1591 Another good year in literature


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1591 Another good year in literature

joulukuu 23, 2019, 11:02 am

Yes I know I am cheating a bit because the Shakespeare's plays were not officially published until much later, but to get a sense of what was going on in 1591 I have included those that might have possibly been performed that year. Here is my list:

Shakespeare - Henry VI part 2

Shakespeare - Henry VI part 3

Shakespeare - The Two Gentlemen of Verona

Edmund Spenser - Complaintes. containing Sundrie small poems of the worlds vanitie

John Lyly - Endymion, the man in the moon

Thomas Lodge - Catharos Diogenes in his singularity

Shakespeare - Titus Andronicus

Edmund Spenser - Muiopotmus or the sate of the butterflies

Thomas Lodge - The famous true and historical life of Robert second Duke of Normandy

joulukuu 23, 2019, 11:15 am

Didn't read anything of the above.
But I have been in Verona

joulukuu 23, 2019, 11:33 am

And Lyly's Endymion, though first published in 1591, was written at least by 1588 when it was played at Court.

Muokkaaja: joulukuu 31, 2019, 10:17 am

>2 Macumbeira: I was in Verona this summer. We saw two operas at the Arena: Carmen and Tosca. Had a great time; enjoyed the food and wine. I refused to see Juliet's balcony.

joulukuu 31, 2019, 10:17 am

After reading Shakespeare: Drama of his time by Martin Wiggins my programme of reading has changed a little. According to Wiggins I should have read most of Christopher Marlowe and all of John Lyly by the end of 1592 if I was going to follow a timeline. Therefore I had some fun in sorting out my Tudor literature and this should now take me up to the start of 1593.

Shakespeare - Henry VI part 1

John Lyly - Endymon

Edmund Spenser - Complaintes, containing Sundrie small poems of the worlds Vanitie

Christopher Marlowe - Dr Faustus

John Lyly - Galathea

Robert Greene - Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay

Shakespeare - Henry VI part 3

John Lyly - Midas

Christopher Marlowe - Massacre in Paris

George Peele - David and Bethsheba

Edmund Spenser - Muipotmus or the state of the butterflie

Shakespeare - Titus Andronicus

Robert Greene - George a Greene; The pinnar of Wakefield.

John Lyly - Mother Bombie

Chistopher Marlowe - Complete poems.

Thomas Lodge - Catharos Diogenes & The famous true and historical life of Robert II Duke of Normandy.

John Lily - Loves Metamorphosis

George Peele - Edward I

Shakespeare - Comedy of Errors

Thomas Kyd/Shakespeare - Edward III

John Lyly - Woman in the Moon

Robert Greene - various pamphlets
The Black books messenger & A disputation between a hee Conny catcher and a she conny catcher & the third and last part of Conycatching & Greene’s Groats-worth of wit & Greene’s vision & Philomela & A quip for an upstart courtier.

Henry Chettle - Kind-harts Dream

Christopher Marlowe - Edward II

Samuel Daniel - Delia and Complaint of Rosamond

Shakespeare - Henry VI part 1

Thomas Lodge - Euphues shadow the bataille of the senses

Richard Johnson - Nine worthies of London

Robert Greene - Selimus

Sir Walter Raleigh - poems written and circulated at court

Thomas Nashe - Summers last will and testament & Pierce Penilesse his supplication to the devil & Strange news of intercepting certain letters.

Henry Constable - Diana

Michael Drayton - The Shepherds Garland

Gabriel Harvey - Four letters and certain sonnets.

tammikuu 1, 2020, 8:22 am

No uncertain sonnets?

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 3, 2020, 11:26 am

Shakespeare & the Drama of his Time.
Martin Wiggins

This is in the Oxford Shakespeare Topics series which aims to provide students and teachers with short books on important aspects of of Shakespeares criticism and scholarship.

Wiggins brief here is to look at the relationship between Shakespeare and other Elizabethan dramatists during the period of the English theatrical renaissance. Wiggins point is that it was not only Shakespeare that was shaping the early modern drama of the period and he provides a contextual background to his work with reference to those playwrights and their plays that formed the bulk of the material; for example Christopher Marlowe , Thomas Kyd , George Chapman, Ben Johnson, John Marston and John Fletcher. He does this for the most part by providing a linear history of Elizabethan drama from the 1570’s to Shakespeare’s Jacobean period.

The book is too short to be a history of criticism and rather the summary that is provided Wiggins owns for himself.

In his first chapter Wiggins asks where did Elizabethan drama come from because it seemed to have arrived almost fully formed in the 1580’s with the arrival of Lily, Kyd. Marlowe Geene and Peele. The answer is that not much survives from the previous decade although we know there must have been plays because of the building of theatres in the 1570’s and the title of plays that have not come down to us. Along with the commercial theatre there were the University plays, those developed to be played at Elizabeth's Court and the rise of the schoolboy/choirboy troupes. He gives a brief summary of the plays that have survived and their origins in classical literature or bawdy tales adapted from the Italian Renaissance. Historical plays started to appear and the allegorical plays with their moral messages from an earlier period continued to be performed. There seemed to have been a twin axis of educational plays and those made for entertainment with many increasingly veering towards the entertainment axis.

The subject of the next chapter is tragedy with Wiggins saying that the earliest to appear using the new style of blank verse was Kyd’s Spanish Tragedy 1586 closely followed by Marlowe’s Tamburlaine. He assumes that the sound of Marlowe’s plays with their mighty line must have had a profound effect on theatre goers who would have heard nothing like it. Wiggins analysis just what was so new in Tamburlaine and the Spanish Tragedy saying that Marlowe and Kyd reinvented tragedy for the English stage. The plays that followed including the early Shakespeare historical dramas are given something like a roll call with only a brief reference, before he moves on to Hamlet, but only briefly using it as a signpost that points to the development of human tragedy and human potential in the theatre.

A Chapter on Comedy’s Metamorphosis takes as its starting point Ben Jonson’s play “Every Man out of His Humour” and looks backwards and forwards; emphasising the point that the new comedy was more character centred, more socially realistic and more concerned with the vagaries of human sexuality. He moves through Shakespeares canon before discussing the influence of Chapman and so we are soon into the late 1590’s.

He has a chapter which he calls an interlude in which he discusses the development of drama from a more general perspective. What made plays successful: Plotting and theming. characterisation etc

A chapter follows on plays written towards the end of the period, the new breed of playwrights with Lyly, Greene, Marlowe, Kyd now all gone and Shakespeare as a sort of link towards Chapman, Fletcher, Marston, Webster, Beaumont etc. There is a final chapter on Shakespeare as The Prodigal Father and how he tended to shape the age of Elizabethan/Jacobean theatre even after his retirement.

I found this book interesting on the period of drama that I am beginning to know through my reading: that is up to 1592. Nothing really new here but a good summary with Wiggins own angle on the period. Wiggins does give titles of plays and their first appearance dates whenever he can and so for a potted history of the development of drama of the time it is very good. Wiggins tries hard not to discuss any one play in too much detail and so this book will appeal to readers wanting a more general view, but it helps if you are familiar with the plays. 4 stars.

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 9, 2020, 1:07 pm

King Henry VI part 2 The Arden Shakespeare
Henry Vi part 2 BBC television film

A Saintly King no Match for Headless Coqs

In the fifteenth century the age of chivalry had long since passed and Shakespeare with his first history play written in the late sixteenth century shows how personal the barbarity had become. Warrior Queens and ambitious wives add to a fatal mix for the Noble families of England.

Lady Eleanor:
Were I a man, a duke and next of blood,
I would remove these tedious stumbling-blocks
And smooth my way upon their headless necks.

Testosterone drives the events forward, which rapidly threaten the king himself with the Duke of York happy to stir up a popular revolt to gain the crown. It was quite simply all or nothing if you didn't get to wear the crown you lost your head. This had always been the case, but the wars of the roses between the houses of York and Lancaster threatened to plunge the country into chaos and Shakespeare shows how close it was for the the Lord of Misrule to triumph. If ever the Elizabethan state needed a history lesson as the queen aged with no heir to the throne then Shakespeare provided it. Reading and watching a performance of the play today shows just how well the play works. It makes for great drama and an interesting interpretation of the history of England.

The majority of the play is centred around the the scheming of the powerful Dukes of England as they break into various factions to secure the crown from a king who has proven to be weak in the art of politics and leadership. However interspersed are scenes and one whole act of the blackest of black comedy involving non noble characters, which are also relevant to the plot. In act one it is Eleanor; wife of the Lord Protector to the king and the most powerful man in the kingdom who hires a sinister group of charlatans to prophesy the fate of the king and his advisers. The scene ends with their arrest and puts in train the events that will lead to the Protectors downfall. In act 2 there is the miracle cure claimed by Simpcox which is foiled in the public domaine by the Lord Protector, then there is the trial by combat of Horner the armourer and Peter his assistant. Peter has accused Horner of uttering treasonable words and the king has ordered a trial by combat. These trials usually took place between men of noble birth and Peter and Horner are provided with long poles and sandbags as weapons (as befits their station). However Peter kills Horner and this turning upside down of the way things should be is a portent of Jack Cades rebellion in act 4. This starts with the execution of Suffolk at the hands of pirates; dark in the extreme before moving onto a tremendous piece of theatre as Jack Cade acts out a real Lord of Misrule, hanging and ordering the death of innocent people on a whim, stirring up a mob and making a mockery of law and justice. Act 5 starts with the ignominious killing of Cade before the play ends in an orgy of death and destruction as York makes his play for the crown aided by Warwick and Salisbury.

The Arden Shakespeare edition contains most of what you would want for a reading of the play. As is usual with this series it pays some attention to the productions of the play on stage since the 1590's. How different productions can emphasise the particular themes that run through the play. For example the carnivalesque aspects which could be toned down and played for a more gentle comedy instead of a more Rabelaisian saga of violence. The relationship between King Henry and his queen Margaret could either be played as a respectful queen towards her saintly husband, or as a strong willed woman contemptuous of a weak and indecisive monarch who is losing his grip on his crown. Ronald Knowles introduction covers many of the themes and he is particularly strong on providentialism: the belief that God controls events on earth and works in mysterious ways and the great chain of being; everybody has and knows their place in society and should stick to it. These ideas are challenged by the machiavellianism of the nobles and the violent challenges from those lower down the order. He is also very good on the burlesque distortion of society occasioned by Jack Cade's rebellion. He also covers issues relating to text and authorship including the quarto publication of The Contention (this is included in a facsimile reproduction as an appendix). There is a section on sources and of course as you would expect there are copious notes which explain where Shakespeare found his history and where he adapted it to fit into a drama that played well on stage.

This is an early play by Shakespeare, perhaps the first where he was the main author, but his skill and artistry is evident. The animal imagery in evidence throughout may appear a little overplayed in places and repetitive, but it does link the actions within the play and hammers home one of the main ideas that the actions of both the nobles in their lust for power and the lower orders in their lust to destroy is hardly better than the primitive natural world. There are interesting parallels between the actions of the nobles and the ordinary people and the death scenes are well handled. The violence both on and off stage is extreme with a central motif of decapitation and defilement. "Yes, Poll!" says the pirate lieutenant; "Pole!" corrects Suffolk (he is William de la Pole) whose head does not end up on a pole as do other characters in this play, his head ends up in the lap of his lover Queen Margaret (unfortunately not attached to his body). Characterisation is pushed up to another level by Shakespeare; the strident assertive females, the essentially good and holy King, The world weary Duke of Gloucester who can hardly believe what is happening to him and who has a tremendous scene with his wife the lady Eleanor who is just finishing a two day ordeal of public penance; the cunning Duke of York and the bravado of the kingmaker Warwick.

The BBC 1983 television production directed by Jane Howell is a must see for anybody that likes this play. It sticks closely to the text that has come down to us and proves how well the play works in the theatre. Peter Bensen as King Henry is portrayed as a weak king in the traditional sense of being out of touch and fearful of what is going on around him. He needs the support of his Protector the good and sensitive Duke of Gloucester. His new Queen: Margaret played by Julia Foster is a feisty woman intent on asserting her authority in love perhaps with Suffolk, but is able to let him go when her position is threatened. The Jack Cade scenes are excellent as is the fighting at the conclusion, many of the themes highlighted by the Arden edition can be followed in this production.

Shakespeare's Henry VI part 2 shows a world that is gripped by greed where violence always lurks just below the surface and rises up with the least provocation. It is a world where pageantry and order can no longer paper over the cracks, it is a world sinking into barbarism where the strongest survive and religion is only for the foolish. A martial society where the ability to bear arms is of the upmost importance. It is all here in Shakespeare's play and the words on the page can come alive on the stage. Brilliant 5 stars.

tammikuu 10, 2020, 12:25 am

I think all four plays in the 'Yorkist tetralogy' (1,2,3 Henry VI & Richard III) were excellently well done by the BBC-TV Shakespeare series. Same director, same sets, same pool of actors, many playing recurring parts.

For fans of 'Brit-coms', both Rocky (Frank Middlemass) and Stephen (Paul Chapman) from "As Time Goes By" play key nobles in more than one play in the series, while the eccentric Jim Trott (Trevor Peacock) from "The Vicar of Dibley" is both Lord Talbot in Part 1 and Jack Cade in Part 2. Peacock also played the title role in BBC-TV's Titus Andronicus AND wrote a number of successful pop songs including 'Mrs Brown You've Got a Lovely Daughter'. This is not to say they played Shakespeare like a sit-com -- very versatile classical actors have to eat too!

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 15, 2020, 11:32 am

Complaints - Edmund Spenser
This is a collection of nine poems published in 1591 by Spenser, following the publication of the first three books of his magnum opus The Faerie Queene. Complaints is certainly the right word for this collection as the impression one gets from reading these pieces is that Edmund Spenser was not a happy man. Everything is tarnished everything turns to dust: this might be true, but as a continuing theme through all these poems they make for a depressing read.

The Ruines of Time
This poem of nearly 100 seven line stanzas starts cheerfully enough with the speaker strolling along beside the river Thames, but it soon turns to sorrowful thoughts as he sees:

"A Woman sitting sorrowfully wailing,
Rending her yellow Locks, like wiry Gold,
About her Shoulders carelesly down trailing,
And Streams of Tears from her fair Eyes forth railing:"

The woman is the embodiment of a Roman Town that has now completely disappeared and she tells of its past glories and its inevitable decay. The vanity of powerful people: races and individuals who think that they can control their fate becomes a theme running through the majority of this collection:

"O vile World's Trust, that with such vain Illusion,
Hath so wise Men bewitcht, and overkest,
That they see not the way of their Confusion!
O Vainness to be added to the rest,
That doth my Soul with inward Grief infest!
Let them behold the piteous Fall of me,
And in my case their own ensample see."

The poem ends with the only comforting thought that the lady will be better off in heaven away from "this dross of sinful World's desire"

The Tears of the Muses
The Speaker imagines the nine muses of the Greek world looking down at the state of art and learning in the world at the time of Spenser and lamenting at what they see. Each of the muses gets a few stanzas to bewail the state of the world

Virgil's Gnat
This is a free form translation of a poem by Virgil: Dedicated to the earl of Leicester - its thought Spenser was out of favour at this time. Spenser is the Gnat?
We are back in the land of shepherds.
A shepherd in the paradise like Arcadia lays down to sleep. A snake appears and threatens to strike. but the shepherd is awoken by the gnat which gets squashed. The shepherd goes home and reflects on his cruelty to the gnat.
Meanwhile the gnat tells of the sights he sees in hell.
The shepherd grieving for the gnat makes for him a little tomb.

Prosopopoia: or Mother Hubberd's Tale
This is a beast fable in rhyming couplets. Spenser says it the story told by Mother Hubberd is 'base in Style, and Matter mean withall. The story is about an ape and a fox who disguise themselves in order to make their way in the world. They become shepherds, but eat all the flock, they become ministers in the church, but are chased out of town by their parishioners who discover them cheating. They become courtiers where they find that their cheating ways are no match for the other courtiers and finally they try and snatch the mace and crown from the lion king. This is the longest of the poems and it's simple style and more light hearted satire makes it an enjoyable read.

The Ruins of Rome
This is a translation of a poem by the frenchman Joachim du Bellay and reads well. It fits very much into the dominant theme of this collection.

Muiopotomos or the Fate of the Butterfly
This is probably the most mature of the poems in the collection and tells the story of a butterfly who comes to grief at the hands of a a spider in a garden of paradise. The butterfly is vain and only concerned with pleasure and imbibes far too much of the beautiful flowers in the garden. Spenser interweaves this story with the myth of Cupid and Psyche and the poem can seem a little too complex. The moral seems to be that however well set up you are, it is foolish to challenge the Gods. Hence the violent death of Clarion the butterfly.

The final three poems are all sonnet collections: The Visions of Bellay, The Visions of Petrarch, and Visions of the Worlds Vanity. Nothing much here to detain the reader.

I can't say I enjoyed reading this collection and Spenser is not always an easy poet to read, sometimes he can be impenetrable like in parts of Muiopotomos. 2.5 stars.

tammikuu 16, 2020, 4:32 pm

Books to help me read a path through "The Age of Shakespeare"

English Drama 1586-1642: The Age of Shakespeare
Elizabethan Drama and Shakespeare's Early Plays E W Talbert
Playgoing in Shakespeare's London

More books to clutter up my desk

tammikuu 20, 2020, 10:15 am

Tämä käyttäjä on poistettu roskaamisen vuoksi.

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 23, 2020, 7:59 am

Christopher Marlowe - Doctor Faustus.
Most people will have heard of Doctor Faustus. There have been plays, novels, films, operas all based on a folk legend of a man who sold his soul to the Devil to enjoy power on earth. Christopher Marlowe is credited with the first play probably written in 1588/9. His play was an adaption of a story in a chapbook "The History of the Damnable Life and Deserved Death of Doctor John Faustus" which was probably available in an English translation a couple of years before Marlowe wrote his play. The title from the chapbook gives the game away immediately it was a morality story and Doctor John Faustus brought it all on himself. Marlowe's Doctor Faustus pretty much follows the storyline to the extent that some early critics have called it just a theatrical treatment of a popular legend. It is not considered that today to the extent that the ambiguity of Marlowe's treatment of the legend has led it to be considered a cultural work of art. I would also add that that some great lines of poetical drama have ensured it continues to be read today:

"Was this the face that launched a thousand ships
And burned the topless towers of Ilium?
Sweet Helen, make me immortal with a kiss."

The play has come down to us in two main versions: the A text and the B text both published some time after Marlowe's death: the A text in 1604 and the B text in 1616. The A text is quite a short play of 1517 lines while the B text is an extended version running to 2121 lines. It is known that two playwrights were commissioned to write some additions to the play in 1602 which probably were included in the B text, but as playwrights in the Elizabethan theatrical world often collaborated or patched plays there is no real evidence of how much of Marlowe's hand is in either of the texts. However most of the thrilling lines of poetry are contained in both versions. I read the two versions one after another and found the shorter A text much more to my liking. It seemed to me that many of the additions in the B text were aimed at drawing out the comedy which I thought was merely padding. The B text also aims to make the drama more clear in its interpretation and provides more in the way of instructions to actors/producers to aid the flow. I think the extended B text seriously undermines the drama of the A text. Of course producers/directors of a live performance are able to combine the two.

With the existence of the two published texts there have been reams of study by academics and others on the subject of how much of the texts did Christopher Marlowe actually write. It is always going to be an open ended question because we do not know what Marlowe's handwriting looked like and there is no artistic work in existence with his signature. This debate in my opinion is futile, what matters is the text that has come down to us with the knowledge that Marlowe probably wrote some of it. That is enough for me, because obsession with authorial identity can lead to a failure of enjoyment in the work, almost like not seeing the wood for the trees.

The play was an immediate hit. It was performed pretty much continuously (when the theatres were open) from the early 1590's until the closing of the theatres in 1642 and played again after the restoration. With hindsight it is not difficult to account for its popularity with the Elizabethan audiences, because it would have probably pushed some of their buttons: the power of the magician, the threat of the devil and the admonition to repent. The plays opening scene shows Doctor Faustus in his study and a chorus has already informed the audience that:

his waxen wings did mount above his reach
And melting heavens conspired his overthrow.

Faustus tells us that he has achieved all he can by study and he is now going to turn to magic to get more power and change the world, he invites two conjurers Valdes and Cornelius to teach him the art of conjuration. It is not long before Faustus has summoned a devil: Mephistopheles with whom he negotiates a contract for ultimate power on earth in return for his soul on his death. While this may appear far fetched to modern audiences it would not have been to many levels of Elizabethan society. Magic and natural science was of great interest to the intellectual free thinker group led by Sir Walter Raleigh which included John Dee (Queen Elizabeths favourite) and Marlowe. Lower down the pecking order spells, conjuration, black magic was part and parcel of many peoples lives and so the act of summoning devils from hell would have an horrific resonance to theatre goers. The drama in the play is whether Faustus will be able to save his soul: can he have his cake and get to eat it too. Repentance for protestants as well as catholics was a powerful tool of the clergy and playgoers would have this in mind when at various points in the play Faustus wonders how he can get free of his contract. He is visited by a good angel who encourages him to repent, to throw himself on the mercy of God, however along with the good angel appears an evil angel who has no trouble in appealing to Faustus baser instincts. In a powerful final act the clock is ticking down on Faustus contract and when he attempts to turn to God for salvation Mephistopheles says he will rip him to pieces. The appearance of the devils on stage makes for tremendous visual theatre and would no doubt have frightened some play goers.

