All 7 entries tagged Shakespeare

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May 14, 2006


Which is what I'm listening to, and also what I'm reading. I'm sure it must actually be a book about something very clever relating to King Lear, but there's something wrong with my eyes that is turning all the words into bleughbleughbleughybleughsquiggle. This is not really a good sign, and I don't think will be appreciated in an exam situation either.

The next door neighbours have also been playing trance music very loudly for about forty–eight hours, which is doing something very odd to my head. Even when I leave the house, there's part of me that can still hear duhduhduhduh following me round the streets of Leamington. It's got to the point where I'm wondering if they actually stopped long ago and it's simply that the sound is still echoing round my worryingly empty skull.

I'm also starting to have conversations with my housemates that only exist in my head. Yesterday, whilst I was filling the kettle, I was sure I'd called through to the other housemate present, asked him if he wanted tea, and then told him I'd added an extra cup just for him. Only I didn't actually ever let the words cross my lips. However, he did want tea, which says something for my psychic powers (though admittedly not a lot, as nobody ever declines tea in our house).

I'm not sure what to expect of the next stage of revision madness. Talking to the Complete Works? Hearing the wasps buzzing in iambic pentameter? Hallucinating the fine figure of Shakespeare whole and real in my bedroom?

If he's lucky, and sticks around long enough, he'll probably even get a cup of tea.


May 07, 2006

The Tragicomedy of Revision

Or How Love And Labour Were Both Lost

This sunny weekend I have been mostly at home, looking after my sniffly cat in my mother's absence. It was all going to be so perfect. I'd have lots of time with no distractions to revise, a cat for company and a beautiful weekend to sit out in a garden that isn't just a square of concrete with a plastic carport roof.

So I gaily packed all my books into Coco on a hot Friday morning, crawled up the M6 at 30mph most of the way, and arrived home roughly five hours later with an insect graveyard for a windscreen. I believe this is what Macbeth might have seen as a portent. (If I'd actually started revision a bit earlier I might have picked up on this.)

Because, you see, since my mother left, on Saturday morning, a somewhat uncomfortable and semi–murderous menage a trois has developed: me, my cat, and Shakespeare.

Obviously, they both need my attention. But unfortunately, due to a combination of sniffles, drool and general movement (cat) and just being too damn heavy (the Complete Works) the three of us cannot all be together at the same time, in perfect harmony. Which is a shame, as it means that whenever I have the cat on my lap, Shakespeare upbraids me from the corner, and whenever I pull out my books, the cat jumps up and threatens to drool all over the pages, which would be fine except that I don't think her markings will be significant enough to help me in an exam situation.

I can't leave them alone together, either. I've caught her sharpening her claws on Shakespeare when she thinks I'm not looking, and there was a particularly nasty attempted murder when Shakespeare took a plunge off the kitchen table, missing her by a cat's whisker (literally). I've had to start having secret assignations with Shakespeare in my bedroom when she is downstairs eating, and she gets early morning cuddles when Mr William believes I am just taking a breakfast break.

All I can hope now is that things take a turn for the better, and this plays out as a comedy, where the cat starts crossdressing as a tom, there's some jolly japes with box hedges, my mother returns in disguise with a guiter and everyone gets happily, suddenly and unsuitably married off.

However, the way things are going, I wouldn't be surprised if I turn up in Leamington next week wandering around in a shift, raiding the herbs and spices rack, and pressing oregano and dried bay leaves on my unlucky friends and relatives.

April 22, 2006

Lizzie and Layla's Knot Normal Day Out

Today marked Shakespeare's birthday weeked and also the beginning of the RSC's Complete Works Festival. And being so dedicated to their subject (ahem), what could two Lit students do but stop working and hightail it straight to Stratford?

The day was completely unplanned. So unplanned that they looked at the grey sky that morning and almost didn't go. However, when Lizzie worked out there was a Stratford bus in ten minutes, the two of them gained enough momentum to propel themselves out to the bus stop, in the company of two crazy men and their dog.

12.14pm: Bus pulls up.

12.15pm: Lizzie and Layla get on bus. Layla asks if bus goes to Stratford. Bus driver ascertains that yes, bus does go to Stratford. Lizzie and Layla find seat.

