I am moved by Lady Percy 's expression of love. CLICK HERE - see if you agree.
Otherwise my novels, short stories, verse, family, music, memories, vulgar interests, detestations,
responses, apologies. I hold posts to 300 words* having found less is better than more.
I re-comment on comments and re-re-re-comment on re-re-comments.
* One exception: short stories.

Saturday, 23 April 2016


Courtesy The New Yorker
Shakespeare was four-hundred years dead yesterday. But you know that.

Why bother? Most of the stuff’s in verse, difficult metaphors abound, word meanings have changed, toffs have confusing multi-titles and too many plays kick off with impenetrable and dullish background material. Not everyone’s keen on the cross-dressing either.

Modern-day WS poncers contrive to make you feel small. You’re better off watching cake-baking on telly. Cake-baking, forsooth! I never thought I’d say that.

Already you’re reaching for the mouse, convinced I'm a poncer. Perhaps I am but there’s fun to be had.

Working-class chat; hence a' instead of he:
A' saw a flea stick upon Bardolph's nose, and a' said it was a black soul burning in hell-fire

Boozing isn’t despised:
This same young sober-blooded boy doth not love me; nor a man cannot make him laugh; but that's no marvel, he drinks no wine. There's never none of these demure boys come to any proof.

Singing’s important:
More, I prithee, more. I can suck melancholy out of a song, as a weasel sucks eggs.

And prescience:
This dear, dear land (ie, England)
Dear for her reputation through the world,
Is now leased out.

Most fellas would respond to the lady’s offer:
I'll give thee fairies to attend on thee,
And they shall fetch thee jewels from the deep,
And sing while thou on pressed flowers dost sleep

Middle-aged man recalls Glastonbury:
I had rather be a kitten and cry mew
Than one of these same metre ballad-mongers;

Sex again:
I' faith, his hair is of a good colour... and his kissing is as full of sanctity as the touch of holy bread.

There's more but no doubt your mind’s made up. People say that chap Grisham does a rollicking tale.


Avus said...

"But look, the morn, in russet mantle clad,
Walks o'er the dew of yon high eastward hill."

I was a snotty nosed fourth former, shoulders hunched over my desk in an attempt to come to grips with Hamlet, which was fresh introduced to us. It was almost like a foreign language but that quote shone out to me (and still does). Scratching, I suppose an inward itch that became my love of topography and sense of place. As time passed WS came to be a joy and with skilful English teachers, fun.

He still is. Happy birthday, Will from a "poncer".

Sir Hugh said...

One of my favourites:

I cannot tell what you and other men
Think of this life; but, for my single self,
I had as lief not be as live to be
In awe of such a thing as I myself.
-Cassius, Act I Scene 2

Donal Trump?

Roderick Robinson said...

Both: In saying we get something out of WS we must remind ourselves we're in the minority; most people don't. And that huge majority is easily discouraged. If we make unsupported statements about WS's greatness chances are they'll turn away and we're already halfway to becoming a poncer - someone who makes others feel small.

Normally I don't worry about this; I work hard at being seen as elitist. But using WS to this end sticks in my craw; it's just too damn easy. What's more so-called Bardists often base their claim mainly on having seen West Side Story and/or the Baz Luhrmann Romeo and Juliet; they're the sort that laugh nervously at the antics of the mechanicals knowing they're supposed to find them funny even if - by now - those antics are reduced to thin gruel.

What's more WS is not unrelieved genius as a quick glance at Troilus and Cressida shows (see my post, Age in Abeyance, Feb 23, and more important, Lucy's comment).

This post, much re-fashioned, set out to do two things: to sympathise with those who find WS difficult and to come up with a handful of quotes that were not too familiar, deliberately lacked attribution and gave some hint at the width of the WS oeuvre. Imagine my dismay when, during yesterday's WS wing-ding on the BBC, no less than Judi Dench spoke one of the quotes. Did it very very well I have to admit.

Avus: I trust you have re-read my definition of poncer and disowned the role. As to my WS awakening it was only during the last year at school (having previously been lukewarm about Macbeth and Midsummer Night's Dream, and slightly less tepid about HenryV) that the light shone on Henry IV part 2 and I realised it had effortlessly lodged in my databanks. Later I was to find out that Parts 1 and 2 are thought the best of the history plays, even if by now I think that sells them short. Both are, of course, full of action, manage to combine several serious themes without ever becoming solemn, and are ace when it comes to characterisation. Thus the poetry emerges out of people rather than things and is all the stronger.

Sir Hugh: But do you see why it is so good? All single-syllable words with four exceptions, the latter being commonplace words anyway. Looked at in musical terms it rises to a climax from first to last and the meaning is unmistakable. The poetry lies in the simplicity. Good choice.

mikeM said...