Todays readers and theatre audiences will know the story, the surprise element would be diminished, but there is still much to enjoy. Crucially some of the text is ambiguous and different interpretations can be placed on it: for example how much free will does Faustus really have, could he have saved himself? For readers at home and directors of the stage play there are plenty of talking points, it is a play that does invite debate for example assuming that Marlowe wrote a substantial amount of the text how much could it be considered to be autobiographical. How much of Marlowe is in Doctor Faustus.

The play could be considered a cultural milestone in the early modern theatre. It was dramatic, it was popular and it contained some great writing. It has held up through the intervening years and there have been modern successful productions. However it was not completely new, it still shows a debt to the old morality plays, it goes back further by incorporating a Greek style chorus at the beginning of the first four acts and there is still room for pageantry when the severn deadly sins are paraded across the stage. The character of Faustus and his relationship to Mephistopheles holds our interest, but there is nothing much else. There are no female characters to speak of, only the Duchess of Vanholt gets to say a few words; even Helen of Troy is just paraded around the stage. Then there are the comic interludes. In the A text the scenes with Wagner (Faustus servant) serve to provide some light relief by mirroring some of the actions of his master. Wagner steals one of Faustus magic books and sets out to summon some devils. It is however in Act 4 where the comedy comes into its own when an invisible Faustus creates some havoc at a banquet thrown by the Pope. I think the play of the A text just about survives these comic interludes and Faustus dealing with the Pope and the Horse-courser throws some additional light onto his character, however the bulk of the extended B text is a rewriting of the comic scenes and while they might have served a demand for more entertainment at the theatre they do not in my opinion enhance the play.

I read the Norton Critical edition of the play which has all you need as a student or interested reader. It has both the A text and the B text. It has substantial extracts from the chapbook that provided Marlowe with his story. It sketches in the religious context and Marlowe's wranglings with Richard Baines who accused him of atheism. There is some early criticism, some modern criticism, articles on ideas and ideologies and performance. Altogether an excellent book that should enhance your enjoyment of the play and so 5 stars.

tammikuu 24, 2020, 1:23 pm

and a great review !

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 29, 2020, 4:45 pm

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 29, 2020, 4:47 pm

John Lyly - Endymion
Two plays by John LyLy probably performed a couple of years or so before they were printed in 1591. John Lyly was one of the so-called University wits which included Robert Greene, George Peele, Thomas Lodge, Christopher Marlowe and Thomas Nashe. Shakespeare and Thomas Kyd probably did not go to University, but by 1590 they were all part of the London theatrical scene. John Lyly was different from the rest for a number of reasons and this is reflected in the plays that he wrote. He was different because:
He had a toehold in society and sponsorship by Earl of Oxford
He did not have to offer his plays to the adult acting companies
He had partial control of a troupe of acting boys of the Royal Chapel
He had interest in the Blackfriars theatre which was an indoor venue
He wrote plays for Queen Elizabeth and her court
He was already a published author
Other differences to play-writers of the time were that his plays were mostly written in prose. They were printed reasonably quickly after they were written and he was at the time the best selling Elizabethan playwright. His plays had a unique style and he probably did not collaborate with other playwrights, Writing for the court of Queen Elizabeth and writing for a smaller indoor space and a boy troupe of actors resulted in plays that are now easily recognisable as belonging to Lily. He was therefore a little out of the mainstream, but still exerted influence on other playwrights because he was successful.

Lily's first play was printed in 1584 and he had a head start on his contemporaries, however his plays are rarely performed today and he has come to be seen as somewhat irrelevant to early modern theatre. A sort of blind alley. His plays are conservative, usually based on classical sources and stayed very much in the groove of his first successes. Today of course readers can only imagine what they might have looked like performed on stage indoors under candle light, especially as there are very few opportunities to see a modern production. After reading Endymion and Gallathea after plays by Christopher Marlowe and early Shakespeare they already appear a little old fashioned.

In the prologue to Endymion Lily says:

"We present neither comedie, nor tragedie, nor storie nor anything, but that whoever may say it is. Why here is a tale of the man in the moon"

Actually it is a tale of a woman in the moon; Cynthia. Endymion is in love with Cynthia, but he is also courting Tellus and tries to hide from her his love for Cynthia. There is a concurrent story with the boastful Sir Tophas and the servants of Endymion's household. Tellus discovers Endymion's love for Cynthia and tells him not to reach for the moon, but she wants revenge and persuades the old woman Dipsas to cast a spell on Endymion, The spell puts him to sleep on a moon bank for forty years. Cynthia learns of Endymions plight and sends her servants out in the world to find a cure. She banishes Tellus. A cure is found Cynthia wakes Endymion with a kiss and gives him back his youth, and other love stories are resolved.

If this all sounds like lighthearted froth then that is just what it is. It all depends on the strength of Lily's prose which is of a good standard; in his unique style throughout.

Gallathea is a typical story that probably had a basis in Ovid, but Lyly has adapted it for his own purposes. Neptune the sea god demands a human sacrifice from the shepherds of Lincolnshire every five years. It must be the prettiest maiden in the area. The fathers of the prettiest maidens disguise them and send them into the woods. Meanwhile Cupid is amazed at the chaste Nymphs who hunt with the Goddess Diana and resolves to have some target practice with his arrows of love. Gallathea and Phillida are the two disguised maidens and they meet in the woods and fall in love. Diana catches Cupid and clips his wings. Venus the mother of Cupid appeals to Neptune for help and a deal is done with Diana. There is also another story about servants looking for a new master, they try an Alchemist and an Astrologer. Lyly gets to make plenty of jokes and gives some advice on the perils of love, even same sex love, which Venus allows. He also turns his lighthearted comedy on the perils of alchemy and astrology. In this story the Gods are in control.

This play is somewhat shorter than Endymion with even less of a plot. I enjoyed reading through them both, but would not wish to see a live performance 3 stars.

helmikuu 5, 2020, 5:47 pm

helmikuu 5, 2020, 5:48 pm

Robert Greene - The Honorable History of Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay
Robert Greene was one of the Elizabethan University wits who needed to write stuff that would sell to put food and drink on his table. He wrote pamphlets, romantic novels, framework stories with a moral theme, social tracts and perhaps best of all a number of plays for the popular London theatres. The Honorable History of Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay written sometime between 1589-92 was perhaps his most successful. It was popular with audiences and it brought in good gate receipts, how much money it made Greene is not known, but he died in poverty in 1592. Although Greene wrote plays to earn a living he was not the only one: Marlowe, George Peele, Thomas Kyd Anthony Munday were all in the same position, but Greene is perhaps best remembered for allegedly referring to the young Shakespeare as an "upstart Crowe, beautified with our feathers' and so unwittingly has set critics to measure his work against that of Shakespeare.

I hope that Greene did make some money from Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay because it is an excellent example of a popular play written for the Elizabethan theatre. Greene seems to have brought together elements of romance, comedy, history, and magical illusions into a winning combination. He may well have borrowed ideas from Marlowe and Kyd and imitated their high flown verse in well put together iambic pentameters, but it has a lighter touch but still carries with it a moral message to the playgoing public: "don't mess with magic"

The play opens with Prince Edward and his male courtier friends returning from a successful Hunting expedition and taking their refreshments. Prince Edward falls in lust with Margaret the fair maid of Fressingfield, but Lacy Earl of Lincoln reminds him that there are many beautiful women at court.

Lacy. I grant, my lord, the damsel is as fair
As simple Suffolk's homely towns can yield;
But in the court be quainter179 dames than she,
Whose faces are enrich'd with honour's taint,
Whose beauties stand upon the stage of fame,
And vaunt their trophies in the courts of love.

The prince will not be denied and sets Lacy the task of spying on Margaret at the Harleston Fair and the kings Fool: Ralph Simnell reminds him that Friar Bacon will be able to assist with his magic. Friar Bacon is hard at work putting the finishing touches to his 'brazen head" a device to summon the very devils from hell and which he says will put a brass ring round all of England to protect it from it's enemies. At the fair Lacy (in disguise) finds Margaret and falls in love with her himself, but Friar Bacon with Ralph Simnell and Prince Edward disguised as each other see Lacy and Margaret through Friar bacon's magic glass. Meanwhile at the Court of King Henry Elinor of Castille has arrived for her arranged marriage with Prince Edward. Lacy has managed to get himself alone with Margaret and says he will marry her (she is the prison keepers daughter). Prince Edward vows to kill Lacy, when he sees Friar Bungay arrive to perform the ceremony. Friar Bacon summons a devil who carries away Friar Bungay on his back. Prince Edward confronts Lacy and says he will kill him , Margaret pleads for Lacy's life and eventually Prince Edward realises that the right thing to do would be to sanction the lovers marriage. The emperor of Germany arrives with his magician Vandermast to challenge Friar Bacon, but Bacon easily defeats him with his power now so great that he commands the very devils from hell. Lacy sends a message to Margaret saying he is betrothed to a court lady and two former suitors fight a duel over Margaret with Friar Bacon unable to stop them: they kill each other. Friar Bacon is worried about the state of the Brazen Head but cannot keep awake and so he instructs his assistant Miles to wake him if there are developments. Miles doesn't wake him when the Brazen Head speaks and is later carried off to Hell. Friar Bacon repents and says he will spend the rest of his life asking for forgiveness - no more magic. Meanwhile Margaret is summoned to the Kings court to marry Lacy and Prince Edward marries Elinor.

Greene's play is loosely based on history with Friar Bacon a representation of Roger Bacon the 13th century monk who some recognised as a wizard. Much of the drama of the play is centred around Friar Bacon and his making of the Brazen Head. The most dramatic scene takes place in Bacon's cell when the Brazen Head speaks out the words Time is, (pause) Time was (pause) Time past and Miles fails to wake up his master in time to stop the destruction of the head.

The Romance is between Earl Lacy and the commoner Margaret with Prince Edward threatening to destroy them both. Edwards speech owes much to Christopher Marlowe; just about keeping on the right side of parody:

P. Edw. I tell thee, Peggy, I will have thy loves:
Edward or none shall conquer Margaret.
In frigates bottom'd with rich Sethin planks,
Topt with the lofty firs of Lebanon,
Stemm'd and encas'd with burnish'd ivory,
And overlaid with plates of Persian wealth,
Like Thetis shalt thou wanton on the waves,
And draw the dolphins to thy lovely eyes,
To dance lavoltas207 in the purple streams:
Sirens, with harps and silver psalteries,
Shall wait with music at thy frigate's stem,
And entertain fair Margaret with their lays.
England and England's wealth shall wait on thee;
Britain shall bend unto her prince's love,
And do due homage to thine excellence,
If thou wilt be but Edward's Margaret.

But Prince Edward relents after Lacy has said he would rather the Prince kill him and Margaret says she will die too.

Conquering thyself, thou gett'st the richest spoil.—
Lacy, rise up. Fair Peggy, here's my hand:
The Prince of Wales hath conquer'd all his thoughts,

This part of the play generates some real tension as the Prince battles with himself over Margaret, but she is not out of the woods as she is tested again by Lacy later in the play when the audience realises that he would be sacrificing much by marrying a commoner.

Magic: black magic gives the play an abundance of spectacle with the conjuring competition between Friar Bacon and Vandermast when the spirit of Hercules is summoned and then the destruction of the Brazen Head and the appearance of the devils in the street carrying away Miles and transporting Friar Bungay. While Greene writes these scenes with a comedic element they may well have frightened an Elizabethan audience. Greene was one of the better writers of comedy and he has plenty of opportunities in the play to put his art to good use. Ralph Simnell the kings fool disguised as Prince Edward creates havoc wherever he goes as does Friar Bacon's assistant Miles.

The play might not have the depth of Shakespeares and Marlowe's plays of the same period and the verse might be inferior or not quite reaching the heights of those other two playwrights. The structure is a little simple with most of the action taking place as a direct result of what has happened in the previous scene and after Act 3 many of the issues appeared to be resolved and the play needs to spring back into life for the final two acts. I get the feeling it does this because Greene had a message to deliver that would hit home with his audience and give them something to think about after they had enjoyed the comedy and the romance and the spectacle. He wanted to play on their fears of witches and devils and some of the humour would be black with the audience laughing but being a little scared at the same time: the moral was do not play with magic or other forces that you do not understand. A play then very much of it's time which also has things to say about 'the great chain of being' for example people marrying outside of their allotted rank and people disguised as their betters or their servants; the audience would be well aware of the Elizabethan sumptuary laws.

I enjoyed this play it has many bright moments even for the modern reader and so anybody with an interest in the Elizabethan theatre and it's plays might well enjoy this: 4 stars.

helmikuu 15, 2020, 7:40 am

Muokkaaja: helmikuu 15, 2020, 8:05 am

Shakespeare - King Henry VI part 3 (Arden Shakespeare)
BBC television Shakespeare directed by Jane Howell 1982
The Wars of the Roses in 15th century England saw the end of chivalry. It was a prolonged, bitter and nasty war among the nobility who were intent in securing the kingship of the country. With the crown came power. prestige and the wherewithal to enrich their families. In the century before particularly in the wars with France it was the ordinary foot soldiers who paid the price with their lives: the nobility could reasonably be assured that capture on the battlefield would mean the payment of a ransom and return to their family. This was not the case during the reign of Henry VI where the prize was the elimination of all family representatives, the foot soldiers still paid with their lives but now the nobility could expect no mercy from the victors, they would be sought out and murdered perhaps with their decapitated heads displayed on the city gates. Shakespeare in his play Henry VI part 3 captures the savagery and intensity of perhaps the most barbaric struggle for power in Englands history.

The play opens on the battlefield with the House of York the victors at the battle of St Albans. The Duke of York and his three sons Edward, George and Richard rush to the throne room in London and the Duke lays claim to the crown supported by the kingmaker the Earl of Warwick and his soldiers. King Henry VI (house of Lancaster) enters and is forced to accept that he can only keep his crown during his lifetime as it will then pass to the House of York. The kings wife Margaret of Anjou is incensed by the agreement that will disinherit her son and gives her husband the full invective:

Enforc't thee? Art thou King, and wilt be forc't?
I shame to heare thee speake: ah timorous Wretch,
Thou hast undone thy selfe, thy Sonne, and me,...........
What is it, but to make thy Sepulcher,
And creepe into it farre before thy time?.................
And seeing thou do'st, I here divorce my selfe,
Both from thy Table Henry, and thy Bed,.............

Margaret takes charge of the King's soldiers and declares war on the House of York supported by Clifford who is out for revenge for the death of his father. Margaret Attacks York's castle and Clifford murders Yorks 12 year old son Rutland. York is captured and Margaret mocks him about the murder of his son before she and Clifford both stab York to death and display his head above the city gates. The house of Lancaster are triumphant and Henry VI is restored as king. The three York brothers regroup and with Warwicks support take on the Lancastrians at the battle of Towton. The savagery continues Clifford is found by the York brothers on the battlefield and he is dying from his wounds, they mock his dead body and will display his head on the city gates. The Yorkists are victorious and Edward is crowned king, but brother Richard is already scheming to murder all those people ahead of him in his path to the throne

And yet I know not how to get the Crowne,
For many Lives stand betweene me and home:
And I, like one lost in a Thornie Wood,
That rents the Thornes, and is rent with the Thornes,
Seeking a way, and straying from the way,
Not knowing how to finde the open Ayre,
But toyling desperately to finde it out,
Torment my selfe, to catch the English Crowne:
And from that torment I will free my selfe,
Or hew my way out with a bloody Axe.
Why I can smile, and murther whiles I smile,
And cry, Content, to that which grieves my Heart,
And wet my Cheekes with artificiall Teares,
And frame my Face to all occasions.

Warwick suggests that Edward should seal his crown by an alliance with Lewis King of France and goes to France to to make a match with Lewis's sister Lady Bona. However the lustful Edward has married Lady Jane Grey in the meantime and Warwick feels dishonoured as the news comes while he is negotiating with the king of France. He changes sides and supports Margaret who is trying to raise another army, and Edwards second brother George also swops sides. Warwick with french reinforcements captures King Edward, however he later escapes and when his brother George changes sides again the York brothers are victorious. Margaret is brought before the brothers and after her teenage son goads the brothers they all stab him in turn in front of his mother. Richard slips away to confront and finally kill Henry so putting in place his scheme to be king.

Shakespeare conflates the history and the many battles of the wars of the Roses to make his play work as one continuous narrative. In doing this he creates an all action performance on stage with hardly a breathe between one battle starting and another finishing, however he does make some contrasting quieter interludes with the saint-like king Henry trying to act as a peacemaker and then just wanting to be left in peace himself. There is no time for much comedy.

The play is notable for Shakespeares creation of two contrasting male characters the mild peacemaker King Henry VI and the Machiavellian crooked backed Richard who is hacking his way to become King Richard III. Both make fine speeches throughout, but both are in danger of being eclipsed by the warlike female character of Queen Margaret. In this play all the female characters are strong: Lady Jane Grey negotiates with the haughty King Edward the price of her marriage bed will be no less than being made Queen and Lady Bona is suitably dismissive when she realises she has been jilted by Edward.

Themes explored by Shakespeare are undoubtably revenge and power. Clifford is the epitome of a man out for revenge at any cost, his barbarism is made to look like it ups the anti on all the action that follows. His cold blooded murder of Rutland despite the boy pleading for his life means that there is no longer any chance of a reconciliation between the two houses.

The sight of any of the House of Yorke,
Is as a furie to torment my Soule:
And till I root out their accursed Line,
And leave not one alive, I live in Hell.

The language is full of hate and Margarets cruel taunting of the wounded Duke of York brings from him a speech that typifies the animal imagery in use throughout the play

Shee-Wolfe of France,
But worse then Wolves of France,
Whose Tongue more poysons then the Adders Tooth:
How ill-beseeming is it in thy Sex,
To triumph like an Amazonian Trull,
Vpon their Woes, whom Fortune captivates?
But that thy Face is Vizard-like, unchanging,
Made impudent with use of evill deedes.
I would assay, prowd Queene, to make thee blush.
To tell thee whence thou cam'st, of whom deriv'd,
Were shame enough, to shame thee,
Wert thou not shamelesse.,

Family loyalty is another theme, but it is under threat in this play. Richard's scheming, George's changing sides and then back again. Margaret's strong denouncement of her husband king and finally wind-changing Warwick who dies in the mayhem along with his brother who he has recruited for the wars. Another feature of the play is the power of words and the power of speech making. Characters are allowed to rail against each other, but it can end in their death, for example the goading of the York brothers by young prince Edward. However there are instances in the play where characters are not allowed to speak, not allowed to plea for mercy and in Henry's case not allowed to make a case for peace.

The BBC television production directed by Howell is excellent in bringing out the narrative drive of the story. She uses the same actors as in part 2 and this helps to show their development through the story. King Henry is still the same mild mannered slightly effeminate king, but in part 3 there is not the same religious fervour as the earlier play. Margaret of course comes into her own as the warrior queen and Edward becomes the haughty monarch and Richard the malevolent schemer. The production also brings out other aspects of the play; the drama in the French court when Margaret and Warwick are pleading for support and then the tables are turned by a messenger who arrives with the news of Edwards marriage. Also the court of the newly crowned King Edward that looks like a rough tavern where the brothers celebrate their victory and the arrival of Lady Jane Grey who enters the loins den and leaves as a queen.

An early play by Shakespeare that I thoroughly enjoyed. Full of admiration of the way he picked out a narrative from the confusion of the events and battle scenes that were the Wars of the Roses that he found in his source documents. The play also features perhaps his strongest and certainly his most war-like female character in Margaret. It has a different atmosphere to the preceding part two which was full of magic and dark scheming; in part 3 it is naked aggression, the survival of the fittest and the descent into barbarism. 5 stars.

Muokkaaja: helmikuu 28, 2020, 11:11 am

Playgoing in Shakespeare's London - Andrew Gurr (second edition)
There were no theatre critics in the period 1580-1642 and so what happened at the theatres has to be pieced together from, letters, epigrams, poems, chronicles, pamphlets and legal documents. Anthony Gurr has identified 195 people identified as having attended a theatre of some sort between 1567 and 1642 (he lists their names with a brief reference in an appendix). Of those 195 only three of them provided eye witness accounts. In a further appendix there are 210 entries that mention the theatre in one context or another: Here is an example from a letter by Sir John Davies.

Fuscus is free, and hath the world at will;
Yet in the course of life that he doth lead,
He's like a horse which, turning round a mill,
Doth always in the self-same circle tread:
First, he doth rise at ten; and at eleuen
He goes to Gyls, where he doth eate till one;
Then sees a Play till sixe, and sups at seven;
And after supper, straight to bed is gone;
And there till ten next day he doth remaine,
And then he dines, and sees a Comedy;
And then he suppes, and goes to bed againe:
Thus round he runs without variety,
Saue that sometimes he comes not to the Play,
But falls into a whore-house by the way.

If there is so little contemporary information about the plays themselves there is even less about the public that would count as theatregoers. Gurr estimates that there were 50 million visitors to the theatre during the period and so what has come down to us is a small sample of information. It is inevitable that a book such as this would soon exhaust the topic of the theatregoers and move onto a survey of the types of plays produced.