12.16pm: Two crazy men unleash dog on bus whilst they argue with the driver about how many dogs are actually on said bus.

12.17pm: Said dog scampers wildly about whilst old people mutter. Crazy Man no. 1 tries to pay whilst Crazy Man no.2 complicates issue by ranting on about how he has six dogs.

12.18pm: Compromise reached. Crazy men and dog and tickets are stowed away at the back of bus and bus pulls away.

12.27pm: Bus drives through housing estate where all the street names are Shakespearean. Othello Way, Petruchio Place, and Banquo Approach etc. Obviously good way for Layla and Lizzie to refresh their Shakespeare knowledge. Crazy men refresh their knowledge of swear words whilst cursing at the driver for going over speed bumps.

12.34pm: Countryside. Layla and Lizzie have no idea where they are and have lost all sense of direction.

12.35pm: Countryside. It transpires that bus driver has no idea where he is and has lost all sense of direction.

12.36pm: Bus passengers try to help driver. Elderly woman pipes up with the wrong directions and needs to be corrected loudly by elderly man. Middle-aged woman knows where they should be going but nobody is listening to her. Crazy men complicate situation by yelling abuse at the driver.

12.38pm: Bus en route again. Lizzie and Layla wonder if bus actually Stratford-bound as obviously driver, in light of recent events, is not exactly reliable in matters of local geography.

12.46pm: Crazy men and dog get off. Crazy 30ish woman with tamagotchi gets on with small child. Gets more excited about activities of her tamagotchi than the activities of her small child in a very loud voice, and describes an old man on the bus as 'arrrrty-farrrrrty.'

1.10pm: Bus reaches Stratford, much to Lizzie and Layla's relief. They get off, and the adventure can safely say it has been begun.

After fish and chips by the river, and a rather strange encounter in the RSC gardens with groups of people dressed for a garden party in big pastel hats, they discover the Stratford Brass Rubbing Centre. Due to their meagre student funds it is regretfully decided that they cannot stump up the £1.95 to partake of the brass-rubbing fun currently ensuing there. Their two more hard-working housemates will not be getting the gift of a brass rubbing that evening. Maybe next year, when they're earning, they can aspire towards brass-rubbings to bestow upon their friends, but for now it is but a dream.

To get over the disappointment, they wend their way to The Dirty Duck, where an accordion player and his troop have obviously decided to spend the afternoon on the pub balcony in the sunshine, playing away to themselves. Lizzie and Layla decide to have half a pint and listen to them.

This is pleasant enough, until Layla hears an impending jingle, and a troop of Morris men walk down the street. Lured by the English folk music, they fail to go away, and instead stand looking up at the accordionist with adoring eyes. One dancer is moved enough to perform an impromptu dance with his bells and white hankerchieves in the middle of the road. Lorry driver slows and drives round him without so much as a flicker of an eye. Obviously mid-dance Morris men are common hazards in Stratford. Layla and Lizzie get another drink.

After the Morris men have jingled on, a couple of men in Shakespearean costume waver up. Cannot decide if they are very drunk or just 'acting.' They come on to the pub balcony and do a little sketch between Shakespeare and his barber, attracting a crowd of large American tourists and one woman who doesn't understand and tries to sit down on the stool they have purloined for their set. Layla and Lizzie are ringside for the performance and make sure they don't catch the barber's eye. Layla is asked if she wants her hair cut. Afterwards she wishes she'd said yes because that would really have messed their sketch up, but alas, the moment is passed. Layla and Lizzie get another drink.

After that, it is time for the pilgrimage to the RSC tat shop, to marvel at such wonders as the 'half-timbered rubik cube' and 'traditional' Shakespeare jewellery, get excited about all the productions, encounter the Morris men again in full flow, and to buy a 99.

Whilst eating, they spy a narrowboat called Knot Normal, which they agree perfectly sums up their day, and is an appropriate point at which to end it. They make it home in time for tea and Doctor Who.

