Henry’s Shy Side

After more than a year, I finally reach the final play in the Shakespeare canon - Henry VIII, co-written with John Fletcher. Mysteriously, I'm unable to engage with this play, no matter how many times I revisit it. And the Argo recording is truly splendid, with more period music than ever and a really great…

The Other Transcendent

The Tempest, that odd, beautiful play, brings to finality several of Shakespeare's common running themes, most notably that of the misfit or social reject. I think back nearly to the beginning of this blog, a year ago, and Aaron the Moor, Richard of Gloucester, and the long train of characters who for some reason or…

Beyond Words

Here's flowers for you; Hot lavender, mints, savoury, marjoram; The marigold, that goes to bed wi' the sun And with him rises weeping: these are flowers Of middle summer, and I think they are given To men of middle age. *** The image of Perdita, the lost child of angry Leontes, handing out restorative herbs…

Conversations with a Headless Corpse

And it's true, a headless corpse is on stage for goodly portion of Act IV of Cymbeline. The heroine, mistaking the deceased for her husband, swoons and lies unconscious on it. I suppose this is more difficult to process if you're watching the play on stage - is it appalling? Over the top, unintentionally (or…

Actor Interrupted

It's public knowledge, apparently, that Caius Marcius is a mama's boy with an implacable hatred for the "common man" that counters the value of his public service and makes him potentially unfit for office. It takes only a few moments, in the very first scene of Coriolanus, for a random group of citizens ┬áto discuss…

Present Horror

The litmus test for a production of Macbeth is Act II Scene IV. It should be deeply disturbing. An unknown old man talks to the Thane of Ross about how unglued everything has become since the head of state was wantonly murdered in his own bed in the dead of night. And we audience members,…

People Who Hate People

Bill Hicks, Texas-born comedian of the Outlaw School that flourished in the late 80s and early 90s, had an oddly abbreviated bit that he would trot out on occasion. He'd announce the creation of the People Who Hate People Party, founded by himself, and then quickly describe the fatal conceptual flaw. "Come together!", he would…

Where You Put Your Eyes

When I approach King Lear directly after All's Well That Ends Well, Lear takes on some of the fairy tale atmosphere of the earlier(?) play - Tolstoy's objections, withering as long as there is any pretense of modern psychological insight, vanish under the monolithic weight of archetype. And so all of the mental playgoer post-its…

All is Not Well

The joke about All's Well That Ends Well is, of course that it doesn't end well at all. Helena, the plucky young daughter of a famous physician, bets everything that she can cure the sick King of France. When she succeeds, he promises, in typical fairy tale manner, to give her whatever she likes in…

Soft Spot

Othello is the most tragic of Shakespeare's outsiders, because it almost seems as if he has overcome the barriers that alienate him from his cultural environment. He has had to create a persona that excels in every conceivable way - he has had to become a war hero of matchless courage, a leader radiating cool…