After an introduction Gurr describes the physical conditions that people had to endure to see the plays. There is more information here with sketches and plans of the theatre that were either built or converted. There is a very good chapter on the social composition of London and so he is able to give the reader a description of the likely theatregoers and how they would be accommodated at the theatres. A chapter on the mental composition of theatregoers surmises the levels of education that would be required to understand many of the references in the words of the plays themselves. He makes an interesting point that the theatre may have been many peoples only connection with literature and the artistic world, because if they were not skilled readers there was nothing else. The theatre bought comedy, history and current events in a live format straight to the paying public.

The longest chapter is entitled the evolution of taste and this is where Gurr moves further away from the theatregoing public and surmises what they would have been able to see at the theatre and how this changed during the period. Certainly from the 1580's the morality plays were being replaced by something that we might understand as modern theatre; increasingly plays were designed to entertain and inform. Christopher Marlowe's plays and Thomas Kyd's 'The Spanish Tragedy' paved the way, becoming perennial classics being performed throughout the whole period. Gurr thinks that these popular plays with their spectacular effects would have entertained people from all levels of society. John Lyly's plays harked back to classical theatre and were performed by boys theatre groups in closed theatres and would have been patronised by those connected with the court of the Queen. As the period progressed the nature of the plays changed and it was Gurr's survey of the productions that I found most interesting. Some new theatres were built and others converted from building of different use, but this did not have such an effect on the plays as the changing tastes of some of the public.

This is a well researched book that would appeal to anybody interested in early English (London) theatre. It is written for the general public, but the appendices contain more than enough information for further research. A four star read.

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 2, 2020, 4:25 pm

John LyLy - Midas
A play by John Lyly. The published version has a front piece that says "played before the queen Majesty Upon Twelfth At Night By The Children Of Pauls" The queen majesty was Elizabeth I and the performance was probably either in 1589 or 1590. In many ways this is a typical entertainment written for the court of Queen Elizabeth which would have been performed by the boy actors at the School of St Pauls in London. It is a short play that dramatises stories from Ovid's Metamorphoses. It would probably have lasted just over an hour and would have been performed indoors under candlelight.

The story of King Midas who was granted a special power by the Gods: that everything he touched turned to gold; would have been familiar to the educated courtiers that were the audience. The play also combines with it another famous legend of King Midas: that he was cursed with the ears of a donkey, by Apollo after he chose the music of Pan's pipes over the harp music of Apollo. Lyly wrote his play as an adult entertainment that would draw on the knowledge of the audience and entertain by his use of words and particular writing style. Most of the action takes place off stage and the only clowning is from the witty repartee of the servants at the court of King Midas. There is no attempt at characterisation: the people and the Gods in the play act out the story sometimes at second hand. There are some songs, but the play itself is printed in prose format rather than verse. It reads like light entertainment today and it would have amused the Elizabethans who got to see the performance. It would not have been suitable for the large outdoor theatres that were open to the general public. I think that a reading of John Lyly's plays can still be enjoyed today and this is an example which will not call upon any great knowledge, especially if read in a version where spelling has been modernised. It might appeal to some and so 3 stars.

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 7, 2020, 6:34 am

The Massacre at Paris - Christopher Marlowe
The Massacre at Paris is indeed a massacre, but it is probably Christopher Marlowe's play that has been massacred. Written probably in 1592 there is evidence that it was performed ten times in the Elizabethan playhouses and so was a popular play with the audiences at the open air theatres. The version that has come down to us looks to be a short representation of the play possibly from the memories of those that took part in the performance.

It is a depiction of the St Bartholomew's day massacre of the protestants in Paris in 1572 and the part played in it by the Duke of Guise and the royal family of King Charles. Tacked onto this is a story of the crowning of King Henry III and the revenge of the protestant leader the Duke of Navarre who leads a protestant force against the catholics. As the play stands there is so much murder and mayhem depicted on stage that there is barely little time for anything else. There are claims that as far as it goes it is historically accurate, but as a piece of theatre it barely hold up. For completists only and so 2 stars.

maaliskuu 8, 2020, 2:17 pm

Shee wolf of Anal-retentives: Baswood
would fain or feign not faint nor could

That just had to happen. Bas, I will not lie: I leapt to the fore or rear if that is here...I am in a slump involving all sorts of means of word use, reading, posting...I am amazed and heartened by your consistent persistence.


maaliskuu 13, 2020, 8:17 am

David and Bethsabe or to give it its full title:
The love of King David and Fair Bethsabe with the Tragedy of Absolon - George Peele
In the 1590's there are known to be 13 plays produced that were based on events from the Bible, but only two of them have survived. George Peele's David and Bethsabe tells of some of the well known events in the life of king David from the second book of Samuel. The Bible was Peele's only source and although he drew much inspiration from the text of the Bible he truncated many of the events to provide a drama that would be playable on the stage. The text of Peele's play that has come down to us is an uneven affair, with purple patches of poetry and song mixed with some uncomfortable plot and character twists that may be due to missing or corrupted material, but as in many cases of plays from this period we can only read and enjoy what we have in front of us.

After a prologue the play opens with with David sitting on the Palace roof watching Bethsabe bathing over a spring and he hears her singing:

Come, gentle Zephyr, tricked with those perfumes
That erst in Eden sweetened Adam's love,
And stroke my bosom with thy silken fan:
This shade, sun-proof, is yet no proof for thee;
Thy body, smoother than this waveless spring,
And purer than the substance of the same,
Can creep through that his lances cannot pierce:
Thou, and thy sister, soft and sacred Air,
Goddess of life, and governess of health,
Keep every fountain fresh and arbour sweet;
No brazen gate her passage can repulse,
Nor bushly thicket bar thy subtle breath:
Then deck thee with thy loose delightsome robes,
And on thy wings bring delicate perfumes,
To play the wantons with us through the leaves.

Peele's sensuous language conjures up the scene of King David being entranced by the beauty of the woman bathing and he is soon telling himself (and the audience) that "My soul, incensed with a sudden fire.". He discovers that Bethseba is married to one of his fighting men away at the wars and loses no time in arranging/commanding that she should sleep with him. Meanwhile David's son Amnon has lured his half sister Thamar into his bed, where he rapes her and throws her out when he has finished with her. Thamar runs to her brother Absolom who swears revenge on Amnon. A story of love, lust and betrayal takes up the early running in this play, before turning into the story of the revolt of Absolom against his father King David.

The relationship between King David and his son Absolom becomes the centrepiece of the play and the final quarter of it hones in on Davids reaction to the news that Absolom has been killed. The theme of the play has been building towards the question of the divine right of kings and finally David must decide what is more important, his love for his family or the state of Israel, albeit his commanders threatened desertion shapes the decision making and makes the point that the King cannot rule in isolation.

The overall shape of the play is uneven with the dramatic death of Absolom (stabbed while caught by his hair and hanging from tree branches) coming with some quarter of the play still to go. This turns out to be the end of any significant dramatic action, which had been fast moving up to that point. The final speeches which explore the nature of kingship and family are lively enough in themselves but the play seems to have come to a premature end as far as spectacle is concerned, but the dialogue continue with images of love and sensual beauty. Here is David after naming Soloman as the future king of Israel:

Salomon, my love, is David's lord;
Our God hath named him lord of Israel:
In him (for that, and since he is thy son,)
Must David needs be pleasèd at the heart;
And he shall surely sit upon my throne.
But Absalon, the beauty of my bones,
Fair Absalon, the counterfeit of love,
Sweet Absalon, the image of content,
Must claim a portion in his father's care,
And be in life and death King David's son.

King David bestrides this play just as Tamburlaine did in Christopher Marlowe's play and Peele imitates Marlowe's powerful lines with his own poetry laid out in strict iambic pentameters. However Peele is not only interested in power, he brings to his play the love of beauty. He celebrates David's prowess as a musician, his love for the beauty of Bethsabe, his love for his beautiful boy Absolom and does this with a softening of the more martial language that Marlowe might have used. Peele was a playwright that seems to straddle the line across the indoor smaller theatres of the boys theatre troupes and the large popular outdoor amphitheatres used by the adult players and David and Beshabe is a case in point. It certainly has some drama to entertain the London Theatre going public, but it has no recourse to comedy of any kind and the action seems to suddenly stop. Peele seems more intent to portray a visual/verbal sense of delight; conjured up by his poetry which also points to a moral dilemma. His source of material from the bible works against this in some respects because imagery from there can be violent in the extreme.

The play is ultimately concerned with David's soul. It asks the question can a man who is so easily seduced by the beauty that he finds all around him and which leads him to sin, be forgiven. Today we read the play for the assault on the senses contained in Peel's verse, perhaps we marvel at the hyperbole, at images that leap from the page, in some ways it is an astonishing piece of literature, but there are reasons why there are few attempts to realise it on a modern stage. I think this deserves a special place in the Elizabethan canon; I have not read anything quite like it, even if it cannot be made to work as a play I found myself enjoying passages of fine poetic drama and so 4 stars.

There was a film released in 1951 titled David and Bathsheba starring Gregory Peck and Susan Hayward, but that is another story.

maaliskuu 13, 2020, 8:18 am

>24 RickHarsch: just keep on keeping on

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 28, 2020, 6:55 pm

The Pleasant and Conceited comedy of George-a-Greene: The Pinner of Wakefield
Sometimes attributed to Robert Greene this play was seemingly written for the popular London Theatres between 1588-93. Five public performances are noted and it's survival as a print copy probably attests to its relative popularity. It is a play written to entertain: there is history, there is fighting, there is comedy, a love story and if this was not enough the legendary Robin Hood and his merry men are bolted on near the end.

The story is set in the 14th century probably in the time of Edward III and his wars with Scotland. Lord Kendal has defeated the Scots in battle, but has his eye on the English crown. He orders the town of Wakefield to supply his hungry army, but George-a-Greene refuses on behalf of the town and stands up to and then tricks the Lords into revealing their plots; finally he bests three of them in combat. His fame spreads down to London and king Edward travels in disguise to meet with the hero, meanwhile Robin Hood also not to be outdone travels to Wakefield to take on George-a-Greene in combat.

It is one of the few plays of it's time to feature a yeoman as it's hero, but the depiction of George-a-Greene would not have offended anybody at the time. George-a-Greene is loyal to his king and his country and knows his place, even when he is offered a knighthood for his services in foiling a plot against the crown, he rejects it on the grounds that his family have always been of yeoman stock and he wishes to remain a yeoman. There are plenty of opportunities for the aristocracy to disguise themselves as common folk and there are plenty of comic interludes. Nobody gets killed and it is pretty much light entertainment all the way through.

The version that has come down to us would provide a short play of something like an hour and a half. The writing is adequate and the story moves along quickly. I can't pretend it has any literary merit and there have been few attempts to play it to modern audiences. I found it quite fun to read but only rate it at 2 stars.

huhtikuu 2, 2020, 11:52 am

John Lyly - Mother Bombie, John Lyly
Probably written around 1590 this play was at "sundrie times" acted by the Children of Pauls. It is quite different from the other plays that Lyly wrote as entertainment for Queen Elizabeths court, in that its characters are not the aristocracy or nobles attending the court of a foreign king: they are English townspeople although Lyly could not dispense with giving them latin names.
It comes across today as a light frothy entertainment stuffed full of Lyly's wit and word play.

The subject matter is marriage and although arranged marriages were not quite as proscribed as those of the court: townsfolk would have still wanted to marry their children as well as possible. In this case the two wealthiest parents both have idiots (in their view) for children and would be quite content to marry them off to each other, however the young adults show no desire to carry out their fathers wishes. Two other fathers less well off want their children to marry one of the rich mens idiots, however these two young adults are in love with each other with Livia being forthright in her views about her father:

"The care is taken. I'le ask him blessing as a father, but never take counsel for an husband; there is as much odds between my golden thoughts, and his leaden advice, as between his silver hairs and my amber locks; I know he will cough for anger that I yeald not, but he shall not cough me a fool for his labour."

The parents all entrust their servants to resolve the issues of their children and so a coterie of the four servants plan together to achieve their masters wishes in the hope of a reward. The servants hatch their plans in a local tavern; while their masters do likewise at another establishment. Lyly has fun with contrasting the witty conversations of the two groups.

Mother Bombie is the wise woman of Rochester, she describes herself as a cunning woman who sees herself doing good for the community and everyone goes to seek her advice, which she dispenses in poetic rhymes. She deals equally well with the coarse language of the servants as she does with the wealthy young adults who knock on her door. Everything is resolved to everyones satisfaction by the end of the play, there is no tension, no hurt feelings and no real action: the whole of the entertainment is in the witty dialogue of Lyly and the unravelling of the plot. He would have also used the whole of the small stage by contrasting the two groups of characters on opposite sides of the stage area. This is light frothy entertainment which I found a delight to read. This may have been the last play that Lyly wrote and it's more relaxed feel and tighter plot may have made this a success. It is my favourite of his and so 3.5 stars.

huhtikuu 19, 2020, 9:03 am

huhtikuu 19, 2020, 9:04 am

Christopher Marlowe: The Complete Poems and Translations, Edited by Stephen Orgel
It is good to have all Christopher Marlowe's poetry in one place in modern English spelling, but the books title is misleading for the casual reader. The majority of the poetry on show here are translations and not all of it by Marlowe. Of course it cannot be helped that there is not that much orignal poetry available by Marlowe but it would have not extended the editor too much to provide a more fuller introduction. Carping aside I am glad to have this book if only for the wonderful Hero and Leander and perhaps for a few of the translations of Ovid's elegies.

Hero and Leander is an original poem in epic style sourced from the Greek legend of the same name. Hero and Leander were young lovers living on either side of the Hellespont (a narrow stretch of water which separates Europe from Asia. Hero has made a vow of chastity to the Gods, but is seduced by Leander who lives across the water, Hero lives in a tower and lights a lamp to guide Leander who swims the Hellespont. On his first journey he is almost drowned by the sea god Neptune who seems to be in love with the handsome youth, but in the end offers him protection. Leander breaks down Hero's defences and the lovers enjoy a night of bliss. At this point Marlowe's poem ends but the legend goes on to present a rather different moral. Leander swims the Hellespont many times during the summer months, but one night is caught in a storm and drowns, Hero discovers his body and throws herself off the tower to be at one with her lover.

Marlowe was the bad boy of Elizabethan literature accused of being an atheist, and sodomite, suspected of spying as a double agent and certainly in trouble for street brawling. No surprise then that he should choose a pagan legend at a time when Puritan tracts and the movement against the Libertines was well underway. The poem was published in 1598 with the second part of the legend completed by George Chapman, but it is not certain when Marlowe wrote the first part or when it was circulated in manuscript form. It obviously must have been before his murder in 1593 and could have been as early as 1587. At a time when poets were publishing carefully controlled sonnet sequences, Marlowe's semi heroic epic in rhyming couplets in iambic pentameters and with an erotic charge would have once again pointed to his rebellious nature. The fact that he stopped his poem at the point of the celebration of carnal love rather than carry on through to the death of the lovers shows where his interest lay. George Chapmans continuation of the poem is included in the book: Here is Marlowe nearing the end of his poem:

She trembling strove; this strife of hers (like that
Which made the world) another world begat
Of unknown joy. Treason was in her thought,
And cunningly to yield herself she sought.
Seeming not won, yet won she was at length,
In such wars women use but half their strength.
Leander now, like Theban Hercules,
Entered the orchard of th’ Hesperides,
Whose fruit none rightly can describe but he
That pulls or shakes it from the golden tree.
And now she wished this night were never done,.............

It is generally thought that Marlowe's translation of Ovid's Amores (Elegies) was completed at a much earlier date, probably while he was still studying at University. The subject again is love, but this time more in line with contemporary sonnet sequences. Ovid's Amores celebrates his love for Corinne, but she was no chaste young woman faithful to her husband and Marlowe seems to be at home with his translation of the poets complaint and then final acceptance of a woman like Corinne. There are nearly fifty poems condensed into three books, but the quality of the poetry is variable.

Included also is Marlowe's line by line translation of book one of Lucan's Pharsalla and the short poem/song 'The Passionate Shepherd To His Love;

A mixed bag then, but fairly essential to anyone who wants to get a fuller picture of the wordsmith who was Christopher Marlowe. 3.5 stars.

huhtikuu 28, 2020, 7:05 am

John Lyly - Loves Metamorphosis, John Lyly
This completes my reading of John Lyly's plays and with it's pared down style, which does not sacrifice the wit of the playwright it was for me the most enjoyable to read. It is a difficult play to date as there are no records of a performance during Lyly's most productive years in writing for the theatre (1584 - 1592). His concerns were to write amusing and provocative drama for a sophisticated court audience. His use of allegory is open to interpretation and he seems to have been careful never to let it get in the way of providing an entertainment.

The play is set in Arcadia. Three foresters are in love with three completely unkind nymphs of the God Ceres, who embody three unpleasant traits: indifference, inconstancy, and pride. The foresters pray that Cupid will punish the nymphs by metamorphosing them to the natural objects that they most resemble; a rock, a bird, and a rose. However the foresters cannot live without the Nymphs and beg Cupid to change them back, however the three nymphs are even more determined not to have the foresters as husbands. It is only with the intervention of Ceres herself they reluctantly accept the men who are by now under no allusions about the difficulties of marriage. At the same time Erisicthon, a wealthy farmer, cuts down a tree sacred to Ceres which houses the nymph Fidelia who is killed, Ceres in revenge sends famine to gnaw at his vitals and Erisicthon is forced to sell his daughter Protea to pay for more food. Protea seeks the help of the sea God Neptune in saving her lover Petulius from the grip of a siren, she is successful and they appear before Ceres and beg her to call off famine from torturing Erisicthon.

It is all neatly worked through by Lyly in his delightful prose style, happy endings but not happy ever after endings, with only Lyly's description of famine to mar the lightness of the mood:

"Shee lyeth gasping, and swalloweth nothing but air, her face pale, and so leane, as easily thou maiest through the very skin as in a glass thy shadow; her hair long, black and shaggie, her eyes sunk so far in her head that she lloketh out the nape of her neck, her lips white and rough, her teeth hollow and red with rustiness; her skin so thin, that thou maiest as lively make an anatomie of her body as she were cut up with chiurgions (surgeons), her maw like a drie bladder; her heart swollen big with wind; and all her bowels like snakes working in her bodie."

The three nymphs enjoy flouting love, they stir up the amorous foresters, but they want to remain chaste, for their part the foresters question their need for love and are content to admit that they cannot fight against the desires of their blood. Lyly is intent on providing a commentary on the parallels of spotless virginity, chastity and constancy in love. Cupid seems to have the most power amongst the gods with his idea that love conquers all, even though he is derided because of his blindness and his nakedness. There is so much to read into Lyly's prose that the play can be read on a number of levels; the simple working out of a complicated plot, the parallels between the two strands of storytelling and an admiration as to how Lyly brings them together, an interesting rhetoric on the need for love, and an allegorical overlay that does not intrude but gives plenty of food for thought. I would like to think that this short play was the last that Lyly wrote because for me it encapsulates all that made his plays so vital and so different from the plays that were performed before the general public in the grand open air theatres. As a piece of drama it lacks dramatic appeal, but the delightful conversations that always point to a much deeper level of ideas do bear out a careful reading. If you want to get a flavour of the master of providing entertainment to Elizabeth's courtiers then this delightful fluff will do the job.
4 stars.

toukokuu 6, 2020, 5:50 pm

George Peele - The Old Wives' Tale, George peele
A play, a comedy written in the early 1590's, probably for the court of Queen Elizabeth, but would also have worked on the popular London outdoor theatres. Peele was a playwright who from the evidence available was able to dip into the melting pot of previous drama and come up with something that would provide entertainment across the social spectrum. In the Old Wive's tale he probably felt secure enough in his abilities to distance himself from the classics of antiquity and produce a play that works well enough on it's own terms. Previously in his earlier 'The Arraignment of Paris' he had used a mixture of gods from antiquity and the well worn trope of shepherds from pastoral settings. In the Old Wives Tale he is content to find his inspiration from the English folk-lore tradition and with his use of a play within a play able to combine people attached to Queen Elizabeth's court with village people, there is not a god or a shepherd in site.

The play was printed in 1595 describing itself as a "pleasant conceited comedy" but the version we have today is unusually short when compared to other plays from this era and that together with some obvious misalignments in the text points to this as being a cut down version of Peel's original play. However what we have is still something quite original for the time it was written. A fast moving comedy romance that seems to be an amalgam of at least four different stories that come together more or less in a light hearted fantasy.

The play features a play within a play with the old woman Madge passing the night away by telling a "Winter's Tale" to a couple of servants to a courtier who have become lost in the woods. There are in fact three servants Antic, Frolic and Fantastic who become lost and are found by a village blacksmith (Clunch) who takes them home out of pity for their situation. Madge his wife is left to entertain two of them while Clunch shares the only bed with Antic. Madge starts to spin her tale which comes to life and they all witness the tale acted out in front of them. Two brothers of a Princess are searching for their sister who has been kidnapped by the magician Sacrapant. Meanwhile the Spaniard Huanebango is looking for adventure as a knight errant and he teams up with Corebus, a clown. Eumanides another knight errant is also looking to do good and they all meet up with Erestus who is labouring under a spell cast by Sacrapant and speaks in riddles that foretell the future. Eumanides comes across Wiggen who is arguing with some church officials who are charging too much money to bury his friend Jack, Eumanides gives nearly all of his money for the burial and is rewarded by the ghost of Jack who helps him in his quest. Two daughters of the poor man Lampriscus are looking for husbands and they are assisted by the "heads in the stream". A Friar puts in appearance, Harvest Men appear at intervals to sing and play and the Spaniard Huanebango is mocked, for being a braggart, but really because he is Spanish and a Catholic.