And Doctor Who strikes them as surprisingly normal after the truly bizarre day that can best be described like this:

November 28, 2005

Team Shakespeare

It's Term the first, Week the first, Lecture the first, and it's Shakespeare. Peter Mack bounds down the aisle of the Arts Centre and envelops Tony Howard in a manly hug. Carol Rutter winks at Paul Prescott and coaxes the lecturers all sitting in a row at the front into giving a little wave as she introduces each of them with a chummy anecdote. It's a new year, and Team Shakespeare are ready to go. You can almost hear the cheering.

I do like Shakespeare. I do. But never would I say I had been passionate about Shakespeare. Scared of Shakespeare, brought to tears by Shakespeare, and definitely scarred by the thunk of GCSE 'this is a simile' Shakespeare, yes, but not exactly passionate.

But one term of Team Shakespeare, and I've been changed. I have seen the light, and not just because Carol's favourite techie Steve finally managed to bring up the Arts Centre spotlights after a multimedia interlude. Never before have I taken a module taught by a group of people who so obviously enjoy what they teach; who are literally brimming over with enthusiasm and affection for each other – and of course, the man himself. Despite the fact that the module has been handed down from generation to generation with essay titles and exam papers set in stone by some venerated Literature God at the dawn of time (all right, the 1960s), this module grips my attention in a way that no other compulsory module has or will ever manage to do. Anyone who has been through the second year English course will know of that to which I allude. That Thursday lecture was a nice little excuse for a midday nap (and you wondered why I always took a corner seat).

But how can you remain asleep and unmoved in a lecture where Carol punches the air, or Paul talks about Hamlet 'getting jiggy with it?' or Carol wears her 'festive' jumper, or two of the tutors get to 'read out' in an excitable manner, or Carol and Tony enjoy some bavarderie on the side? You would have to have a heart of stone not to start to feel the love, as you look around the ACCR at everyone sitting there with their Complete Works which look like outsize snack packs of Sunmaid Raisins whilst one of the chosen few enthuses about plotline. No corner seats for me in this lecture. I'm doing voluntary secondary reading, and we're nowhere near deadlines yet. I even bought suggested secondary texts. I know, I know, but it's that good.

The handbook blurb about Shakespeare and Selected Dramatists of his Time really misses out the most compelling reason to do the module (not that most of us had a choice, but still). I tell thee, it's all about Team Shakespeare. May they live on in the ACCR and multiply and flourish and indulge in manly hugs, and continue to spread the iambic pentameter'd word to future generations.

November 08, 2005

The Talented Mr Rippy

Um, I think my essay has stolen my life.

And what is more, is living it up in Bermuda with sun and cocktails and things, whilst I'm still sat here, not knowing where my day went.

I mean, it's really not on. I gave that essay everything. I'm the sole reason he got as far as he did. He wouldn't be half the man he is today if I hadn't been there to coax him into finding a reason to live. And how does he repay me?

I'll tell you how. By pissing off to a sunnier climate and using the hours of my day in which to do it. It's the only explanation for why it's now midnight and I still don't have a written essay. The day didn't happen to me, it happened to the glorious and beyootiful creation that is my essay who is, even now as I speak, lying on a beach with a glass containing far too many different coloured alcohols and fruits, and probably an attractive novel or two hanging adoringly off each of his paragraphs.

He has stolen my life, and given me no reward but his empty page, flashing open in Microsoft Word to taunt me with his absence. His title is there, but he himself is not. No normal essay would do this. Mind you, geniuses are always troubled creatures, so maybe it's a good sign and he's an exceptionally intelligent being.

I know he's out there somewhere. One day, I will find him, and will be able to rehabilitate him by handing him in to be savagely marked and maybe even… filed.

I just hope he's not with Gwyneth Paltrow. Now that really would mean he was a lost cause. I'll know to give up all hope if he breezes in with a panama hat and asks me to call him 'Dickieeeee.'

November 04, 2005

Much Ado About Sam West

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. Faithful readers may recall, somewhere back in the mists of time, I confessed my first love to the world. And upon reading that this man had, somehow, in fifteen years, managed to reach even greater heights than the prow of the Dawn Treader, and could be seen in Sheffield in one of my favourite Shakespeare plays, there was nothing else to do but to rush off to Sheffield with precipate haste (well, waiting until Reading Week, and until I'd checked with my lovely friend in Sheffield that it was all right to descend upon her sofa for the night) to see him in the flesh. It was also semi-course-related and therefore a completely justifiable use of my student loan, naturally. I may even use it in an essay, just to prove a point.

