. I think I will go onto, The Tragedy of Julius Caesar, next. So it may be a while before my next post.

I would like to thank Trish Nicholson, who was kind enough to look over an early draft of this post. I was really struggling and Trish gave me so much tips and advice. I cant thank her enough. Follow her on twitter @TrishaNicholson she is ace. Thanks to Andy Maginley, he helped with the quotes, follow him on twitter too @AndrewMaginley A real renaissance man. And as always, DB for her great encouragement.

I'M going to post this, as it is. If I'm lucky enough to have a few readers, please let me know if I have written a load of tosh, It's only my humble attempt to write down my thoughts.

So long for now


Monday, 16 January 2012

Friendly Blogs II

After writing my last post, I got some feedback on twitter. One of the tweets was from someone who's opinion I value very much @EHChalis If you are on twitter, you should follow her. Anyway, Elaine suggested that I read Shakespeare out loud. I have actually tried it, albeit whispering. Well today I gave it the full treatment. I had the house to myself and I went up to my bedroom picked up Julius Caesar, not Coriolanus. And like a true Shakespearean (ham) actor I read half a dozen pages out loud. I think it helped but if it did or didn't, I really enjoyed doing it. I didn't try it with Coriolanus as I've nearly finished it, so I thought I'd try it on a "new play". I'll tell you something, I'm going to love Julius Caesar. And I think I will invest in the old DVD with Brando. Ive got a funny feeling he doesn't actually play Caesar. I'm pretty sure in fact, that Caesar isn't the main character in the play. is it not Brutus? and is that not the part Brando plays? I shall find out. Anyway, whether it's because I have a little knowledge of the story or it was the reading out loud, what ever. I can't wait to get into The Tragedy of Julius Caesar.

This is not the original path I was going to take on my Shakespeare journey. I intended to start, well not start as Ive been reading random plays up until now. Macbeth, Othello and Romeo and Juliet. My thinking was to read Henry IV part 1 and 2 then Henry V. I was dying to read all about Falstaff. That's another thing. I was watching University Challenge a while back, one of the questions was. In which play does Falstaff first appear? well I made a right arse of myself, shouting out Henry IV Part 1. That's wrong, to my family's joy and my red face. I'm sure they said it was The Merry Wives of Windsor. I think I was right all along, because I consulted my copy of Jane Armstrong's brilliant, The Arden Shakespeare Miscellany and she says that The Merry Wives of Windsor was supposedly written as a request from Queen Elizabeth, who according to tradition wished to see Falstaff in love. So to my thinking, unless the Queen made up the character of Sir John Falstaff and I don't believe that for a second, how else would she have known about him? She must have saw him in Henry IV Part 1. This may all be totally wrong and you may think I'm barking up the wrong tree, but don't worry about me, I'll work it out in the end, It's all part of the journey. My original path. My original path was sidelined by Coriolanus. The reason being, the new movie coming out and because I didn't have a clue of how the story went, I wanted to be familiar with the play. As Ive said in my last post I found Coriolanus a challenge and it was when his mother Volumnia came into the play that opened the door for me. I have a strange copy of Coriolanus, well its more awkward than strange. All the names of the characters are abbreviated, and with my stupid bad memory I struggle to remember who is talking. I'll persevere with it, then maybe when I come to re read it I'll choose a better copy. So that's my reading lined up for the next few months. Coriolanus, Julius Caesar then Antony and Cleopatra. Henry and Sir John F will still be there when I get round to them. All a part of my Shakespeare Journey.

I'd like to say a few words on a couple of books I bought recently. Shakespeare and Co by Stanley Wells and William Shakespeare A Documentary Life by Samuel Schoenbaum. I haven't had time to get into them yet, but I am very exited about them. They both came highly recommended and I think they may loom large over my future posts.

Thanks for reading and many thanks for you kind encouragement on twitter!

So long for now


Sunday, 15 January 2012

Friendly Blogs

In the last few weeks I have been reading a lot of blog posts. Everyone of them have been so helpful. From Shakespeare BT to Shakespeareana. I also enrolled in Getting to know Shakespeare with Paul Edmondson, a free online course from the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. I am so greatful to them for making the course available.

I have been reading Coriolanus since before Christmas and to be honest, it's been a bit of a struggle. I think I know what the problem is. It's so obvious I feel foolish writing it down. It's the first play I've read where I didn't know the story already. So for the first time, I found it a real challenge. All of Shakespeare's writing is challenging. But for me there is always a key that lets me in. This happened in Coriolanus in Act IV With his mother Volumnia, that is when it takes off for me. I would love to see it on stage, to make sure I've understood what is actually going on. The movie of Coriolanus is out at the end of the month, really looking forward to seeing it.

I read a really great blog post frome Shakespeareana. It was all about a technique for reading, well actualy performing Shakespeare, called Hall's Pause. It's in a book by Ron Rosenbaum called The Shakespeare Wars: Clashing Scholars, Publiic Fiascoes, Palace Coups. I am going to try and read the plays this way. Basically it means taking a tiny pause after every line. I've tried it and I think, it works for me. The only thing is it takes ages to read the play. But, because it takes longer, it enhances the love of the writing. If you are reading this, like me, you must love the writing. Shakespeare's writing. We all love it!

Before I finish I would like to urge you to enrol in "Getting to Know Shakespeare" it really is an excellent course. I owe a great deal of gratitude to The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and I would love to visit them in the near future. Hopefully this summer. To walk in Shakespeare's footsteps and be part of it all would be amazing.

So long for now


Sunday, 11 December 2011

The Gist of Shakespeare

From the title of this post you can probably guess what it's going to be about. I am building up a small library of Shakespeare's plays. I recently changed from Penguin to Arden. The Penguin copies are fine but I just thought the Arden series has everything, great introductions and notes etc and DB recommended them. It feels I'm some how closer to Shakespeare reading Arden. Christmas is coming and everyone knows what to get me, as long as they speak to each other and coordinate their choices. I am still finding it difficult to read the plays but that is where the gist of it comes in. After I finish reading one of the plays, most recently Coriolanus, I always have the gist of what it is about. Then if I'm lucky enough I will see the play on DVD and it is all clear to me. I can't explain the kick I get out of reading Shakespeare, you might think I'm mad, reading something I don't really understand. But I get a funny feeling in my heart when I do get immersed in the writing. Do you think that sounds crazy? Well these are only my thoughts.
It's been quite a while since my last post and I've been thinking about it all that time, how to explain my thoughts, without sounding like a moron. Not sure if I succeeded.

I mentioned Coriolanus before and great news, they have made it into a movie with Ralph Fiennes, Gerard Butler and Brian Cox. I am really looking forward to seeing it. The trailer looks great, you can easily find it on YouTube. I think there are some people who cant get there head round the idea of Shakespeare's plays been set in modern times, I have no problem with it, as long as they stick to the original text. Macbeth with Patrick Stewart is a brilliant example as is Baz Luhrmann's Romeo and Juliet. Both fantastic films. I am going to try and get myself organized next year and somehow manage to get down south and visit Stratford upon Avon and London. I would love to see a play in the Globe and all the other Shakespearean theaters. I love my DVD collection but you can't beat the real thing.

This post seems to be all over the place and I'm glad I've finished it. I'll try and be more coherent next time, not promising though. I might say something about Shakespeare & Co By the great Stanley Wells. Which I've just started reading and I'm very excited about it

So Long, Till Then.