It is an Old Wives Tale told and played for its comedy value, it does not need to have a logical plot and in fact what we are left with is a series of sketches that all come together with the defeat of the evil magician Sacrapant. There is no characterisation, but plenty of satire and fantasy, with Peels bubbling text driving it all on in a thoroughly modern way. No moralising, although most of the characters get what they are looking for and the evil magician dies. The play may have been appreciated for it's protestant standpoint that mocks the catholics and there are allusions to other literary figures active at the time, but these would not be easily picked up by the modern reader without the aid of notes. So what we have is a comedy romance that is started by Madge by the immortal words "Once upon a time......" (first recorded use?) and Huanebango boasts to the daughter of Lampriscus (Zantippa) that he will:

True sweetheart, and will royalize thy progeny with my Pedigree:

while earlier Zantippa is not phased by the bodiless heads that appear in the stream:

what am I, then? a woman without a tongue is as a soldier without his weapon: but I'll have my water, and be gone.

Evil Magician, a kidnapped Princesses, a Spanish braggart, a clown, a couple of desperate daughters, the grateful dead (Jack), a mad woman that appears but says nothing, floating heads, a minstrel troupe, knight errants and some officious churchmen all combine to entertain. I enjoyed the version that is free on line from the ElizabethanDrama.org; modern spelling and annotated. 4 stars.

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 15, 2020, 7:33 pm

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 15, 2020, 7:37 pm

The Comedy of Errors (Arden Shakespeare)
The Comedy of Errors BBC teleproduction 1983


The answer to this question could be when it is written by Shakespeare. People who read and enjoy Shakespeare do so for many reasons, not the least of them are the language, the imagery and the poetry. There are also the wonderful stories the subtle plotting and the resolutions that always seem to make perfect sense of what has gone before. Shakespeare is read also for his his commentary on the human condition, his is a voice that can leap across 420 odd years of time and still make sense to many of his readers in the 21 century. The problems with this aspect is that many readers expect too much from him and worry about those aspects of life in Elizabethan times that are frankly abhorrent to many of us today. Because in my view the value of Shakespeare is also in his acute observations of Elizabethan life and his ability to write plays that were entertaining to the audience that watched them. They would have been able to relate to the events on the stage and recognise issues that impacted on their lives and those of the social spheres above or below them, but there are some aspects that make the modern viewer/reader uneasy, squirming perhaps in their seats. The Comedy of Errors can be one of those plays: slavery, marriage and mercantilism all seem to hold us back from laughing out loud at the farce of the mistaken identities that form the central structure of the play.

The play is set in the mercantile port of Ephesus at some period in classical history: Aegeon a merchant from Syracuse has been arrested and sentenced to death as a result of a trade war between the two city's. He tells a story of how he has landed in search of his identical twin sons and their twin slaves who he has not seen for a number of years as they were separated as a result of a shipwreck. Unbeknown to him one of the twins is a prosperous merchant in Ephesus and the other twin has just landed in search of his brother and family. Both are called Antipholus and both of the slaves are called Dromio and they are so alike that they cannot be told apart. The Syracusan Antipholus is mistaken for the Ephesusian Antipholus and the twin brothers cannot even tell the Dromio brothers apart. The brothers do not get to meet until the end of the story and so in the meantime confusion reigns with even Adriana the wife of Antipholus of Ephesus mistaking his twin for her husband. All the action takes place during one eventful day that is to end with the execution of the hapless Aegeon.

There is a long speech at the very start of the play where Aegon tells the story of his lost family, it is a kind of info-dump that sets the scene, but also hints at possible misfortunes or misadventures. The comedy gets going as soon as Dromio from Ephesus sees Antipholus from Syracuse and mistakes him for his master and urges him to return home to his mistress Adriana; who is impatiently waiting to eat lunch. Antipholus is more concerned with the result of an errand that he has sent his Dromio on involving a hefty sum of money. From this moment on Shakespeare keeps the two sets of twins apart with the result that no one seems to be making any sense, but it usually ends with one of the Dromios getting a beating. The stuff of a knockabout farce and when jewellery, sums of money, unpaid debts, a courtesan and a schoolmaster and conjuror become involved then the humour goes into some sort of overdrive. The Dromio twins have an uneasy relationship with their masters who value them for their wit and service, but do not suffer their foolishness gladly. The repartee between master and slave sparkles with wit and invention as each of the Antipholuses who are touchy at best become mad with rage at the confusion and their inability to understand what is going on. Complications follow on hard on the heels of each other until both sets of brothers find themselves under restraint for disturbing the peace. The misadventures are all to do with the mistaken identity, there are no conniving servants or malicious traders involved, no plots to relieve the brothers of their money, but Antipholus of Syracuse soon becomes convinced witchcraft is involved and Antipholus from Ephesus becomes paranoid.

Shakespeare ramps up the comedy as the play progresses, but there are deeper issues involved. Antipholus of Ephesus relationship with his wife Adriana comes under scrutiny, she is not just impatient for his lateness in returning for lunch but sees this incident as a reflection of the state of her marriage. This is not helped when after persuading the wrong Antipholus home to dinner she effectively locks her husband out in the street while her guest makes eyes at her sister Luciana. Adriana complains to Luciana that husbands have too much freedom:

ADRIANA. Why should their liberty than ours be more?

Luciana puts her straight in a speech which is of it's time

Why, headstrong liberty is lash'd with woe.
There's nothing situate under heaven's eye
But hath his bound, in earth, in sea, in sky.
The beasts, the fishes, and the winged fowls,
Are their males' subjects, and at their controls.
Man, more divine, the master of all these,
Lord of the wide world and wild wat'ry seas,
Indu'd with intellectual sense and souls,
Of more pre-eminence than fish and fowls,
Are masters to their females, and their lords;
Then let your will attend on their accords.
ADRIANA. This servitude makes you to keep unwed.
LUCIANA. Not this, but troubles of the marriage-bed.

The outrageous beatings suffered by the Dromio twins at the hands of masters and mistresses are stock in trade for Elizabethan comedy, but this feels overdone. The treatment of servants which in many instances were little more than slaves during the period were known to be harsh, but the Antipholus twins seem to want it both ways, in one instance they are encouraging their Dromios to be friendly and engage in witty conversation while in the next instance they become annoyed, which soon results in physical abuse. The Dromios are the the most impressionistic and sympathetic characters in the play and contrast with the more aloof and cold personalities of the Antipholus twins.

The city of Ephesus is a proto-capitalist credit dependent economy. Stability and credit worthiness are everything; as soon as a suspicion of indebtedness is cast then a victim is identified. Everyman has his price. The poor unfortunate Aegeon who is bound to be executed could buy off his execution if he could raise 100 ducats, but no one in the city deems him credit worthy. Antipholus of Ephesus is a product of the city his scheme to repair his relationship with Adriana is to have a gold chain made for her and he knows this will be accepted, but when this chain gets caught up in the confusion of the mistaken identities he is in trouble. Antipholus is almost reduced to apoplexy, he becomes incandescent with rage.

The Comedy of Errors is one of Shakespeares earliest plays, perhaps the first comedy that he wrote, probably dating from mid 1594, but could have been a couple of years earlier. It has remained a popular play although in the nineteenth century stripped down and rewritten as a farce imbued with sentimentality. The Boys from Syracuse is a 1940's musical based on the play, but there have been plenty of modern productions that have used much of the original text of the play to make a comedy with added depth. I watched the 1983 BBC production starring Michael Kitchen as the Antipholus twins and an excellent Roger Daltry as the Dromio twins. Directed by James Cellan Jones this production not only made me laugh out loud, but also enabled me to appreciate the structure of the play. This is a comedy first and foremost but it also has other things to say and it all bubbles up to a climax and then a denouement that works particularly well. This production is particularly strong in focusing on the troubled relationship between Antipholus and Adriana, but never loses the fun of the comedy: the witchcraft is treated as a bit of a sideshow but is ever present and the intervention of Doctor Pinch is impressive.

The Arden Shakespeare dates from 2017 and is edited by Kent Cartwright. As usual the background information and notes are extensive with all you need to know to enjoy the play. There is no shortage of information on the internet if you find yourself struggling with the introduction that can be a little over intellectualised. The text however is clear and the notes on the same page as the text work well. This play is superbly entertaining and Shakespeare packed much into what is his shortest play. I loved it and so 5 stars.

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 28, 2020, 6:53 pm

Edward III - William Shakespeare?
The Shakespeare Apocrypha is the name given to a number of plays that have been attributed to William Shakespeare and have not been printed in quarto or folio editions of his work. Edward III or The reign of King Edward III is one of those plays. It does have better credentials than most others which run to about forty plays, but there has never been a firm agreement amongst Shakespeare scholars about Edward III, although in the 21st century it is more likely than not to appear in a complete works edition of Shakespeare. It was published anonymously in 1596, but was first performed in 1592. Given the date of the first performance: if it was by Shakespeare it would have been one of his earliest plays. It would more likely have been a joint effort with other writers, particularly as the first part of the play has a different feel to the second part. There have been few theatre performances of the play this century and non in the mainstream attributed to Shakespeare, which might give a clue to the perceived quality of the play. I read a version in modern English spelling free on the internet at Project Gutenberg.

It is a history play that features some of the highlights of the Reign of the Plantagenet English king Edward III. It condenses the time scale of the action so as to include The English victories over the French in the early years of the 100 years war. It covers the battles at Cressy, Poitiers. and the siege of Calais, but starts with Edward relieving the siege of Roxborough castle in the Scottish border country. The first two acts of this five act play are centred around Edwards attempts to seduce the Countess of Salisbury who is custodian of Roxborough castle while her husband is fighting in France. The Countess stands firm against the king while trying not to make an enemy of him and is assisted by the arrival of Prince Edward who calls his father to duty in his wars with King John of France. The remainder of the play takes place in France and sketches the English victories and the eventual capture of the French king and moves from one battlefield scene to another, although all of the fighting takes place offstage.

Certainly after the long seduction scenes in the first two acts the play settles down to be a retelling of history, there is no comedy, no romance and no mystery, the playwright is intent on portraying the characters of the warrior king Edward and his brave son the Black Prince. The English are triumphant over vastly superior french forces and Prince Edward is the hero twice over. The story line of the play holds together well and it is the descriptive language which must hold the readers interest and by and large it does. There is some tension when a confident King John boasts of having trapped the Prince with vastly superior forces, but a darkness covering the sun gives rise to a loss of confidence in the french forces allowing the Prince to smash his way through their army. The interest in the second half of the play is the staging of scenes from history for example the Burghers of Calais and the descriptions of the fighting. The playwright does not pull his punches in describing the horrors of warfare particularly for the ordinary people caught up in it. Here is a french citizen advising his fellow countrymen to flee the fighting:

"I might perceive five Cities all on fire,
Corn fields and vineyards, burning like an oven;
And, as the reaking vapour in the wind
Turned but aside, I like wise might discern
The poor inhabitants, escaped the flame,
Fall numberless upon the soldiers' pikes.
Three ways these dreadful ministers of wrath
Do tread the measures of their tragic march:
Upon the right hand comes the conquering King,
Upon the left his hot unbridled son,
And in the midst our nation's glittering host,
All which, though distant yet, conspire in one,
To leave a desolation where they come.
Fly therefore, Citizens, if you be wise,
Seek out some habitation further off:
Here is you stay, your wives will be abused,
Your treasure shared before your weeping eyes;
Shelter you your selves, for now the storm doth rise.
Away, away; me thinks I hear their drums:—
Ah, wretched France, I greatly fear thy fall;
Thy glory shaketh like a tottering wall."

A theme of the play is the giving and taking of oaths. While the scenes of fighting do not show a glorious war steeped in chivalry, the honour of a man's word is stoutly defended. Villiers is a french prisoner who expects to be ransomed, but when Salisbury asks him to seek a safe passage for him to Calais in France instead of a ransom he agrees. He makes the necessary arrangements in Calais and despite being strongly persuaded to remain in the town he insists on travelling back to Salisbury to remain his prisoner. Nobles do not change sides, they keep their word. This is a different world to the treachery depicted in Shakespeares plays of the wars of the Roses.

The character of Prince Edward is depicted as young fearless and brave while his father is a ruthless king skilled in the arts of war, inclined to be severe, but can be swayed to clemency for example when his queen asks him to be merciful to the Burghers of Calais:

Although experience teach us this is true,
That peaceful quietness brings most delight,
When most of all abuses are controlled;
Yet, insomuch it shall be known that we
As well can master our affections
As conquer other by the dint of sword,
Phillip, prevail; we yield to thy request:
These men shall live to boast of clemency,
And, tyranny, strike terror to thy self.

He shows contrition when the Countess in the first part of the play says she will take her own life by stabbing herself in front of him if pursues her further:

Even by that power I swear, that gives me now
The power to be ashamed of my self,
I never mean to part my lips again
In any words that tends to such a suit.
Arise, true English Lady, whom our Isle
May better boast of than ever Roman might
Of her, whose ransacked treasury hath taskt
The vain endeavor of so many pens:
Arise, and be my fault thy honor's fame,
Which after ages shall enrich thee with.
I am awakened from this idle dream.—
Warwick, my Son, Darby, Artois, and Audley!
Brave warriors all, where are you all this while?

If these lines of iambic pentameter sound like something Shakespeare might have written then you will probably be persuaded that it belongs in his collected works. When I come upon an 'anonymous' play from the late Elizabethan age then I will read it through once completely before deciding whether it is worth re-reading, either to enjoy the language, the situations or things I might have missed. I re-read this play and so 3.5 stars.

kesäkuu 7, 2020, 6:54 pm

Robert Greene - Greens Groats-Worth of Wit.
A Disputation between a Hee Conny Catcher, and a she
The Blacke bookes messenger laying open the life and
death of Ned Browne.
The Tragical reign of Selimus

Four more items by Robert Greene who died in 1592: three pamphlets and a play. Greene tried his hand at anything that might sell starting off with novels that owed much to John Lyly then moving onto romances. He wrote many framework stories based on ideas from the Italian renaissance, usually with a moral theme and published in pamphlet form. He turned to ‘prodigal son’ stories with a religious bent when he saw a gap in the market and then hit a vein of bestsellers with his social pamphlets such as ‘A noteable discovery of coosenage’ and ‘Conny catching’ these were exposures of confidence tricks used by vagabonds and sturdy beggars. He wrote poetry most of which was secreted in his romantic novels and towards the end of his life he wrote plays, at least four of which survive.

Greens Groats-Worth of wit bought with a million of Repentance is a mixed bag starting off with a moral story describing the folly of youth, the false hoods of makeshift flatterers, the misery of the negligent and the mischief of deceiving courtesans. Gorinius is a money lender with two sons and coming to the end of his life he leaves all his wealth to Luciano; to Roberto he leaves an old groat with which he can buy a groats worth of wit. Roberto takes the more naive Luciano to visit the courtesan Laimilia who soon seduces Luciano and within two years she has run through all his money and now both boys are destitute. Greene ends his story by saying that his life is similar to the boys, he is now looking death in the face and sets out his groats worth of wit in a poem:

Greene's mood turns blacker "Blacke is the remembrance of my blacke works, blacker than night, blacker than death, blacker than hell." and he says that his readers should learn wit by his repentance and gives a list of ten rules that should be followed. There follows a rant which takes him to his famous reference to Shakespeare after he has castigated the theatre people for turning their backs on him:

Yes, trust them not: for there is an vpstart Crow, beautified with our feathers, that with his Tygers hart wrapt in a Players hyde, supposes he is as well able to bombast out a blanke verse as the best of you: and being an absolute Iohannes fac totum, is in his owne conceit the onely Shake-scene in a countrey.

He then tells a story of a grasshopper (carelessly skipping) and the ant (industriously working) Finally it ends with a letter written to his wife (found with this book after his death.) It is a letter in which Greene confesses his sins, asks for the appropriate punishments and asks his wife to forgive him. This is a good sample of Greene's work : the man who could turn his hand to all things literary if he thought there was money to be made.

A Disputation between a Hee Conny Catcher, and a she Conny-catcher is one of six pamphlets that Greene produced on the art of swindlers (Conny-catchers} He tells us stories about: nips (cutpurses), foists (pickpockets), cross-biters (men who extort money from a prostitute's clients by pretending to be her husband), lifts (shoplifters, and stealers of other unguarded goods), priggers (horse thieves), and courbers (thieves who drag goods out through the window with a long hooked pole). Based on close observation, and illustrated with stories of notable strokes, they give a great insight into the underside of Shakespeare's London. In this pamphlet the male conny-catcher Laurence vies with Nan the female conny-catcher to tell the best story. The winner buys dinner that night. Nan with her tales wins easily. The pamphlets were the tabloids of their day and were popular enough for Greene to keep churning them out. They were decked out as warnings to naive gentlemen with instructions on how to avoid being swindled, but they read like romantic tales. On the one hand the ethics of the conny-catchers are demonised and yet their social acumen is celebrated. The moral ambiguity is typical of Robert Greene.

The Blacke book messenger laying open the life and death of Ned Browne one of the most notable cutpurses, crosbiters, that ever lived in England is another example of the conny-catching pamphlets. In this one Ned Browne is allowed to tell his own story and finally he is caught on the continent, but remains unrepentant saying:

"But what should I stand heere preaching? I liued wantonly, and therefore let me end merrily, and tel you two or thrée of my mad prauks and so bid you farewell."

Greene tells us he was hung from a church window in France and his grave was torn open by wolves who ate his body.

The Tragical reign of Selimus is a play written mainly in iambic pentameters which has been credited to Greene. The play is a good example of Greene's efficiency. The story moves along at a cracking pace, there is plenty of action I counted twelve murders taking place on stage. The verse works well with some good imagery and as usual with Greene he manages to tell a coherent story. The play is based on the historical figure of Selimus I emperor of Ottoman Turkey and his rise to power. He gains power by murdering the rest of his family having no qualms about committing parricide. Greene is intent in portraying the savagery of the Turks where it is kill or be killed. Selimus is one of three sons of Bajazet a warrior by trade and fights his way to the throne by defeating the pompous Acomat and then strangling to death the remaining son Corcut. Greene makes Corcut by reputation a philosopher who has met with Christians and has been converted and therefore he faces death knowing that he will be saved. At the end of the play Selimus reigns supreme with Greene hinting there will be a second part. The play follows a similar trajectory to Marlowe's Tamburlaine but without Marlowe's more accomplished versification. Greene speeches are longer with the characters having to tell the story in an expository fashion with very little interaction with other characters. The acting company Queen Elizabeth's men performed the play in 1592, but there is no record of its reception or subsequent performances.

This completes my reading of the work of Robert Greene. He was prolific for his time and although I have not read everything I have read most of his available work. The first thing to say about Greene is that he wrote well in that he was a story teller and could put together a decent plot. He could be entertaining and his works are not too difficult to read. His romances are largely forgettable, but do contain some witty songs and poems, his prodigal son framework stories are good examples of the moral pamphlets being printed at the time. His Conny-catching pamphlets do provide a peephole into the criminal fraternity of Elizabethan London, but they are hardly essential. When he turned to play writing he managed to put together two very decent plays: Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay and also The Scottish history of James IV which I think is his best work. He has also left us with the extraordinary Greene's Groats worth of Wit.

Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 16, 2020, 4:45 pm

Kind-Harts Dream - Henry Chettle
Printed in 1592 the Kind-Hart; a tooth puller dreams of five apparitions that tell him of abuses by certain kinds of people. Anthony Now Now an itinerant fiddler, Dr Burcot a foreign physician, Robert Greene dramatist and poet, Tarlton the celebrated comedian and William Cuckoe an expert in coosenage, it is a series of invectives against sharp practice and confidence tricks in Elizabethan times. It is told in the style of Robert Greene in some instances and in others bears a similarity to the Martin Prelate pamphlets.

Chettle in his early career was involved in the printing industry in some capacity, which may account for this pamphlet getting into print. It does not have much to recommend it apart from bandying about the names of Elizabethan celebrities. However in his epistle to Gentlemen readers Chettle details his role in the printing of Robert Greene's Groatsworth of Wit, which had sold well. Chettle claimed that he had put the pamphlet together from Greene's papers left behind after his death. This curious explanation was probably as a result of the controversy stirred up by Groatsworth of Wit amongst writers connected with the theatre, but it has led some historians to claim that Chettle was actually the author of Groatsworth. Be that as it may Chettle's kind-Harts Dream is only for the completist.

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 1, 2020, 9:50 am

Christopher Marlowe - Edward the Second
Ever the subversive; when Christopher Marlowe decided to write a history play he had at his disposal probably all of Raphael Holinshed's chronicles from which to chose and he chose the reign of Edward the Second. Edward was no hero king but a weak minded individual who was accused of letting his country go to rack and ruin while he indulged his favourites at court in a milieu of homoerotic dalliances. Marlowe not only succeeded in telling the story of Edwards reign but also created a tragedy with psychological dramatic overtones. Despite telescoping the action of a twenty year reign into a matter of months Marlowe created a play that works on paper and works on the stage: the number of modern revivals plays witness to its playability.