And all went to plan. The play was pretty good, he was even better, and I had a fantastic night out with someone I hadn't seen for a while. So why oh dear, you may ask?

Well, the problem is this: Sam West is still attractive, and he really shouldn't be. I was thinking that I would have my expectations dashed by the fact he isn't quite as youthful as he was when he was wearing his plastic gold helmet, feel a little disappointed, and then console myself by returning to my Narnia tapes and thinking of better days. However, this didn't happen. Fifteen years have passed; I am twenty not five; he must be approaching forty; and he's still a very fine figure of a man, in my eyes. (At least he was once he took off the fake moustache he was wearing for much of the first act, which was not a good look.) And I suppose it didn't help that I've been in love with Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing since reading the play at age thirteen – a double whammy of impressionableness. It was then I started thinking, and realised that most actors I fancy are at least mid-thirties. He that is less than a man is not for me, apparently.

It seems I must accept the inevitable. I appear to have something of An Older Man Thing. What is even more worrying is that older men appear to have a little bit of a me thing, from time to time. This has led me into some rather interesting situations, including accidentally almost aiding and abetting a midlfe crisis on a train. Oh dear indeed. How will this fadge?

Hmm. Maybe it will all resolve itself quite happily, so by the time I'm thirty, I'll still be eyeing up thirty year olds and the balance will be restored. Just as long as it doesn't horrifically backfire, and I then become one of these shameless seventy-year-old women with pancake make-up who run around pinching young men's bottoms. And before you argue that such people don't exist, I will cite my wonderful train experience again and simply say I could tell you a tale of a journey with a Mrs Robinson From Hell.

In the meantime, the only conclusion I can draw is I still wouldn't say no to Samuel West. Come and kiss me sweet-and-twenty, indeed.

(Oh yes, and the Sheffield Crucible is bizarrely reminiscent of the Warwick Arts Centre. Make of that what you will.)

October 09, 2005

Alas, poor Mel

Mel Gibson, I salute you. Not many Hollywood heavyweights would have the courage to struggle through the entirety of Hamlet despite not appearing to understand a lot of the words. I also admire your fortitude in keeping up your textbook 'madman's stare,' with flickering pupils to communicate the depth of your madness, and the torment, oh! the torment, of your inner soul. Is it any wonder that Zeffirelli decided you were the man for the job after seeing your deep and resonant performance in Lethal Weapon? (Sadly, I didn't make that up – see the IMDB).

Oh Mel, you are a braver man than I (not least because you are actually male), to star in one of the most ridiculous adaptations of Hamlet I've seen. There must be something badly wrong when four Lit students can't keep from laughing about once every ten minutes in the middle of a tragedy.

The gist of it was basically this. Ooh pretty castle, ooh mist, ooh Mel rolling his eyes, ooh castle, mist, fade out, eye rolling, ghost! ghost!, fadeout, rolling, soliliquy, mist, fade out, castle Mel castle castle Mel, ghost!, pointy swords, pretty castle, mist mist mist and Mel, and Mel and Mel and fade. It was …deep.

Seriously though, has there ever been a time when Hollywood has 'done' Shakespeare and the results have been less than painful? (I can't count Romeo + Juliet because Luhrman is Australian and this colours his work.) I just hate it when they get blockbuster actors to fill roles (and cinemas) who don't appear to have any idea of what they're saying. They drone in a monotone, and seem to ignore all of the cadences and rhythm of the language. Yes, you may look pretty in body armour toting a gun, but that doesn't help you much with a two page soliliquy in Elizabethan English about the frailty of existence.

Give me four hours of Kenneth Branagh any day. Even if it is four hours. I felt like half my life had vanished by the time Mel had finally eye-rolled and muttered his way to the credits. However, I'm sure if I fancied Mel Gibson, I would feel differently, and that's probably why it did well at the cinema. He does do a rather nice line in doublets and shiny sword waving. But if I'd been Ophelia faced with a gloomy wall-eyed Mel I would have buggered off to that nunnery long ago and just got the hell out of it, frankly.

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