As Shakey's plays go it is always the tragedies first for me, then the histories then the comedies. And this is one I really enjoy.
Richard II is either a vain, immature, blaspheming King who is prone to excess or a just King, Christ-like in his humility. But at the heart of this play is the question whether an anointed King is untouchable and King by right or if a King should be regarded just by office.
When Richard banishes his cousin Bolingbroke and Mowbray after they both accuse each other of treason, he 'appropriates' Bolingbroke's inheritance (land, title, property, money). When Richard goes off to fight the Irish (with Bol's money) Bolingbroke mounts an invasion of England to take back what is his and eventually depose Richard, which is the initial stage in the Wars of the Roses.
The whole play, language, structure and imagery is carefully balanced to give both sides of the divide, never does Shakey intervene and come down on either Richard or Bolingbroke's side. Likewise, you never really know if Richard is just or unfit for office, or if Bolingbroke is an ambitious usurper and fighting for a just right.
This is much more my to my taste than AMND, I much prefer the rhetorical language, the historical angle, (I won't say realism because Shakey is 'elastic' with historical fact), and the complex divide between two cousins.
Argubly, Shakespeare's most famous work, Hamlet is a tragedy and definitely one of my favourite plays. Young Hamlet is tortured by the death of his father and immediate marriage of his mother, Gertrude, to his Uncle Claudius. His father appears to him as a ghost and tells Hamlet that he was murdered by Claudius and that Hamlet is to revenge his father.
The many soliloquies and near-perfect lines have almost become cliches themselves, and a good performance, to me, is judged by its ability to make you forget that these lines have been repeated to death. Last year, I think, I saw a theatre performance that didn't quite stop me from cringing at the lines; "to be or not to be...alas poor Yorick...get thee to a nunnery...".
This weekend, in addition to reading the play text itself, I have watched 2 film productions of the play; Branagh's Hamlet, and Franco Zefirelli's. First up was the Zefirelli. Mel Gibson plays Hamlet, and quite a surprising performance it was too. I expected to see flashes of his Lethal Weapon character, but none was evident. He is a brooding, immature, sulky, petulant Hamlet from the off. We are presented with a medieval Elsinore, drab, cold, and grey and much of the 'ghost' action is played out on top of the castle on the battlements. It made for a great stage.
What I didn't like about this production was really all down to Helena Bonham-Carter's Ophelia. There is no attempt made to make you believe that Hamlet and Ophelia were ever in love and there is very little sense of why or how she is sent mad.
There is a preponderance of doors, windows and staircases in this film. Most of the characters, at most points in the play, are framed by at least one of these. It reinforces the sense that for Hamlet Denamrk is a prison. It illuminates the corridors of Hamlet's mind and he struggles to find his way. The doorframes, banisters, and window frames provide Gibson with 'props' with which to act against, show the restraints he exercises over his thoughts, and the prisons he acts against.
The highlight, for me, was the 'to be or not to be' soliloquy which is delivered in the tomb vault which contains the sarcophagus of his father. A perfect setting for Hamlet's consideration of suicide, death, and the escape of dreams. Excellent stuff.
Onto Branagh's. A completely different look and set. A colorful, modern, vibrant royal court set inside a snowbound landscape. The coldness outside is carried through indoors in the blue and white marble of Elsinore. Regal and lavish dress adorns the royals, and grand military garb for the courtiers. Hamlet is much more the insolent brat, playful with words, becoming the court jester at times, and much less the sense that he is wrestling with the torment of his father's murder.
Ophelia though, wonderfully, is just as I would have her. In flashback, we are privy to her and Hamlet's lovemaking before the events that take place now. There is no doubting that they were a loving couple. The dramatic events following the 'rememberances' discussion is brutal, cruel, and soul-destroying - we see exactly how much Hamlet has hurt her and her abuse and sense of being used at the hands of Claudius and Polonius is apparent. She is also witness to her father's body being removed. So, here we see why and how Ophelia is driven mad - we feel for her and understand why she is a victim. Nothing like the Zefirelli production in which her madness is completely inexplicable.