Edward II's reign has been labelled as just one squabble after another as the nobles of England sought to gain power at the expense of a king who had no stomach for war. During his reign the Scots defeated the English army at Bannockburn and the French King had seized part of Normandy. Edward surrounded himself with favourites at court particularly the Frenchman Gaveston. The Earls of Warwick, Lancaster, and the Earl of March: Mortimer plot to kill Gaveston. Edward is mortified and with the support of The Spencers (his new favourites) he declares war on the nobles. At first he is successful, but Mortimer who flees to France returns with Isabel Edwards Queen to defeat the King and his followers. Mortimer arranges for the captive king to be murdered, while making himself protector of the new KIng the young Edward III. The play ends with Edward III asserting his authority and executing Mortimer and putting his mother Isabel in the Tower of London.

Marlowe's characters develop over the course of the play; Mortimer appears first as an indignant patriot but develop into a scheming machiavellian lusting for power. Queen Isabella changes from being a patient suffering wife to a conspiring adulteress. Spencer and his attendant Baldock appear as parasitic sycophants but become loyal supporters of the king and suffer courageous deaths. Edward from a weak indulgent king to a heroic king triumphant in battle and finally to a broken and weary ruler who elicits our pity as we witness the last trace of regal dignity struggling vainly against dispare. It is king Edward who dominates the play and modern productions tend to emphasise the homosexual relationship with Gaveston that leads to the nobles incipient rage against the court favourite. Certainly the kings love for Gaveston influences and controls all his actions and homoerotic references in Marlowe's text are evident, however the overriding struggle is one of class. Gaveston and Spenser after him were not nobles by birth and the continual references to their birth right outdoes any accusations against homosexuality. The nobles force the king to send Gaveston into exile again and Edward is distraught which causes Lancaster to remark:
What passions call you these?

Afterwards Mortimer sets out his complaints against Gaveston

Uncle, his wanton humour grieves not me;
But this I scorn, that one so basely-born
Should by his sovereign's favour grow so pert,
And riot it with the treasure of the realm,
While soldiers mutiny for want of pay.
He wears a lord's revenue on his back,
And, Midas-like, he jets it in the court,
With base outlandish cullions at his heels,.......
While others walk below, the king and he,
From out a window, laugh at such as we,
And flout our train, and jest at our attire.
Uncle, 'tis this that makes me impatient.

Some critics read between the lines and claim that Mortimer's jealousy is sexual jealousy or abhorrence of homosexuality, but I don't read it this way. There is no doubt that Gaveston and the king were in some sort of love relationship, but this was hardly an issue at the time unless it was so overt it caused offence. Marlowe himself fell foul of being accused of sodomy, but was not in real danger of being sent to prison although at the time it was an offence.

The real interest for me and what makes this a great Elizabethan play is the final third starting from when Edward has lost his war with Mortimer and Queen Isabel and has sought sanctuary in an abbey. He is there with his followers Spencer and Baldock and one feels drawn to a magnetic personality, Edward was not a warrior king, but attracts people to him and his long sojourn of imprisonment and torture elicits sympathy from the reader. A tortured Edward proves difficult to kill and Mortimer must carefully select a villain to carry out the murder, one who will not feel pity for the dignified king. Marlowe tells us of the method of the murder and why it is done this way: A red hot iron spit is inserted into his anus to avoid any detection of the murder. Marlowe spares us the gory details, but lets one of the murderers say:

I fear me that this cry will raise the town.

Marlowe gives Edward some excellent speeches especially towards the end when he gives the impression of a king at a loss to understand why he is being ill treated and why he must give up his kingship, but there are moments of clear prescience when he says:

But what are kings, when regiment is gone,
But perfect shadows in a sunshine day?

The king never completely loses his dignity under duress, but one could say that earlier in the play he does lose his dignity in his declarations of love for Gaveston.

Marlowe's text is mainly in iambic pentameters with some rhyming couplets and passages of prose as is appropriate to the speaker. It flows well, but becomes a little pedestrian in the battle scenes. Marlowe introduces scenes of anti-catholicism and critiques of the kings courtiers in lively exchanges between his characters. This is one of the earliest plays to make use of Holinshed's Chronicles and tells the story of a king out of step with the need to be a strong forceful monarch in a time when the nobility were warrior princes looking to get their hands on the levers of power. This was a five star read for me and I finish with Marlowe imagining what Edwards court would be like under the influence of Pier Gaveston: (sounds good to me)

I must have wanton poets, pleasant wits,
Musicians, that with touching of a string
May draw the pliant king which way I please:
Music and poetry is his delight;
Therefore I'll have Italian masks by night,
Sweet speeches, comedies, and pleasing shows;
And in the day, when he shall walk abroad,
Like sylvan nymphs my pages shall be clad;
My men, like satyrs grazing on the lawns,
Shall with their goat-feet dance the antic hay;
Sometime a lovely boy in Dian's shape,
With hair that gilds the water as it glides
Crownets of pearl about his naked arms,
And in his sportful hands an olive-tree,
To hide those parts which men delight to see,
Shall bathe him in a spring; and there, hard by,
One like Actæon, peeping through the grove,
Shall by the angry goddess be transform'd,
And running in the likeness of an hart,
By yelping hounds pull'd down, shall semm to die:
Such things as these best please his majesty.—
Here comes my lord the king, and the nobles,
From the parliament. I'll stand aside.

heinäkuu 8, 2020, 11:11 am

Samuel Daniel - Delia, the Complaint of Rosamond.
The critical view of the Delia sonnet sequence is that it is beautiful but mediocre, well written but limited in scope. A masterpiece of phrasing and melody, but which offers no ideas, no psychology and no story. Perhaps it could be summed up as a sequence that will appeal to poets and lovers of form, but may leave the general reader a little cold. This would be a pity because two themes emerge which are treated at length: a sustained elegiac lament on the passing of youth (and beauty) and a declaration of faith in the survival of the poets vision. These are not new themes for the Elizabethan sonneteers and some may feel they are too dominant in a sequence that is meant to be about love, although to be fair courtly love.

There are fifty sonnets in the Delia sequence and twenty eight of them were published in 1591 at the conclusion of Sir Philip Sidney's Astrophel and Stella. In the following year he had printed the remaining twenty two with revisions to the earlier twenty eight. He continued to refine the sonnets for versions printed in 1594 and 1601 and so he was a precursor to William Wordsworth who famously brought out later more refined versions of his Prelude. Like Wordsworth Daniel could be accused of tinkering with the originals to no great effect other than to reduce still further any of the passion in the original. I read the 1592 versions before a more mature Daniel had made his revisions: as though he was trying to banish all thoughts of lusty youthfulness. The sonnets have a regular rhyming scheme and end with a rhyming couplet in which the final line comments or or makes sense of the preceding 13 lines.

Throughout the poem we learn nothing much about Delia only that she continues to look on the poet with disdain and never gives a hint that she welcomes his attentions. In fact so little happens that Delia may well have been completely unaware of the poets love for her. Delia is an anagram of Ideal and she may have only existed in the poets imagination. Here is an example and one of my favourites from the sequence (if only for the first four lines):

Sonnet XLV.
Care-charmer sleepe, sonne of the Sable night,
Brother to death, in silent darknes borne:
Relieue my languish, and restore the light,
With darke forgetting of my cares returne
And let the day be time enough to morne,
The shipwrack of my ill-aduentred youth:
Let vvaking eyes suffice to vvayle theyr scorne,
Without the torment of the nights vntruth.
Cease dreames, th'ymagery of our day desires,
To modell foorth the passions of the morrow:
Neuer let rysing Sunne approue you lyers,
To adde more griefe to aggrauat my sorrow.
Still let me sleepe, imbracing clovvdes in vaine;
And neuer vvake, to feele the dayes disdayne.

Sonnet XXXV shows his debt to Petrarch:

Sonnet XXXV.
Thou canst not dye whilst any zeale abounde
In feeling harts, that can conceiue these lines:
Though thou a Laura hast no Petrarch founde,
In base attire, yet cleerely Beautie shines.
And I, though borne in a colder clime,
Doe feele mine inward heate as great, I knowe it:
He neuer had more faith, although more rime,
I loue as well, though he could better shew it.
But I may ad one feather to thy fame,
To helpe her flight throughout the fairest Ile:
And if my penne could more enlarge thy name,
Then shouldst thou liue in an immortall stile.
But though that Laura better limned bee,
Suffice, thou shalt be lou'd as well as shee.

The Complaint of Rosamond is a poem of 742 lines divided into seven line stanzas with a regular rhyming scheme of ABABBCC and it tells the story of Rosamond who appears as a ghost to tell the poet of her complaint. She was a beautiful virtuous young woman who came to be noticed by King Henry II of France. She finally gave into his advances and he built a Palace for her which could only be entered by a complicated maze. She is now alone with her entourage of female assistants and regrets that nobody else is witness to her beauty. Henry's Queen discovers a way into the maze and forces Rosamond to drink poison. Henry discovers her body and is bereft.

Much can be made of the allegory and classical allusions in the poem, but it can be enjoyed as a straight forward moral tale. It is full of passion and feeling, almost melodrama which makes it an interesting companion to Delia. Daniel does not miss an opportunity to compare the actions of Rosamond with the chaste Delia of his earlier poem. Time passing and the destruction of beauty is again a theme explored:

What greater torment euer could haue beene,
Then to inforce the fayre to liue retired?
For what is Beautie if it be not seene,
Or what is't to be seene vnlesse admired?
And though admyred, vnlesse in loue desired?
Neuer were cheekes of Roses, locks of Amber,
Ordayn'd to liue imprisond in a Chamber.

Daniel's choice of words and phrases flow beautifully in a poem that can be read pleasurably today. It was good to read these poems one after another and while my reactions to Delia were a little cool, after reading Rosamond I went back to Delia and discovered much to like. 4 stars.

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 25, 2020, 6:46 am

Thomas Lodge - Euphues Shadow, the battle of the senses
Printed in 1592 under the supervision of Robert Greene who often collaborated with Thomas Lodge. Greene explains in his dedication to Robert Ratcliffe, Viscount Fitzwaters that Lodge was away on a sea voyage and had left his book with Greene to have printed and also to seek patronage. It was Lodges second expedition overseas and two years previously he had his romance novel Rosalynde printed with some success. Rosalynde owed much to John Lyly who had paved the way for many writers of romantic novels with his book Euphues, the anatomy of wit and Lodge's Euphues Shadow is written in the same style, in fact it follows Lyly's book more closely than Rosalynde even to making his hero Philamis sound similar to Lyly's Philautus.

Euphues Shadow follows a similar format in that the book contains poems, songs, sonnets, a dialogue and stories within stories all integrated more or less into the central story line which features star crossed lovers. The deaf man's dialogue tacked onto the end of the story makes this publication seem more of a hotch potch than Rosalynde and may well have been influenced by Robert Greene.

The story of Claetia which is titled "the lamentable and pitiful torments of a constant lover serving a cruel lady" is typical of much of the subject matter of this book. It is always the ladies who treat their wooers with disdain that lead to the unhappiness and sometimes tragedies. Lodge has much to say about the fickleness of women even though his book starts out by castigating the vain fancies and foolhardiness of young men. The sermon type feel of the final section when Philamis is resigned to living alone is fairly dull. This book is for completists only I think 2 stars.

elokuu 5, 2020, 11:05 am

William Walworth Kills Wat Tyler at London Bridge 1381

Richard Johnson - The Nine Worthies of London.
Next up on my reading list was Richard Johnson's The Nine Worthies of London published in 1592. I was a little surprised to find it was not a play and then braced myself for a read of a panegyric about celebrities from history. Little is known about Richard Johnson apart from what can be gleaned from his publications, he hit relative pay-dirt with "The Most Famous History of the Seven Champions of Christendom" a few years later which ran to several reprints and was popular with a middle class readership. I was not expecting to be entertained by the Nine Worthies of London, but ended up enjoying the reading experience.

Richard Johnson is considered to be a hack writer, a typical recycler of stories and legends that were becoming popular at the time, However several things lift his Nine Worthies out of the rut of the more typical romances of the period. Most of it is written in verse in sexains with a regular rhyming scheme, each of the nine worthies gets a chance to reflect on the lives they have led. There is an overarching story binding together these potted autobiographies. Fame travels to Parnassus the home of the nine muses and seeks out Clio who is responsible for history, they travel together to the underrearth where Clio shakes her wings; awakening nine bodies who are eager to tell their stories and they do so in lively verse form.

Apparently Richard Johnson was an apprentice himself according to the dedication at the start of this text. His nine worthies all share this humble start to life, and through hard work and effort they ended up being Lord Mayors of London and so there are nine rags to riches stories taken from English history from the period of King Edward III to Queen Mary:

First. SIr VVilliam VValworth Fishmonger, in the time of Richard the second.
Second. Sir Henrie Pitchard Vintener, in the time of Edward the third.
Third. Sir VVilliam Seuenoake Grocer, in the time of Henrie the fift.
Fourth. Sir Thomas VVhite Marchant-tailer, in the time of Queene Marie.
Fift. Sir Iohn Bonham Mercer, in the time of Ed∣ward the first.
Sixt. Sir Christopher Croker Vintener, in the time of Edward the third.
Seuenth. Sir Iohn Haukwood Marchant-tailer, in the time of Edward the third.
Eight. Sir Hugh Cauerley Silke-weauer, in the time of Edward the third.
Ninth. Sir Henrie Maleueret Grocer, in the time of Henrie the fourth

Many of theses worthies were new to me: I had heard of Sir John Hawkwood a famous mercenary soldier and Sir John Bonham more of a legendary figure honoured by the Turks, but this was the point of Johnson's book as he wished to highlight worthy men who should be revered for their achievements that were not necessarily gained through success on the battlefield. Sir Henrie Pitchard Knight is an example of a lord mayor who did not strive to get rich, but did all he could for the poor. He is remembered for entertaining King Edward III and three captive kings at his home in London which Sir Henrie proudly says he never thought would happen to a man of his humble upbringing. He reminds his readers that whatever station you have in life death comes to us all:

Yet lo this pompe did vanish in an houre,
There is no trusting to a broken staffe,
Mans carefull life doth wither like a flower,
The destenies do stroy what we do graffe:
For all his might, my gold wherewith I pleasde,
Death tooke vs both and would not be appeasde.

Johnson tells us there are more than enough statues to famous men of arms.

Sir William Walworth, the first on the list, was the Lord Mayor who killed the rebel Watt Tyler during the reign of a very young Richard II and he is allowed to boast a little:

The stroke was giuen with so good a will,
It made the Rebell coutch vnto the earth,
His fellowes that beheld (t'is strange) were still
It mard the manor of their former mirth:
I left him not, but ere I did depart,
I stabd my dagger to his damned heart.

Sir John Hawkwood the mercenary soldier is also allowed to reflect on his life:

All warres you see do ende as well as peace,
And then remaineth but a tumbe of dust,
A voyce of Fame, a blacke and mourning hearce,
To what then may we like this worldly lust:
It is an euill vapouring smoke that fumes,
Breaths in the braine, and so the life consumes.

Books such as this one by Richard Johnson were written as examples for people to emulate. They were moral stories written at a time (more than 100 years) before novels, that could give insights to the inner working of the mind were invented. Many such publications in the late 16th century were fairly turgid affairs and so it was good to come across something that hinted at deeper thoughts and whose lively verse form owed relatively little to the proscribed style in fashion at the time. A surprising 4 star read.

elokuu 8, 2020, 12:01 pm

Henry VI part 1 (Arden Shakespeare) - William Shakespeare
Henry VI part 1, video BBC production
The first part of a tetralogy consisting of Henry VI parts 2 and 3 and Richard III. Critics agree it was one of the earliest of Shakespeare's plays and was performed in 1592, but they do not agree that it was the first play written of the tetralogy. Some critics claim that part 2 was written first closely followed by part 3 and then part1 and so I have read them in that order. There are no very famous lines from the play and it is the only one of the plays that I have read that does not have that "stand alone" feeling: it feels more obviously part of a series. It is a historical drama which does not aim to subvert the known facts, but does play havoc with the time line for dramatic effect.

The play starts with the funeral of Henry V. England is in mourning and the nobility are already arguing amongst themselves. The new king Henry VI has not reached the age of majority and does not yet appear in the play. Messengers arrive to interrupt the pageantry and the news is bad. Henry V's conquests in France are already falling apart and Talbot the warrior knight and scourge of the French has been captured. The Duke of Bedford the regent of France says he will take 10,000 troops across the channel. The scene shifts to France who has found a new military leader - the peasant girl Joan of Arc. Back in England the disorder amongst the nobility grows worse The young kings protector the Duke of Gloucester finds himself locked out of the Tower of London by the Bishop of Winchester and the first of many fighting scenes is the English fighting amongst themselves. Back in France Talbot has escaped, but his attempts to regain the conquered territories are meeting with fierce resistance from the French led by the young Dauphin Charles and Joan Purcelle (Joan of Arc). In England the new king is crowned, but in the famous Temple garden scene the nobility choose their sides in the coming power struggle by selecting a red or white rose. Henry VI and his entourage travel to Paris where he will be crowned again as king of France, meanwhile Talbot is still involved in a see-saw struggle of arms with Joan and the French, but he attends the coronation and there are glimmers of unity, but Richard Plantagenet the Duke of York has been instructed by old Mortimer that he has a legitimate claim to the throne. Talbot is soon back in arms and the fighting continues, he and his son are slaughtered outside Bordeaux, but the Duke of York who failed to provide the necessary support for him has captured Joan of Arc outside Rouen. He instructs that she be burnt at the stake as a witch. A truce is brokered and as part of the agreement the Duke of Suffolk has arranged for Margaret of Anjou to be the young king Henry's bride. The play ends with Margaret arriving in London, but already being wooed by Suffolk himself.

There is a lot of fighting: a continuous display of arms seems to take up the first three quarters of the play, all is bravado and derring-do and ends with the tragedy on the battlefield of the death of Talbot and his son. Then suddenly there is a truce and the play switches to a more romantic mode as Suffolk intrigues to get Margaret of Anjou wedded to the young king. On a first reading the play seems unbalanced and this readers attention was taken up by trying to work out who was fighting who and where, but it became clearer on a second read through. The play does have a logic to it and events follow each other as the play makes its dramatic points. The most obvious theme is the disunity caused by a king who has not reached the age of majority and of a disputed right of accession. Another is the end of chivalry, the French are being led by a female peasant for goodness sake and Talbot who is of the old school is mortally offended and says:

"My thoughts are whirled like a Potters Wheele,
I know not where I am, nor what I doe:
A Witch by feare, not force, like Hannibal,
Driues back our troupes, and conquers as she lists............

Seignior hang: base Muleters of France,
Like Pesant foot-Boyes doe they keepe the Walls,
And dare not take vp Armes, like Gentlemen

Joan is burnt as a witch and is treated with disdain by the Duke of York. Sir John Falstaff who runs away from battle is publicly stripped of his royal garter by Talbot who then lectures his fellow nobles on the significance of being awarded the order.

Shakespeare is setting the scene in this play for his depiction of the wars of the roses and the descent of England into chaos. The English are fighting amongst themselves and the French change sides when it suits them, this changing of allegiance will soon cross the channel and become a feature of part 2 of the tetralogy. The characters that will populate the later plays start to emerge. The fiercely proud Duke of York, the peace-loving King Henry VI whose courtiers snigger at his naiveté behind the scenes. The old protector the Duke of Gloucester who sees his control slipping away and the entrance of Margaret of Anjou who Suffolk thinks he can manipulate, but will find that it is he who is being played. The BBC produced plays of this series has kept the same actors in their roles as the events move on, that is of course until they meet their end, this process is started by Talbot and son in this play and will accelerate until the bloodbath in part 3. Shakespeare does repeat scenes in this: one of his earliest plays and although the language is recognisably Shakespearian it never rises to the heights of his subsequent efforts. His play does however fit together quite well and with its rousing battle scenes would have provided entertainment for its Elizabethan audience.

It has been produced a number of times on the modern stage and most successfully when it is followed by the other plays in the series. The poignant scene of the deaths of Talbot and his son John may have been Shakespeare's first tilt at tragedy:

Come, come, and lay him in his Fathers armes,
My spirit can no longer beare these harmes.
Souldiers adieu: I haue what I would haue,
Now my old armes are yong Iohn Talbots graue.

I suppose it has to be said that this early play is one for Shakespeare completists, but if you are going to read the more substantial King Henry VI parts 2 and 3 then it would be amiss to leave out this one 3.5 stars.

Muokkaaja: syyskuu 8, 2020, 12:41 pm

Thomas Nashe - Pierce Penilesse his supplication to the Devil
- Summers last will and testament.
Thomas Nashe (1567-1601) was an Elizabethan playwright poet and satirist, but made his name as a pamphleteer. Pierce Penilesse was his most popular pamphlet and Summer's Last Will and Testament is a play of sorts, but the interesting thing about these two works were that they were probably written in 1592 the year that the plague struck London resulting in the closure of the theatres. The closure of the theatres meant that many avid theatre goers especially those people of leisure suddenly had afternoons to fill and Nashe was able to profit from this by supplying reading material, which may have been a substitute for live theatre performances. This is especially true of Summer's Last Will and Testament which although written as a Performance play has no action (apart from people entering and leaving the stage) and serves just as well as a piece of rhetoric to be read aloud by a small group of people.

Thomas Nashe is not easy for 21st century readers because of: his use of satire, his expectation that readers will be familiar with recent artistic and historical events and his use of Latin Phrases. He has however abandoned the over elaborate style of John LIly, which in my opinion was becoming tedious to strike out with his own less formal sentence structure. This makes his writing more readable, but his use of allegory, his satire and his tendency to wander off into side issues and ambiguity, (sometimes in the same sentence) does not always make it easy to follow. It was a text where I found myself re-reading previous sentences to discover how I had got so lost in what the author was saying.