It's a bit like breaking code to me. Somewhat interesting if I'm reading and can set the pace, but impossible at play rate. I was less interested in WS than I was in other authors/subjects in school, which is to say <1 (on any scale). Via degrees of separation, though, I can connect. Watched Maggie Smith in "The Lady in the Van" last night. A very fine actress who cut her teeth on Willie. Terrific movie. Oh, and I think ( by your definition)poncer is just a rather arrogant form of enthusiast. I don't detect arrogance much at TD, in main or comments. Just people with a good bit of scope and depth. Disappointed?

Roderick Robinson said...

MikeM: I welcome your comment because it is foreign. Reasonably well-educated Brits who don't care for WS are often reluctant to admit the fact; especially if their dislike has grown out of literary inadequacy. A bit like saying (to a foreigner) one doesn't like British beer or one feels slightly unhinged driving on the left. You make two excellent points straight off: it is like cracking a code and it's all but impossible to do the cracking at play rate.

Here's the solution. Stay with the code idea although if it's a grand occasion (eg, you're seeing a WS play for the first time at Stratford-on-Avon) do what I did when I saw Taming Of The Shrew there. Buy an Oxford University paperback of the play; the notes that go with the text will explain any intrinsically knotty bits; it'll only take you an hour or so; you'll arrive at the theatre at a huge advantage.

But, you say, this is turning what should be entertainment into course-work. OK, go in like a shorn lamb, allocate a large percentage of your attention to the first twenty minutes because it's there where the greatest difficulties lie (previous events reduced to reported speech), but - and here's the trick - if you still can't crack it don't worry - for two reasons: some of that murk will be dispersed by subsequent events and - heh-heh-heh - tell yourself as an intellectual in good standing, you'll be seeing this play again some time in the future. No one gets the whole of a WS play in one go.

I'm glad you liked Lady In The Van. I haven't seen it but it's as if I had. The details have cropped up in AB's diaries and journalism which I have read, both of which have the benefit of AB's wry comments (he's good on wryness). What cheers me is that you liked what I regard as a peculiarly British (English, actually) set of events, something which is thought to be unexportable to the US - a view that undersells you and your fellow citizens. And Maggie Smith still is a wonderful actress; yes she's done WS but she laid down a truly individualistic marker with the movie, The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie

Am I disappointed (about arrogance). Well I might be if I thought you'd missed the point but there's no treaceable evidence for that.

Anonymous said...

Hallo BB,
Great post as always.

Sitting in the walled garden of Boughton Monchelsea Place watching A Midsummer Night's Dream. Look, there is Oberon leaping from the wall, Mustard Seed is pulling a scarf from my shoulders and Titania is swooning in the branches of an apple tree. My Bard!

At 11 years old going to the cinema with my Pa to see Olivier as Richard 111. Not quite understanding it all, but it sparked my lifelong interest in Richard and Shakespeare. My Bard!

Sitting in a cold class room struggling through The Winter's Tale and then getting it because Mrs Bond (you know, that one teacher in your life who inspires you?) showed me the way. My Bard!

And there is this, it makes me smile...............


I shall exit now, pursued by a Kangaroo.
Susan HHB

Roderick Robinson said...

Anon: Sweet Anon as you might well be addressed were you, say, a previously undiscovered pal of Rosalind, wandering with her in Arden, freed from the court's menaces, full of languour and of time-wasting, speculating lazily on what women with men and men with women can bring about. Sweet Anon - I love the phrase - and must needs use it again: Sweet Anon.

Sweet Anon you didn't need my post (aimed at those with WS problems) and I'm glad. You've already arrived and are part of the minority I refer to in an earlier comment here. Nor am I surprised, for I have seen your bookshelves and know that, to my knowledge, you have only one fault and that's an over-developed sense of modesty. I had it in my mind to buy the best trumpet in the world and mail it to Perth with instructions on how to mouthe and finger the scale of C-major (remembering that most trumpets are pitched in B-flat) and for you to use some of its brassiness in a repeated triad which rode over that modesty and made a proclamation. An impractical fancy, perhaps. But you and I and the rest of that minority are equipped to deal with fancies.

The author of your link had no need to apologise to WS or to Dr Seuss. For WS plays yet another role in our lives, that of fertilizer; making our minds "quick and forgetive" as one of his characters puts it. WS has been parodied before and has survived, probably Dr Seuss too.

And see! I too have been fertilized. This comment uses language that may have been enriched just a little bit. And you and I know who to blame.

Anonymous said...

Oh BB,
I'd blush if I just hadn't come in from the garden, covered in dirt and knackered from digging planting trenches in the rain!