Out of the two, I'd say I prefer the Zefirelli version, I liked the setting, Gibson's Hamlet, and the use of the set to embellish the speeches. The Ophelia is awful and if I could transport Branagh's/Winslet's Ophelia to Zefirella's Elsinore, I would.
It's taken me a fair few days to get to grips with this play. One read through was just not enough for me to understand, and it took 2 film performances for me to finally click with Lear.
Lear, full of pride, pomp, and a hint of narcissism, asks his 3 daughters to declare how much they love him. Goneril delivers a speech that so impresses her father that he gives her a third of his lands. Regan, outdoes her sister, by simply saying that Goneril spoke too small of her love, and earns herself a third of his lands. Cordelia cannot bring herself to declare as they do, simply acknowledges that she loves Lear as a daughter should love her father. Why do women, like her sisters marry, if it is true that all their love is for their father? Lear gives her third to the sisters, marries Cordelia off to France, and banishes her.
What a mistake. Goneril and Regan involve themselves in the business of driving Lear mad, and seizing the power for themselves. Meanwhile, Edmond, bastard son of Gloucester, conspires to rid himself of his half-brother Edgar (full son of Gloucester), and in doing so is involved in the two sisters' machinations. Edgar is banished, under the mistaken belief that he has been traitorous and plotted his father's demise, and pretends to be mad to go unrecognised.
While, quite frankly, some of the lines are enough to send you mad, there are some wonderful pieces, so engaging and visceral in performance. I loved the declarations at the outset, for their thinking, their calculations, and their endless performability. I loved Gloucester's torture at the hands of Goneril and Cornwall - so brutal and frightening.
This won't be one of my favourites by any means, but it's hard to find fault with the plotting of the antagonists.
And so to the performances. First up, I watched a 1976 Thames Shakespeare Collection film directed by Tony Davenall. This was old-school Shakey - no innovations, RP, standard sets and props...and a booming, poised, and perfectly enunciating Patrick Magee as Lear. Boring, staged, and over-rehearsed. This is the very thing that drives people screaming from Shakey.
Next up, a viewing requirement of the OU, Grigori Kozintsev's (1971) King Lear, or Korol Lir, as it is in Russian. Brilliant stuff and finally brought the play alive for me. Gothic, gloomy, relentless and believable. The problem with the text and the Davenall film for me was that Lear's flaw as a tragic character was his pride and arrogance in his status and power. He so quickly goes from the declaration scene to the seeds of madness that it was hard to invest in the tragedy. But Kozintsev's film really spends time and visuals on creating the vastly powerful ruler, assured in his status and arrogant in his self-belief.
Juli Jarvet, who play Lear, is a tiny man, especially so in comparison to the other cast members, and he does an amazing job of becoming this powerfully, arrogant ruler. Little by little, through costume and appearance the madness erodes him and he slowly, visibly pales on screen. Little changed about the outward appearance of Magee's Lear - a huge failure of the film.
The storm scene, unlike Davenall's studio space with fake lightning and purple backlight, is played on cracked tundra, with ferocious rain and booming thunder you can feel to your toes. Lear is drenched as he pounds out those lines.
Just an amazing accomplishment and one that will have me hunting out Kozintsev's Hamlet. I took one star off because I didn't think much of Edmond and Edgar - which was a disappointment. But I doubt you'll see a better Lear.
I'm an English Literature student and right now I have to write an essay comparing Sonnet 27 with Sonnet 130. So far, I've got two major differences, and one similarity (that they are both parodies). But I need another similarity please. The only thing I can come up with is the really obvious ones, which aren't what my tutor wants. (I'm thinking about iambic pentameter, sonnet structure, and that they're love poems).
I also read somewhere (outside of college stuff) that the first so many sonnets (including 27) were addressed to a man.
Outside of those points, I'd just like to hear what other people think of the sonnets in general.
Thanks for reading!