Pierce Penilesse, His supplication to the Devil is a prose satire in which Pierce makes a written request to serve the devil in hell, because of his miserable circumstances. He is an educated man; a poet who has failed to gain patronage or make a decent living from his writing. He is proud, sometimes naive and feeling vengeful:

"But beware you that be great mens Favorites: let not a servile insinuating slave creepe betwixt your legs into credit with your Lords: for pesants that come out of the colde of povertie, once cherisht in the bosome of prosperitie, will straight forget that ever there was a winter of want, or who gave them roome to warme them.".....................With the enemies of Poetrie, I care not if I haue a bout, and those are they that tearme our best Writers but babling Ballat-makers, holding them fantasticall fooles"

Nashe seems to make an exception for actors and stage performers, but one can never be sure how much is ironical. Nashe then goes on to describe the the seven deadly sins one by one with plenty of examples and with the underlying motif that those people who have given into them have brought down the plague on London. Pierce has found someone who he thinks is an emissary from the devil (found in St Pauls courtyard; a place where printers and pamphleteers sold their wares) and asks him what it is like in hell. Of course he does not get a straight answer, but is told that people by their actions create their own hell wherever they are. This is an interesting idea, but Nashe does not really follow this through, instead he launches into a tale of the wicked bear and the fox, which would probably have kept contemporary readers wondering who they were meant to depict. It has certainly exercised the minds of scholars of more recent times.

Thomas Nashe was an author of one of the more famous Marprelate pamphlets earlier in his writing career; taking the side of the bishops who were under attack from the puritans. Satire, irony in-jokes and scurrilously libel prose were the stock in trade for these pieces and there is something of this in Pierce Penilesse.

Summers last Will and Testament is a more lighthearted affair, but contains plenty of satirical barbs aimed at authors and those that patronise them. Will Summers was a famous court jester at the time of Henry VIII and he makes an appearance in this play. Summer is coming to an end and he is the Lord of the seasons and he summons Spring, Autumn and Winter and asks them in turn to make a case to receive his legacy. Significantly Winter is blamed for providing the circumstances in which the plague would flourish:

Autumne hath all the Summers fruitefull treasure,
Gone is our sport, fled is poore Croydens pleasure:
Short dayes, sharpe dayes, long nights come on a pace,
Ah who shall hide vs, from the Winters face?
Colde dooth increase, the sicknesse will not cease,
And here we lye God knowes, with little ease:
From winter, plague & pestilence, good Lord deliver vs.

Summoned onto the stage also are: Time, Sol the sun, Bachus the god of wine, Orion the Hunter and Harvest. All are quizzed as to their part in providing the conditions for sickness and disease and their part in mans downfall. They all vigorously defend themselves and Autumn, Winter and Spring are careful to disassociate themselves. There are songs and music as Nashe tries to entertain rather than lecture. There are more latin phrases used and casual references to classical literature point to a court entertainment. It was performed in the Bishops Palace at Croydon in the early autumn of 1592 and was revived for the first time in 2017 in the same venue. It seems to have been successful.

For 21st century readers Nashe is not easy to read without some background knowledge - 3 stars.

syyskuu 21, 2020, 7:50 pm

The Rise of the Novel - Ian Watt
Published in 1957 Watt's book became the go-to book for many English literature students. Considered a little naive and outdated today perhaps, but it was still being used enthusiastically after it was published in a Pelican edition in 1972 if my copy is anything to go by: there are copious passages underlined some notes and evidence of at least three different students. The book is subtitled: Studies in Defoe, Richardson and Fielding and Watt analyses Robinson Crusoe (1719) Pamela or Virtue Rewarded (1740) and Clarissa or the History of a Young Lady (1747) by Samuel Richardson and finally The History of Tom Jones a foundling (1749) by Fielding to demonstrate why he thought these books were the start of novel writing and making an almost clean break from previous fictional writing.

He asks himself the following questions: What, exactly distinguishes the novel from all earlier forms of narrative fiction? and How does social change influence the evolution of literary form?. He starts by stating that realism is the defining characteristic which differentiates the work of early 18th century novelists from previous fiction and goes on to change the label a little by referring to formal realism, which he says is the:

"particularisation of time, place, and person: to a natural and lifelike sequence of action; and to the creation of a literary style which gives the most exact verbal and rhythmical equivalent possible to the object described."

He briefly refers to previous fictional writing such as Romances and Courtly love, Italian Renaissance short stories, Rogue literature and points out how much of this referred back to classical literature: where style was as important as content and authors took their plots from mythology, history, legend, or previous literature. Early fiction was rarely set in a time or place where the plot could logically progress; coincidences, the wheel of fortune or disguises were used to move the story along; characters were not fleshed out their actions did not follow from previous experiences and finally there was no attempt to come to terms with inner lives or their psychological profile. Watt claims that Robinson Crusoe was the first book length fictional writing that would qualify under his definition of novel writing.

Watt covers the changing social conditions that laid the groundwork for a new kind of fiction writing in his chapter: "The Reading Public and the Rise of the Novel" and then launches into an analysis of Robinson Crusoe pointing out how different this was from previous fiction. He claims Defoe was the first writer who visualised the whole of his narrative as though it occurred in an actual physical environment and he came up with an original storyline that owed very little to previous fictional writing and was independent of literary conventions. Defoe's ideas on rational economic individualism and his naked capitalism which drives much of his hero Robinson Crusoe' actions does not escape criticism and Watt doesn't believe that Defoe managed to reveal much of Crusoe's inner life. Watt claims that Samuel Richardson's two epistolatory novels come the closest to his definition of formal realism and that his characters reveal more of their inner lives. Watt's close reading of passages from Pamela and Clarissa are enough to encourage me to read these two doorstops: editions of Clarissa run to 1,500 pages.

There is a short final chapter: Realism and the Later Tradition (described as a note) which mentions other writers of English novels that Watt feels enhanced the tradition of the novel. In Watt's opinion the novel reached its apogee with James Joyce's Ulysses. I found Watts criticism lively and thought provoking especially on Robinson Crusoe which I have read and his reasons for claiming it as the first in the genre of novel writing. His thoughts are clear and these studies do not get bogged down in academia. I will enjoy re-reading this when I get to reading Samuel Richardson and Henry Fielding.
5 stars.

syyskuu 22, 2020, 12:09 am

The Post-Modernies will be happy to learn they came after the Ulysses apogee. It is a long slide down since then.
Well done Bas ! thumbed

lokakuu 2, 2020, 10:46 am

Diana, Henry Constable
A collection of Sonnets, some of which were published in 1592 but many added later. Constable's poetry was much admired by his contemporary critics. They take the Petrarchan model as a base and follow in the footsteps of Sir Philip Sidney's Astrophell and Stella. Sonnet collections from this period have since been grouped together under the genre of Elizabethan Love sonnets, however they were highly stylised and not at all as a modern reader would imagine a love sonnet to be. Feelings expressed by the poet seem curiously detached, they have a language all of their own: it is basically the language of courtly love and it does seem today more of a pretence of love rather than an actual passionate feeling. They were written to be admired for their technical accomplishments, their grace and beauty and their turn of phrase.

Henry Constable was a courtier who held various positions amongst the followers of the leading courtiers to Queen Elizabeth I. He was a man who wrote for pleasure and would not be looking to make his living from poetry. He was following a fashionable pursuit of the courtiers at the time. In the tradition of Petrarch who addressed his poems to the mysterious Laura Constable's poems were addressed to Diana, who may have been a figment of his imagination, because there is nothing in the 60 odd sonnets to connect him to any known person at the time. The reader does not get any impression of a real person in any of the poems, she appears to be a stock figure who gives no encouragement to the poets protestations of love and treats him with disdain.

This is a typical example of one of the original 23 poems; more concerned with word play and style than on any expression of feelings:

Lady, in beauty and in favour rare,
Of favour, not of due, I favour crave.
Nature to thee beauty and favour gave;
Fair then thou art, and favour thou may'st spare.
Nor when on me bestowed your favours are,
Less favour in your face you shall not have;
If favour then a wounded soul may save,
Of murder's guilt, dear Lady, then beware.
My loss of life a million fold were less
Than the least loss should unto you befall;
Yet grant this gift; which gift when I possess,
Both I have life and you no loss at all.
For by your favour only I do live,
And favour you may well both keep and give

There are other poems that concern themselves with conceits and Constable was proud of his conceits, which is a word that was used to describe the use of imagery in metaphors that combined unlikely comparisons or gave a twist to formulaic or previously used standard comparisons. In poem 19 he compares the five wounds in his heart to the stigmata of St Francis

Saint Francis had the like, yet felt no smart,
Where I in living torments never die.

However for every original image or metaphor used there are many more that are conventional for the type of poetry that was being written at the time. There is much hyperbole for example the eyes of Diana are often depicted as two suns that light the gloom and in a famous line he says 'My lady's presence makes the roses red'. These are poems of unrequited love and the poets attempts to outdo the pain they suffer as a result, are another example of the hyperbole that is customarily used.

The poems that are more likely to appeal to the modern reader are those that can show a modicum of feeling that one is able to relate to, or poems that use images that appear fresh and add to the reading experience. Fortunately there are a few instances of this in Constable's sonnets. There is a theme running through them of the constant battle between the poets eyes and the poets heart. The heart blames the eyes for the constant pain it suffers.

"My heart mine eye accuseth of his death,
Saying his wanton sight bred his unrest;
Mine eye affirms my heart's unconstant faith
Hath been his bane, and all his joys repressed."

The pleasure of reading Constable's sonnets are in their very form which can be delightful. Some of the earlier sonnets can seem a little obscure but as they were added to, the later additions express more clarity of thought and are well worked through. They sound good when being read aloud.

An example of one of the later poems is one that features a pun on the word care and has some fine lines that are not without interest:

But being care, thou flyest me as ill fortune;—
Care the consuming canker of the mind!
The discord that disorders sweet hearts' tune!
Th' abortive bastard of a coward mind!
The lightfoot lackey that runs post by death,
Bearing the letters which contain our end!
The busy advocate that sells his breath,
Denouncing worst to him, is most his friend!
O dear, this care no interest holds in me;
But holy care, the guardian of thy fair,
Thine honour's champion, and thy virtue's fee,
The zeal which thee from barbarous times shall bear,
This care am I; this care my life hath taken.
Dear to my soul, then leave me not forsaken!

Perhaps the whole point of these courtly love sonnets can be summed up in a line from one of Constables:

I say, "I love!" My mistress says "'Tis lust!"

I think it is easy to be disappointed by the Elizabethan love sonneteers, one could argue that they wrote too many that sounded too similar and the lack of true feeling and the distance placed between the lover and his mistress makes them seem too artificial. However when the poems read as well as most of Constable's do and when one can come across an occasional gem, then it is worth the effort. 3.5 stars

lokakuu 18, 2020, 5:12 pm

Michael Drayton - The Shepheards Garland: fashioned in nine eglogs.
Michael Drayton an Elizabethan poet published The Shepheards Garland in 1593; it was the first of his non spiritual works. An eglog is more commonly spelt today as a eclogue and is a pastoral long poem based on the classical example set out by the ancient Roman Poet Virgil. By 1593 it was a common form of poetical expression used by educated men associated with the court of Queen Elizabeth and made popular by Edmund Spenser's poem The Shepheards calendar in 1579. An Eglog harked back to a golden age that never existed where shepheards tended their flocks and played and sung about an idyllic life and the troubles of the world outside their own sphere of existence.

The format of Drayton's first effort followed closely the expected format and so there are passages of poetry with songs and story telling competitions told by rustic folk with a classical education. It is subtitled Rowland's sacrifice to the nine muses and contains the usual themes of age versus youth and unrequited love; it also dwells a little on the troubles of the contemporary world, but It is all very artificial. Drayton's poetry and songs are lively and expressive, but there is nothing new here and certainly nothing to excite readers today. For me it was just another poem to cross off the list and so 2.5 stars.

lokakuu 31, 2020, 10:04 am

Gabriel Harvey - Four Letters and Certain Sonnets
Gabriel Harvey was an English writer and notable scholar. He was active between 1577 and 1600 and is remembered today mainly for his efforts to protect the honour and reputation of himself and his family, launching into print some vituperative pamphlets aimed at fellow writers Robert Greene and Thomas Nash; although earlier he had taken Edmund Spenser to task. There is no doubt that Harvey was the subject of satire by other writers, some who objected to his overweening ego and others who thought he was a humourless pedant. Harvey's quarrel in print with Thomas Nash arose from an attack on Harvey's brother in one of the Martin Marprelate pamphlet wars and he took Robert Greene to task for his comments in Greene's Groatsworth of wit and the publication of Greene's Quip for an Upstart Courtier which pushed him over the edge. The Four letters and 24 sonnets aim to set the record straight, but Harvey cannot help launching his own attacks even when knowing that Greene was on his deathbed. He certainly didn't think much of Greene:

"Alas, that any should say, as I have heard divers affirm, his wit was nothing but a mint of knavery, himself a deviser of juggling feats, a forger of covetous practices, an inventor of monstrous oaths, a derider of all religions, a contemner of God and man, a desperate Lucianist, an abominable Aretinist, an arch-atheist, and he arch-deserved to be well hanged seven years ago. Twenty and twenty such familiar speeches I overpass, and bury the whole legendary of his life and death in the sepulchre of eternal silence."
(modern English translation by Nina Green)

If the four letters were just a series of personal attacks on other writers they would hardly be of consequence today, but they do provide some information on the lives of his contemporaries and while we must remember that they are hardly dispassionate they are still useful. From the evidence of the letters there was much more to Gabriel Harvey than just a settling of old arguments. He makes some cogent points about the state of literature and of society in general. He is particularly concerned with status and refutes Nash and Greenes views that a humble birth should not prevent an able man from rising to the top of his profession. The Harvey brothers were tradesman's sons.

I enjoyed this much more than I thought I would. Harvey's style is logical and thoughtful, but there are times when you can catch him thinking that perhaps he is not being completely fair. Of course it helps if you have read Robert Greene and Thomas Nash, but it is not essential as Harvey's prose carries it all along pretty well. 3 stars.

Here is one of the sonnets.

Unlucky I, unhappiest on earth,

That fondly doting upon dainty wits,

And deeply ravished with their luring fits,

Of gentle favours find so hard a dearth.

Is it my fate or fault that such fine men

Should their commender so unkindly bite,

That loves to love in spite of rankest spite,

And hates to hate with heart or tongue or pen?
Sweet writers, as ye covet to be sweet,
Nor me, nor other, nor yourselves abuse;
Humanity doth courteously peruse

Each act of friend or foe with favour meet.
Foul devil, and fouler malice, cease to rave;
For every fault I twenty pardons crave.

marraskuu 11, 2020, 7:54 am

The theatres were closed in London in January 1593 and were not re-opened until the spring in 1594. Perhaps we know how those frustrated, but fearful theatre goers felt now that many of us are looking at eighteen months of restrictions because of Covid-19. What goes around comes around.

I think, one can never be sure. that there are three more Shakespeare plays to read before the theatres were locked down/I mean closed. The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Titus Andronicus, and Richard III.

Muokkaaja: marraskuu 11, 2020, 5:49 pm

Muokkaaja: marraskuu 14, 2020, 6:31 am

Shakespeare - The Two Gentlemen of Verona


Securely placed in the Shakespeare cannon being the second play included in the first folio of 1623 this comedy was probably written early in the playwrights career probably before the closure of the theatres in January 1593. The theatres were closed due to an outbreak of the plague in London and would not be re-opened until spring 1594: (any similarities between those years and the Covid-19 virus today when many of us have restrictions is purely coincidental). The Two Gentlemen of Verona is considered by many critiques and readers to be an inferior play because it is thought to be an immature work. Admittedly it has no great drama and does not grapple with "life meaning" issues as some of the later plays do, but it is one of the most consistently funny of the Bards plays and never fails to entertain, it also contains Shakespeares most celebrated song (thanks to Schubert amongst others). I read the Arden Shakespeare edition with its copious notes and modern English spelling, but it is not a difficult play to follow and might serve as a gentle introduction to Shakespeare's oeuvre.

Although the play contains some of the Elizabethan tropes expected of comedies: disguise, trickery and banter between masters and servants, its main feature is the ludicrous natures of some of the characters. One would probably never meet a bunch of outlaws so ridiculous or a central character (Proteus) who changes his attitudes on the turn of a pin (not once but twice) or male characters who are so easily deceived. The females are much more resolute, but the reason for much of this behaviour is of course love sickness or one could say lust.

The story: Proteus and Valentine are very close friends, but it is time for them to seek their place in the world. Proteus is in love with Julia and they exchange rings just before he leaves Verona to go to the big city of Milan. Valentine has made the same journey some time before. Proteus is joined by his servant Lance and his dog Crab. At the court of Milan he discovers that his friend Valentine has fallen in love with Sylvia and as soon as Proteus meets SyIvia he becomes love stricken as well. He stitches up his lifelong friend Valentine with the Duke; Silvia's father causing Valentine to be banished, so he has a chance to woo Sylvia. Meanwhile Julia missing Proteus disguises herself as a man (Sebastian) so that she can travel to Milan in safety to find her beloved. Proteus is making no headway with Sylvia and is not helped when the dog Crab whom he gives as a present to Sylvia pisses all over her petticoats. Valentine is captured by outlaws who are so impressed with his demeanour they make him their general. Proteus does not recognise Julia disguised as Sebastian and employs her to act as a go between with Sylvia. Sylvia now engages Sir Eglamour to go with her to find her true love Valentine. The Duke and Proteus are in pursuit and they all meet up in the woods with Valentine and the outlaws. Proteus attempts to take Sylvia by force, but is prevented by Valentine, Proteus immediately realises he has been acting foolishly and asks to be forgiven. Julia still in disguise faints and when she comes to throws off her disguise and once again claims Proteus. The outlaws are all pardoned by the Duke and a wedding day is arranged for the two couples.

My usual method of approaching a Shakespeare play especially one that is new to me, is to read the play through first, before reading any criticism, so that I can gain my own first impression. The introduction to the Arden edition written by William C Carroll concentrates on Shakespeares dramatic strategies and its links with previous sixteenth century drama and also recent critical and theoretical work on the early modern theatre. There is a discussion of male friendship which is undoubtedly a feature of the play. The question it poses is can a male friendship be more important than love between a woman and a man and there are plenty of examples from the text, especially the controversial ending to the play where some interpretations of Valentines reconciliation speech with Proteus see him offering to share Sylvia with him. This supposed offer comes a very short time after Proteus has attempted to rape Sylvia, however I think that the offer of sharing Sylvia is a misinterpretation of the text and it is surprising that Carrol's introduction makes so much of it. The links backwards to the plays of John Lily and further back to Ovid as sources for the ideas of friendship in previous drama are explored. Another theme explored at some length is that of the prodigal son. Both Proteus and Valentine are away from their home in Verona, but we never see them return to their families. There is also a section on women disguised as men (this could have been the first time that Shakespeare used this trope) and how it would look to an audience who would see men playing all the female roles and then see them playing females disguised as males. This sounds very complicated to an audience today who might have trouble getting their heads around the fact that there were no female actors in Shakespeare's companies.

Reading this scholarly introduction seemed like it was avoiding the elephant in the room. The play is a comedy, throughout the play there are comic interludes, nearly all the characters indulge in word play, there are malapropisms galore and plenty of good jokes and there is Lance and his dog Crab. In my opinion much could have been gained by writing more on the tradition of comedy rather than giving an impression that the play was essentially a serious examination of renaissance themes. The comedy is mainly verbal, there is no slapstick, we are only told about Crabs indiscretions in Julias house. Speed is the name given to Valentine's page and he is well named for his quick repartee whether it is outperforming Valentino or making fun of Lance. There is also plenty of wit and repartee between Julia and her waiting maid Lucetta and then there is Lance with his hilarious soliloquies with his dog Crab. Even at the plays most dramatic moments there is time for some comedy, for example when Julia is disguising herself as a man there is the question of the codpiece:

Lucetta says:

A round hose, madam, now's not worth a pin
Unless you have a codpiece to stick pins on.

Then Julia makes a speech about Proteus who at that moment is betraying her love in order to woo Sylvia:

Base men that use them to so base effect!
But truer stars did govern Proteus' birth;
His words are bonds, his oaths are oracles,
His love sincere, his thoughts immaculate,
His tears pure messengers sent from his heart,
His heart as far from fraud as heaven from earth.

I could imagine an Elizabethan audience laughing out loud through much of this play and waiting for the next joke to come along.

There are other scenes that could be played to garner laughs: for example when the Duke accosts Valentine who is about to elope with his daughter and is hiding a ladder under his cloak; the Duke asks him for his advice on how to gain access to a lady who lives in an upstairs apartment. I agree with William Rossky who maintains that the play is first and foremost a burlesque and should be judged on those terms. He goes on to say;

"If it is myopic to read Shakespeare only in terms of our own time and convenience, it is just as blind to read him as inevitably illustrating any single Renaissance convention. The result of unscrutinised assumptions about Elizabethan acceptance of a particular idea or convention has sometimes been to make Shakespeare appear inaccessible to our time and to dehumanise the drama"

Although the idea of a burlesque is never far away, the second half of the play has enough dialogue to enable the actors to move the audience as the lovers stories unfold. Julia and Sylvia have some particularly touching scenes. There are very few long speeches, but plenty of one liners. Proteus gets the longest speech in a scene all to himself when he convinces himself that his love for Sylvia is worth forsaking Julia and his friend Valentine. The speech contains some word play, but it is straight forward with no imagery. Why waste time on metaphors and similes when you are going all out to make people laugh, however be it in a more sophisticated non physical way. I enjoyed reading the versification which flows well and I enjoyed figuring out the puns. I am sure I did not get them all. Looking forward to seeing a production of the play - hope it makes me laugh.

The BBC film of the play shown in 1983 certainly did make me laugh and I thought the two main stage settings: The court in Milan and the Forest of Mantua were brilliantly set up. The first half of the play with all its wit and repartee had an innocence about it, especially as the actors were mainly young people. It was frothy, light and just right. The second part of the play which has all the drama of the lovers betrayals was darker, but still with some lighter touches, there was a lovely setting of the song "Who is Sylvia" Overall a very good film of the play and proof positive that it can be made to work and to entertain.

The play has been performed sporadically during the last century, but the Royal Shakespeare company has three productions to its credit, the last in 2014. Any production must come to terms with the comedy elements, how much of the play should be played to amuse the audience, to keep it laughing, without stopping the drama unfolding of the lovers betrayals and eventual conciliation. At the end of the day it is a fantasy, a lovers fantasy and a play that can make its audience laugh and cry - 4 stars.

joulukuu 4, 2020, 5:20 pm

The Arden Shakespeare - King Richard III
Norton Critical Editions - Richard III - Shakespeare
BBC The Tragedy of Richard III - William Shakespeare
I have been steeped in Shakespeares Richard III this week and steep is probably the word because it can seem like a long climb to the end. The play that has come down to us from the first folio edition is the second longest of Shakespeare's plays, only Hamlet is longer. The BBC production of the play clocks in at over 3 hours 45 minutes, but don't despair if you are going to see a live theatre production, as there is a good chance that it will have been cut. It has a history of being adapted for the stage, not only for it's length, but also to provide some information on whose who in the play, because it continues on from Shakespeare's Henry VI part III and following the history of the Wars of the Roses is complicated enough without coming in over half way through. From 1700 to the late nineteenth century the version performed would have been a rewrite by Colley Cibber: he incorporated parts of Henry VI part III, inserted some continuity into the text and made considerable cuts to the first folio edition, cutting all extraneous material to the main story of Richards rise and fall. I could appreciate why there could be a need to adapt the first folio edition when I read it through for the first time; certain scenes seem to be overlong and it can be difficult to distinguish the characters and there are references to what had gone on in the previous play.

The play remains the most performed of all Shakespeare's histories and that is probably because central to the play is the character of Richard III, probably the most evil genius ever to rule England according to Tudor propaganda and many people going to the theatre like to see a bad guy. Just what sort of evil genius you will see not only depends on the actors but also to the cuts made in the text. Cibber for example cut out Clarence's dream and his pleading with his murderers, the prattle with his children, the dialogue with the citizens, the cursing scene with Margaret and much of the scene with the Duchess of York, the spectres visiting the combatants tents at Bosworth field and much else. There was plenty of the play left, but the audience would not have seen Richard at his cleverest or most wittiest. There is much in the text that could be used to show Richard as a clever rogue, no better or worse than some of the other noble members of the houses of York and Lancaster, but if the aim of the production was to depict a malevolent and evil Machiavellian usurper of the crown then a more straightforward reading is possible, like that of Cibber's

The play opens with Richard's soliloquy and one of the most famous of Shakespeares lines:

"Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this son of York"

A soliloquy is a device for passing confidential information to the audience and Richard not only tells us about his feelings of inadequacy in times of peace, his physical deformities, but also of the plots he has laid to get rid of his brother:

"I am determined to prove a villain
And hate the idle pleasures of these days"

The audience immediately knows where they are with Richard, which is more than the other characters do in the play. Richard plays to the gallery, which if there was not an audience that gallery would be only himself. He immediately convinces his brother Clarence he will do everything he can to get him released from the Tower (prison) and then hires a couple of ruffians to murder him. His finest feat of manipulation however is completed shortly afterwards. He joins the funeral cortege of Henry VI and sets out to seduce the Lady Anne who is mourning her husband Prince Edward who Richard killed at the battle of Tewksbury; Richard also killed her father and Anne also knows he killed Henry VI. Richard stops the cortège to speak to and seduce Ann who starts off by calling him a foul devil and black magician, but Richard's wit, his offer to kill himself and his protestations of love persuades Ann to accept his ring. He cannot help himself boasting to his audience:

"Was ever woman in this humour wooed?
Was ever woman in this humour won?
I'll have her, but I will not keep her long.

Richard is an extreme misogynist, blaming his mother for his deformities. His disdainful treatment of Anne is typical of him. There are however strong female characters in the play who confront Richard or who talk about him amongst themselves. It is the female parts of the play that often end up on the cutting room floor. The women have all suffered by Richards actions either because husbands have been killed or children murdered and it is their challenge to him and their curses against him that start his loosening of the grip of the kingship. Not including this aspect of the play is like not including a piece of the jigsaw.

The fascination and perhaps the difficulty of understanding Richard for a modern audience is that his character is partly based on an earlier trope that appears in morality plays or early Elizabethan theatre. Richard is of course a modern day Machiavellian character in his plotting and his lust for power, but he is also representative of Vice or Punch in morality plays and so he has the power to do and persuade others to do; things that appear a little far fetched for modern audiences. The characters on the stage know what Richard has done and what he is capable of doing and yet they are all susceptible to his charms. It is only Richmond (Henry Tudor) who is immune and who leads the final assault on Richard's crown. Richard is involved in everything, if he is not on stage then plots that he has set in motion are coming to fruition, or enemies are planning to get the better of him, or are talking about him. It is not quite a one man show, but not too far off. Against Richard it is the female characters who are the strongest.

There is not a high body count only two people die on stage: Clarence and Richard himself; the young princes of the tower are murdered off stage, but it is clear that Richard has arranged their deaths. There is no mystery, it is clear what Richard is doing, much of the power of the play is contained in Richards character and his presence and so it is the words, the wit, the language of the performers that holds the audiences attention. Watching the BBC production brought this home to me. It uses many of the same actors from the previous plays in the tetralogy and an amusing piece of casting is that the actors that play Richards two dead brothers and his father reappear as followers of the triumphant Henry Tudor at the end of the play.

The Arden Shakespeare as usual gives a full analysis of the text, as much information as you could possibly want and it has a good introduction that refers on to further reading if necessary. It gives a potted history of the performance of the play up to modern times. The Norton Critical edition gives very little help with the actual text, but is very good on context. For example it gives excerpts from Shakespeares source material and an Example from Colley Cibbers rewritten version. It also includes essays of criticism, which as usual are a mixed bag.

I found the full version of the play overly long, but it is such a powerful play that it is a 5 star read either in the Arden or the Norton edition.

joulukuu 15, 2020, 11:44 am

William Shakespeare - Titus Andronicus
The pornography of violence is writ large in this early play by Shakespeare. It was considered too shocking for a Victorian Audience, but was a success in 1592 when it hit the Elizabethan stage. Recent modern revivals have also succeeded which may say more about the 21st century than Shakespeare and the Elizabethans. The amount of violence in the play is listed in the wikipedia article. I lost count of the incidents way before the end:

The play is saturated with violence from its opening scene, and violence touches virtually every character; Alarbus is burned alive and has his arms chopped off; Titus stabs his own son to death; Bassianus is murdered and thrown into a pit; Lavinia is brutally raped and has her hands cut off and her tongue cut out; Martius and Quintus are decapitated; a nurse and a midwife are stabbed to death by Aaron; an innocent clown is executed for no apparent reason; Titus kills Chiron and Demetrius and cooks them in a pie, which he then feeds to their mother. Then, in the final scene, in the space of a few lines, Titus kills in succession Lavinia and Tamora, and is then immediately killed by Saturninus, who is in turn immediately killed by Lucius. Aaron is then buried up to his neck and left to starve to death in the open air and Tamora's body is thrown to the wild beasts outside the city. As S. Clark Hulse points out, "it has 14 killings, 9 of them on stage, 6 severed members, 1 rape (or 2 or 3 depending on how you count), 1 live burial, 1 case of insanity, and 1 of cannibalism – an average of 5.2 atrocities per act, or one for every 97 lines

This run down does not reveal the whole picture however, because it is Shakespeare's depiction of his characters seeming to revel in the violence that is most shocking for audiences and readers of the play. This is Marcus coming across his sister Lavinia in a forest who has just been raped by two Goths and has had her hands cut off and her tongue cut out:

Why dost not speak to me?
Alas, a crimson river of warm blood,
Like to a bubbling fountain stirr'd with wind,
Doth rise and fall between thy rosed lips,
Coming and going with thy honey breath.
But sure some Tereus hath deflowered thee,
And, lest thou shouldst detect him, cut thy tongue.
Ah, now thou turn'st away thy face for shame!
And notwithstanding all this loss of blood-
As from a conduit with three issuing spouts-
Yet do thy cheeks look red as Titan's face
Blushing to be encount'red with a cloud.

This is what happens to Aaron at the end of the play:

Set him breast-deep in earth, and famish him;
There let him stand and rave and cry for food.
If any one relieves or pities him,
For the offence he dies. This is our doom.
Some stay to see him fast'ned in the earth.

We only have to wait until line 130 for the first violent act: Lucius has demanded that one of the prisoners be sacrificed to appease the Roman dead and selects the eldest son of the conquered queen Tamora. She pleads with Titus Andronicus for mercy; the first of the characters kneeling in supplication. Her plea is dismissed out of hand and Lucius gives the order:

Away with him, and make a fire straight;
And with our swords, upon a pile of wood,
Let's hew his limbs till they be clean consum'd.

This is the murder that starts the chain of the murder and revenge cycle.

The play is set in Roman times where it could be argued that there was violence and spectacle enough to warrant this graphic rendition. With the amount of action that takes place it is a wonder that Shakespeare can tell a coherent story, but he does and significantly his character have no time to develop, the only soliloquy's are by the arch villain Aaron. It is a story of power and vengeance. Titus Andronicus has returned to Rome from a ten year campaign against the barbarian goths. His return coincides with the election of a new Roman emperor. Saturninus claims the throne as the eldest son of the dead emperor, but his brother Bassianus also lays claim: the people favour Titus, but he declines saying he is too old and too weary and supports Saturninus. Lavinia is chosen by Saturninus as empress to unite the two families, but Bassianus seizes her claiming they are already married. Saturninus therefore turns to Tamora who has already sworn vengeance against Titus and his family. Aaron the Moor and lover of Tamora plots to destabilise the regime and instigates two of Tamora's sons to rape and disfigure Lavinia and kill Bassianus. War breaks out between the families as each murder leads to more bloodshed. It can only end when most of the principal characters are dead, but their is no moral to this story, the violence continues to the end of the play and the audience is left with the impression that violence is endemic.

Shakespeare was following a tradition of earlier successes in the theatre: Thomas Kyd's The Spanish Tragedy and Christopher Marlowe's the Jew of Malta were both revenge tragedy's, but Shakespeare took this theme and ran with it further into the darkness and darkness is the overall impression that I got from this play. The BBC production starring Trevor Peacock as Titus stays true to the text and there is no light at all in the 2 and a half hours playing time. It does show how well the play can be made to work. An evening in the theatre with this play cannot fail to depress the viewer. No thoughts of better times ahead, no optimism, just blackness piled on blackness. Perhaps it was a play of its time with the theatres on the verge of being closed due to the plague. It does not make for cheerful viewing during the covid 19 epidemic. It is a powerful unrelenting play and I can understand why it might be well thought of by some, but for me at this moment in time I could quite cheerfully pass it by 4 stars, but 5 stars for the BBC film.

joulukuu 26, 2020, 9:34 am

Barnabe Barnes - Parthenophil and Parthenophe: Sonnets, madrigals, elegies and odes.
This collection of Elizabethan love poetry first appeared in 1593 in a small private print run and were anonymous. They were reprinted subsequently under the name of the poet Barnabe Barnes. It is a large and varied collection of poems containing 105 sonnets, 21 elegies, 21 odes, 26 madrigals, 3 canzones, 5 sestinas, and an eidillion. The variety is in their form not their subject matter. They are love poems following the example set by the Italian renaissance poet Petrarch. They are poems of unrequited love and were closely connected with the idea of courtly love. However Barnes was not a courtier in the traditional sense, merely a gentleman which might account for the final couple of poems in the sequence where the lover Parthenophil in desperation tricks Parthenophe into love making that would be construed as rape.

There are an awful lot of poems and they are presented without much narrative thread. The sonnets take up much of the first part of the collection interspersed with some madrigals. Parthenophil as the poet/speaker is enamoured by Laya, but in sonnet five she takes up with a courtier and Parthenophil is able to escape away to find Parthenophe, who at first is pleased to see him, but by sonnet 9 he is already complaining:

"Thus in her love She made me such hard measure"

The poems then fall into the well worn track of the poet praising his loves beauties and also becoming increasingly frustrated because she seems to pay him less and less attention. There are then some sequences of sonnet/complaints: one particular set uses the signs of the zodiac, another the power of his loved ones eyes, there are many poems describing his hot passion and her cold reproof and many more on the sorrows of unrequited love. After sonnet 102 there are a sequence of elegies where new themes are introduced and the frustrated poet seems more inclined to plot his revenge, noting that his poems will be for all to see and will show the hardness of Parthenophe's heart

"And thine hard heart, thy beauty's shameful stain I
And that foul stain, thine endless infamy !
So, though Thou still in record do remain,
The records reckon but thine obloquy !
When on the paper, which my Passion bears,
Relenting readers, for my sake ! shed tears"

There then follows a series of odes and then some pastorals where the poet imagines himself in the innocent world of the shepherds.

There is a final sonnet, which underlines the action he will take in the final sestina where he will summon Hecate and her magic spells to kindle the passion in Parthenophe:

AH ME ! How many ways have I assayed,
To win my Mistress to my ceaseless suit !
What endless means and prayers have I made
To thy fair graces ! ever deaf and mute.
At thy long absence, like an errand page,
With sighs and tears, long journeys did I make
Through paths unknown, in tedious pilgrimage ;
And never slept, but always did awake
And having found Thee ruthless and unkind ;
Soft skinned, hard hearted ; sweet looks, void of pity;
Ten thousand furies raged in my mind,
Changing the tenour of my lovely Ditty;
By whose enchanting Saws and magic Spell, '
Thine hard, indurate heart, I must compel.

And the spells work a treat because:

'Tis now acquitted ! Cease your former tears !
For as She once, with rage my body kindled ;
So in hers, am I buried this night.

Barnaby Barnes is a poet who was not afraid to play with the more classical forms of poetry and so there are a number of fifteen line sonnets and his madrigals and odes take on a number of formats. The poetry cannot help but be a little repetitive and there are some quite dull examples here. Saying the same things that many of the Elizabethan soniteers were saying is not going to make for much originality of thought, but this was not the aim as I suspect that Barnes found his pleasure in tweaking with the formal structures. This is by no means essential, but if you like the Elizabethan sonneteers you can do worse than Barnes. 3.5 stars.

Sonnet LIX

AH ME ! sweet beauty lost, returns no more.
And how I fear mine heart fraught with disdain !
Despair of her disdain, casts doubt before ;
And makes me thus of mine heart's hope complain.
Ah, me ! nor mine heart's hope, nor help. Despair !
Avoid my Fancy ! Fancy's utter bane ! .;.
My woes' chief worker ! Cause of all my care !
Avoid my thoughts ! that Hope may me restore
To mine heart's heaven, and happiness again !
Ah, wilt thou not ? but still depress my thought !
Ah, Mistress ! if thy beauty, this hath wrought.
That proud disdainfulness shall in thee reign :
Yet, think ! when in thy forehead wrinkles be ;
Men will disdain thee, then, as thou dost me

joulukuu 27, 2020, 4:08 am

Bas, I don't know how you select each of your next readings, but you manage to grab our interest each time again. I imagine that you have a huge wooden antique chest, filled with old tomes out of which you grab ( blindfolded ) the next volume for your reading and review list.
Bravo for your perseverance and my best wishes for you and your loved ones !

tammikuu 11, 2021, 12:09 pm

Thanks Mac for your good wishes

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 13, 2021, 5:42 pm

Elizabethan Sonnet-Cycles II: Thomas Lodge - Phillis: Honored with Pastoral Sonnets, Elegies and Amorous Delights. Part of a cycle edited by Martha Foote Crow (Free at Project Gutenberg) so not from my huge wooden chest of old tomes.

In the mid 1590's there seemed to be a rush to get poetry collections into print, perhaps caused by the publishing of Sir Philip Sydneys Astrophil and Stella in 1591. Many of these collections have been filed away under the genre of The Elizabethan Love Sonnet. They took as a template Petrarch's Canzoniere in which the poet by means of sonnets, odes, elegies and songs proclaimed his undying love for Laura. Petrarch took over 44 years to put his collection together only brought to its completion by his death in 1374. Over two hundred years later and still feeling the legacy of the idea of courtly love the Elizabethans who followed Sidney were seeming to make their collections little more than poetical exercises. In many cases there seems to be no actual unrequited love affair involved; it is more an exercise for the poet to describe his degrees of suffering for an unobtainable love match. The poetry has become academic and abstract as the search for: or in many cases the refinement of existing imagery is the reason for the appearance of the collections at the publishing houses.

When approaching one of the love sonnet collections I ask myself what's new. Is there anything here to distinguish it from those that have gone before. In the case of Thomas Lodge's Phillis the answer to the first question is no and the answer to the second question is 'not much' and if the reader was interested in "Amorous Delights" promised in the subtitle then he would be disappointed. Thomas lodge was the son of the Lord Mayor of London and tried his hand at various types of written work: plays, pamphlets, social and morale tracts, historical prose, romantic stories and of course poetry. His most successful work was the romantic love story Rosalynde, which does contain some poetry. He undertook at least three sea voyages and on one of them he wrote Phillis, sonnet II:

You sacred sea-nymphs pleasantly disporting
Amidst this wat'ry world, where now I sail;
If ever love, or lovers sad reporting,
Had power sweet tears from your fair eyes to hail;
And you, more gentle-hearted than the rest,
Under the northern noon-stead sweetly streaming,
Lend those moist riches of your crystal crest,
To quench the flames from my heart's Ætna streaming;
And thou, kind Triton, in thy trumpet relish
The ruthful accents of my discontent,
That midst this travel desolate and hellish,
Some gentle wind that listens my lament
May prattle in the north in Phillis' ears:
"Where Phillis wants, Damon consumes in tears."

The positives from the collection are the freshness of Lodge's poetry; he does not draw so much on classical antiquity and obscure imagery and his poetry can sing with a more natural voice than some. Although the collection does not seem to go anywhere; there is no story line, it has been shaped as a pastoral and so there are a couple of eglogs (ecologues) and a debate between Damon and Damades while they tend their flocks of sheep. Perhaps a man like Lodge who was adept at satirical works and many other kinds of writing felt constrained by the love sonnet format. The frustration of the speaker comes through in the final five eight line stanzas ending with:

"Prime youth lusts not age still follow,
And make white these tresses yellow;
Wrinkled face for looks delightful
Shall acquaint the dame despightful;
And when time shall eat thy glory,
Then too late thou wilt be sorry.
Siren pleasant, foe to reason,
Cupid plague thee for thy treason!"

The final sonnet is ambiguous and seems to take the poet back to wondering if his poetry will survive. A collection of poems not without interest, but they might seem dull to some readers and so 3 stars.
Here is one of his more successful sonnets from the collection even if that final line does not quite fit.

Burst, burst, poor heart! Thou hast no longer hope;
Captive mine eyes unto eternal sleep;
Let all my senses have no further scope;
Let death be lord of me and all my sheep!
For Phillis hath betrothèd fierce disdain,
That makes his mortal mansion in her heart;
And though my tongue have long time taken pain
To sue divorce and wed her to desert,
She will not yield, my words can have no power;
She scorns my faith, she laughs at my sad lays,
She fills my soul with never ceasing sour,
Who filled the world with volumes of her praise.
In such extremes what wretch can cease to crave
His peace from death, who can no mercy have!

tammikuu 13, 2021, 5:41 pm

Elizabethan Sonnet-Cycles II Licia or Poems of love in honour of the admirable and singular virtues of his lady, to the imitation of the best Latin poets and others by Giles Fletcher. This is the second sonnet collection in the book edited by Martha Foote Crow >31 baswood:

Giles Fletcher came from a well to do family, educated at Eton and Trinity college. He was known for his public services, not as a poet or courtier. He claimed that Lucia was written at a time of idleness and he did it only to try his humour. He claimed that love was a goddess and the subject was not for a vulgar head, a base mind, an ordinary conceit, or a common person. He was claiming that his collection of poems were an exercise in writing poetry and it is clear that there never was a Licia; she was an invention that would be the object of his poems.

When the title of the collection refers to them as being "the imitation of the best Latin poets" it is no surprise to find them unoriginal in form and subject. There are 52 sonnets, an ode, a dialogue, a poetical maze and finally an elegy. On the plus side is that they are well composed and read easily. They are written without some of the poetical flourishes of his contemporaries with his imagery being less fantastic than some, mainly sticking to the well worn template. He does occasionally rise above the commonplace take sonnet 6 as an example:

My love amazed did blush herself to see,
Pictured by art, all naked as she was.
"How could the painter know so much by me,
Or art effect what he hath brought to pass?
It is not like he naked me hath seen,
Or stood so nigh for to observe so much."
No, sweet; his eyes so near have never been,
Nor could his hands by art have cunning such;
I showed my heart, wherein you printed were,
You, naked you, as here you painted are;
In that my love your picture I must wear,
And show't to all, unless you have more care.
Then take my heart, and place it with your own;
So shall you naked never more be known.

He proved to be more unselfish than some:

First did I fear, when first my love began;
Possessed in fits by watchful jealousy,
I sought to keep what I by favour won,
And brooked no partner in my love to be.
But tyrant sickness fed upon my love,
And spread his ensigns, dyed with colour white;
Then was suspicion glad for to remove,
And loving much did fear to lose her quite.
Erect, fair sweet, the colors thou didst wear;
Dislodge thy griefs; the short'ners of content;
For now of life, not love, is all my fear,
Lest life and love be both together spent.
Live but, fair love, and banish thy disease,
And love, kind heart, both where and whom thou please.

The last sonnet of the collection hints that he has gained the object of his desire, but it is fairly pedestrian and no cause for celebration. The final three part elegy pus the reader out of his misery:

Down in a bed and on a bed of down,
Love, she, and I to sleep together lay;
She like a wanton kissed me with a frown,
Sleep, sleep, she said, but meant to steal away;
I could not choose but kiss, but wake, but smile,
To see how she thought us two to beguile.

It is not difficult to read Fletcher's collection, but most of his poetry slips by without making an impression and the long A Lover's Maze is best avoided. It is a further example of a sonnet collection which will be most appreciated by people that enjoy the Elizabethan sonnet form. I found some enjoyment but would rate it as 2.5 stars.

tammikuu 25, 2021, 9:29 am

Thomas Lodge - The LIfe and Death of William Longbeard.
Thomas Lodge was a university man who made his living as an author in Elizabethan England. He never finished his law degree, but instead became a prolific writer in fiction, non fiction, drama and poetry. This short chronicle from 1593 is written in a genre that has come to be known as historical fiction, however in Elizabethan times no such prose work would have been printed without a selection of poetry and songs and this one is no exception with thirteen items inserted by Lodge. The source of Lodge's narrative is mainly Robert Fabyan's chronicle which was reprinted in 1559 and what is most interesting are the additions that Lodge made to the text which is otherwise fairly well condensed.

This is the story of a twelfth century rabble-rouser; William Fitzosbert who claimed to know KIng Richard Ist personally. The outline of the tale is that William Fitzosbert (Longbeard) was an ambitious child prodigy
of a well to do family, who framed his older brother for treason and inherited the family wealth and lands, when his brother was executed. He sought the support of the craftsmen and poor of the city and acted for them in legal disputes, gaining a number of devoted followers. His entourage around the city came to rival many of the courtiers to King Richard and this could not fail to anger the king and finally he was arraigned with nine of his followers on charges of treason. He and his followers were found guilty and they were all hung drawn and quartered.

Apart from the songs and poetry Lodge enhanced the story with two major additions. The first was with an example of the cases brought before the local assizes, where William acted for the plaintiff in this case a woman reduced to poverty by the actions of her landlord. The woman's husband before his death had provided the landlord with a sum of money to invest for him as provision for his family. The investment had not been made and the money spent. William was able to piece together some torn documentation that proved the poor woman's case. Lodge himself was a supplicant to the court over loans and investments of his own properties and had fallen foul of more wealthy opponents and so this was a subject dear to him, but in his addition to the story he stressed the suffering of the poor woman and composed a pitiful lullaby that she sang to her hungry children. To balance the work that William did on behalf of the poor his other addition told a story of his love affair with the unchaste Maudline. He dressed her in finery and her pranking around town caused tongues to wag and William murdered another of her suiters. Lodge takes the opportunity here to add a number of songs and sonnets written to Maudlin by William.

Traitors cannot be countenanced and however much good work William did Lodge stresses that it was his pride and his vanity that set him on his path and with the inclusion of the murder and his subsequent challenge to authority as well as the framing of his brother he was deservedly executed. Lodge ends the story with William's confession and included some spiritual poetry aimed at saving William's soul.

Lodge's lively retelling of William Fitzosbert's story makes an interesting narrative, especially as he portrays two sides to Williams character and he dwells somewhat on the plight of poor people unable to compete with their more wealthy counterparts. However in the final paragraph Lodge is clear that William's fate is an example to those who challenge the accepted order of society.

"Thus ended the life of William Long Beard: a glass for all sorts to look into, wherein the high minded may learn to know the mean and corrupt confusion of their wickedness........."

This is a good example of the better written prose that was appearing at the time, free from the euphuisms of John Lilly. In addition Lodge has used his own experiences to add a further dimension and so 3.5 stars.

helmikuu 18, 2021, 12:06 pm

A Dialogue concerning Witches & Witchcrafts - George Gifford in which is played open the devil deceiveth not only the witches but many other, and so leadeth them awry into many great errors.
Gifford was a preacher active in Essex in late Elizabethan period and often in trouble because of his nonconformity; he published a group of writings in which he described the attitudes of the 'common sort.’ This treatise was published in 1593. Its purpose was to prevent men from being seduced by the devil into believing that witches really have the powers that they claim and into consulting those “whom the people call cunning men” in order to obtain charms against witchcraft. He was also concerned that much innocent blood is shed in the search for witches.

Gifford was a puritan and lived in a part of England where witches were deemed to be prevalent. He does not deny the existence of witches and even if he did privately, he knew that belief in witches; their spells and charms were so ingrained in society that it would be pointless to claim otherwise. His Dialogue is a conversation between five people: Samuel, Samuel's wife, Daniel a preacher (who represents Gifford), a schoolmaster and Goodwife R. Daniel meets up with Samuel, and comments that Samuel looks pale. Samuel says he has not felt well lately and a hog and some chickens have mysteriously died and suspects an old woman who has been frowning at him. He has also seen a weasel and an ugly black cat running through his yard. He has been advised to travel to another village and consult some 'cunning' man for a charm to stop further misdemeanours. Daniel suggests they go back to Samuels house to talk about it and there they meet up with the Schoolmaster and Samuel's wife and Goodwife R.

Daniel starts the conversation by saying to Samuel that it is a great sin rising from unbelief, and distrust in God's providence, when men be over pensive in the world and that they should follow his advice. He addresses his remarks to the schoolteacher, but if he was hoping to find a like mind he discovered that he was mistaken. The schoolmaster expresses views similar to Samuels and the result is a lively argument where Daniel makes a case based on his religious belief. He says that men should learn to know God who is all powerful and should not take action against witches or seek the help of 'cunning men or women'. He says that it is the work of the devil who uses the weakness of men and women to fire their imaginations with evil thoughts. The schoolmaster replies that it is said in the bible that witches should be killed and a circular argument develops with interjections from Samuel about the powers of the Devil and Gods ultimate authority in these matters. Daniel is hard pressed to convince the two men who produce many local examples of witchcraft for Daniel to refute. Over 100 pages later and finally the schoolmaster comes around to Daniels point of view, but Samuel then tells of cases that he has witnessed at the local assizes as a jurer. Daniel replies if women are convicted of witchcraft because of here-say then Samuel has blood on his hands. The argument starts all over again. Finally the two men are convinced, but not Goodwife R who states that no scripture men are going to convince her that she must not to seek the help of cunning men and women against witches curses. Goodwife R storms out in a huff leaving the schoolmaster to remark that "she is wilful indeed."

Although the arguments go round in circles and Daniel is extremely repetitive in his arguments the treatise points out many local examples and underlines the deeply held belief in witchcraft. Daniel has an uphill struggle to convince the men and he will never convince Goodwife R. Worth a read and so 3 stars.

huhtikuu 18, 2021, 6:48 pm

Shakespeare's Poems (The Arden Shakespeare)
What to do if you are a playwright and the theatres are closed because of the plague. Well if you fancy yourself as a bit of a poet then you can stay at home and write some poetry. This is what Shakespeare did and in 1593 he published Venus and Adonis and in 1594 The Rape of Lucrece. They were the first items published under his own name. He was already a writer and actor of note in the theatre, but had not published any of his early plays and would not do so himself in his lifetime. Venus and Adonis was an immediate hit and soon went through seven re-prints. The more sombre Rape of Lucrece was not quite so popular, but there were still a number of re-prints. Perhaps he asked himself "what sells:" well there were plenty of poets and sonneteers rushing into print after the success of Philip Sidney's Astrophil and Stella and sex (I mean love poetry) sells better than most. So Shakespeare made his name as a poet and maybe a poet of erotic verse.

Venus and Adonis (1190 lines) and The Rape of Lucrece (1855) are both long narrative poems and as far as we know Shakespeare never attempted anything similar, apart from his sonnet collection (not included in this book). The reading public and even Shakespeare himself may have thought that he was first and foremost a poet and his place in literature would be judged on his poems. Venus and Adonis is a retelling and an augmentation of a story by the Latin Poet Ovid, but Shakespeare gives it a twist in that he makes the character of Adonis; beautiful although he is; a sullen young adolescent who is not interested in love. Goddess Venus does all she knows to tempt him to have sex, but the young lad is only interested in hunting. Shakespeare's poem is one of seduction, but like the playwright he is, we see both sides of the story. Here is an example of Venus hot love for Adonis:

And having felt the sweetness of the spoil,
With blindfold fury she begins to forage;
Her face doth reek and smoke, her blood doth boil,
And careless lust stirs up a desperate courage,
Planting oblivion, beating reason back,
Forgetting shame’s pure blush and honour’s wrack.

Hot, faint, and weary, with her hard embracing,
Like a wild bird being tam’d with too much handling,
Or as the fleet-foot roe that’s tir’d with chasing,
Or like the froward infant still’d with dandling:
He now obeys, and now no more resisteth,
While she takes all she can, not all she listeth.

The poem takes the form of six line stanzas with a rhyming scheme mostly in iambic pentameters. It is never dull and was said to be popular with young men, especially with Venus the goddess of love featuring in the title of the poem. The poem is a delight from start to finish and the immediacy of the action makes it an exciting read.

The Rape of Lucrece dramatises an episode from Roman History. It is a poem of seven line stanzas again in iambic pentameters and a rhyming scheme. Tarquin heir apparent to the throne becomes stirred up with lust, when he hears his friend Collatine boasting of his beautiful and chaste wife. Tarquin arranges things so that he can slip away from the army camp ahead of a general release, so that he can stay in Collatine's house with Lucrece. She welcomes him as an honoured guest, but will not be seduced. Later that night Tarquin forces his way into her room and rapes her, afterwards he slinks away and Lucrece is left with the devastation of being violated. She sends an urgent message to her husband to return home as soon as he can and after telling the household of what has taken place she stabs herself to death. Collatine vows to destroy the Tarquin kings of Rome. This is a tragic story and Shakespeare gives all due weight to the events.

The poem can be read as an allegory of passive suffering under a tyrant leading to his overthrow when he abuses his power, however that does not seem to be Shakespeare's intention because the horror of the rape and then the suicide is at the heart of this poem. Shakespeare tells the first part of the story from Tarquin's point of view. His brief struggles with his conscience, his worries about the consequences of the rape that he is going to commit and then the lust that takes hold of him. Here is Tarquin in Lucrece's bedroom:

As the grim lion fawneth o'er his prey,
Sharp hunger by the conquest satisfied,
So o'er this sleeping soul doth Tarquin stay,
His rage of lust by grazing qualified;
Slack'd, not suppress'd; for standing by her side,
His eye, which late this mutiny restrains,
Unto a greater uproar tempts his veins:

And they, like straggling slaves for pillage fighting,
Obdurate vassals fell exploits effecting,
In bloody death and ravishment delighting,
Nor children's tears nor mothers' groans respecting,
Swell in their pride, the onset still expecting:
Anon his beating heart, alarum striking,
Gives the hot charge and bids them do their liking.

In spite of all his threats she does not consent and after the rape she is mortified. The point of view then changes to Lucrece as she wrestles with how to deal with her violation. Should she kill herself? she cannot pretend that nothing has happened, can she get revenge? Shakespeare uses many verses to describe her thoughts as she wrestles with her situation and finally when she takes action it makes for the tragedy:

Here with a sigh, as if her heart would break,
She throws forth Tarquin's name: 'He, he,' she says,
But more than 'he' her poor tongue could not speak;
Till after many accents and delays,
Untimely breathings, sick and short assays,
She utters this, 'He, he, fair lords, 'tis he,
That guides this hand to give this wound to me.'

Even here she sheathed in her harmless breast
A harmful knife, that thence her soul unsheathed:
That blow did bail it from the deep unrest
Of that polluted prison where it breathed:
Her contrite sighs unto the clouds bequeathed
Her winged sprite, and through her wounds doth fly
Life's lasting date from cancell'd destiny.

Two poems that deal with sexual aggression and while one is more light and frothy, the other is sombre and tragic. Both poems demonstrate Shakespeare's powers as a poet; in telling a narrative and plunging the reader into the heart of the situation described. In Venus and Adonis there are some vivid hunting scenes and animals of the woodland feature prominently. In The Rape of Lucrece a painting of the trojan war is used to demonstrate the anguish of Lucrece. There are some brilliant stanzas and while Shakespeare's contemporaries fooled around with pretty verses he made some real drama. There are some other poems and bits and pieces, but the discussion in the introduction is mainly concerned as to whether or not they are by Shakespeare. There is very little else to detain the reader, but these two great poems are enough and so 5 stars.

huhtikuu 28, 2021, 5:45 pm

Christ's Tears Over Jerusalem - Thomas Nashe
Thomas Nashe (1567-1601) was an Elizabethan playwright poet and satirist, but made his name as a pamphleteer. Christ's Tears over Jerusalem was printed in 1593 and established Nashe as an important voice in the world of Elizabethan pamphleteers. He had already made his mark in the religious pamphlet war surrounding the Martin Marprelate controversy and was engaged in a bitter rivalry with Gabriel Harvey. In a note to the readers of this pamphlet he says he wished to bury the Hatchet with Harvey, but with Nashe one is never too sure; where he wants to bury his hatchet (maybe in the back of Gabriel Harvey).

Christ's tears over Jerusalem takes up the first half of this pamphlet. Nashe imagines that Christ is looking down on Jerusalem with tears in his eyes knowing that he will be crucified by the Jews. Quoting extensively from the bible and putting some of the stories and parables in his own words Nashe as Christ berates the Jews for their treatment of him and of each other. His basic message is that the Jews brought their banishment from the city on themselves. Nashe's language is colourful in the extreme here is an example:

'Jerusalem, ever after thy bloody hecatomb or burial, the sun (rising & setting) shall enrobe himself in scarlet, and the maiden moon (in the ascension of her perfection) shall have her crimson cheeks (as they would burst) round balled out with blood. Those ruddy investurings and scarlet habiliments from the cloud-climbing slaughter-stack of thy dead carcasses shall they exhalingly quintessence, to the end thou may’st not only be culpable of gorging the earth, but of goring the heavens with blood, and in witness against thee, wear them they shall to the world’s end as the liveries of thy waning.'

After venting his spleen against Jerusalem and its inhabitants Nashe turns his attention to London and I found this second part far more interesting. He says:

'As great a desolation as Jerusalem hath London deserved.'

He then releases a torrent of invective against the sins of the people of London in the Elizabethan era. His invective is mainly turned towards the rich, but Jews, women and some of the idle ministers and pastors are also singled out. The sins of London he deals with in turn: Ambition and pride, avarice, usury, vainglory, atheism, discontent, contention, disdain, delicacy, gluttony, luxury, sloth and security. He ends all this with a reference to the plague (1593 was a plague year in London):

'Comfort us, Lord; we mourn, our bread is mingled with ashes, and our drink with tears. With so many funerals are we oppressed, that we have no leisure to weep for our sins for howling for our sons and daughters. O, hear the voice of our howling; withdraw thy hand from us, & we will draw near unto thee.'

At the start of the pamphlet following the usual dedication there is a note to the reader which ends with:

'Farewell all those that wish me well; others wish I more wit to.'

The language is so colourful, so over the top, that one wonders just how seriously we should be taking these words of Thomas Nashe. I read a modern spelling edition on the oxford-shakespeare website. 3 stars.

toukokuu 22, 2021, 12:31 pm

Thomas Nashe - The Unfortunate Traveller or The Life of jack Wilton.
Thomas Nashe - Terrors of the Night.

Nashe's The Unfortunate Traveller reads like pulp fiction, unfortunately for Nashe it was written at a time when there was no market for it. Thomas Nashe (1567-1601) was an Elizabethan playwright, poet and satirist who had made his name as a pamphleteer. His previous publication was Christ Tears over Jerusalem published 1593 in which he imagined that Jesus Christ is looking down on Jerusalem and weeping to see the moral corruption that will lead to his crucifixion: a moral text which comes across as a fiery sermon to the unchristian. The Unfortunate Traveller by contrast has no moral compass, but is written in the style of a picaresque novel and delights in the escapades of a rogue: Jack Wilton, who barrels around Europe, in his attempts to get rich quick and enjoy himself as much as possible along the way.

This is a radical work that hardly bears any relation to anything I have read previously in English Renaissance literature. It is radical in the sense of the readers at which it was aimed and one wonders if those readers existed at the time, because it did not sell particularly well. Nashe had already shown that he was a writer whose colourful language and striking metaphors could enliven many a dull text, but in The Unfortunate Traveller he not only throws the kitchen sink into his work, but he makes it subversive. It is rapacious, grotesque, voyeuristic and transgresses almost every known genre of popular fiction of its time. It could be compared to the carnivalistic writing of Rabelais, but by anchoring his story in an historical setting Nashe adds realism and cruelty to the mix.

The story is episodic in nature and starts with Jack Wilton loosely connected to the entourage around Henry VIII campaign in France. His merry pranks and swindles and the onset of the sweating sickness result in him leaving the campaign as quickly as he could and he arrives in Munster to witness the merciless massacre of John Leiden's Anabaptist faction. He meets Henry Howard Earl of Surrey the famous poet and courtier and they become travelling companions. They exchange identities in order that the Earl of Surrey can travel incognito and in Rotterdam they hobnob with Erasmus and Sir Thomas Moore. Henry Howard is searching for his beloved Geraldine and they travel to Italy meeting Cornelius Agrippa on the way. Various plots and subterfuge result in the two companions being imprisoned for fraud and they are only saved from execution by the intervention of the famous satirist Pietro Aretino. Jack watches Henry Howard compete and win a jousting tournament before leaving with Diamante a beautiful courtesan. In Rome Jack barricades himself in an upstairs room and watches through a gap in the floorboards the protracted and violent rape of Heraclide by the bandit Esdras. Jack is accused of the rape but escapes to search for Diamante who he finds enslaved by the Jew Zadok. He gleefully watches the horrific execution of the Jew. Jack and Diamante travel to Bologna where the violent Cutwolf catches up with Esdras and shoots him in the mouth. Jack watches yet another brutal execution of the proud Cutwolf before fleeing back to the English encampment and reflecting on the dangers of travelling.

The novel starts with Jack and his clever swindles rather in the style of Robert Greene's conny catching, but soon takes a darker turn with the descriptions of the sweating sickness. The horrific massacre of the Anabaptists and the execution of John Leiden starts the trail of violence that will eventually lead to rape and murder. Along the way we are entertained by a sort of throwback story of Knights jousting in a tournament with Nashe supplying voluminous satirical descriptions of the knights attire. He also finds time to attach a couple of sonnets supposedly written in the style of Henry Howard. The reader is never far away from the next violent incident, but the rape of Heraclide is monstrous and we are in the realms of violent pornography. The executions that follow are gruesome and it is the feel of being a voyeur through Jacks eyes that makes these scenes so evocative.

Nashe knew he was writing something different, something new and in his dedication to the Earl of Southampton he describes his work as being in a clean different vein. He goes on to address the Dapper Monsieur Pages of the Court asking them to enjoy the wit and hear Jack Wilton tell his own tales. Perhaps the satire and the realistic descriptions of the violent events did not appeal and the work was largely forgotten until the late nineteenth century. It was rediscovered and is probably as popular now as it ever was. It can be read free on the internet in glorious modern English courtesy of Nina Green at the oxford-shakespeare.com website. Perhaps not great literature but let Nashe have the last word:

All the conclusive epilogue I will make is this, that if herein I have pleased any, it shall animate me to more pains in this kind. Otherwise, I will swear upon an English chronicle never to be outlandish chronicler more while I live. Farewell, as many as wish me well. June 27, 1593.

A five star read if only for its daring to be something different.

Terrors of the Night is more typical of the work of a pamphleteer and while first trying to frighten the reader with the idea that spirits, fairies and other unknown beings inhabit the air all around us, it then goes on to say something about dreams. In Nashe's view dreams are the waste material circulating around our minds when we are asleep and are not significant in forecasting our future.

Perhaps Terrors of the Night could be brought on by reading his The unfortunate Traveller just before bedtime.

toukokuu 25, 2021, 1:20 am

A five star review !
Nashe as a precursor of the marquis de Sade ?

kesäkuu 26, 2021, 11:51 am

Shakespeare's handwriting ?

Sir Thomas More: A play by Anthony Munday and Others: revised by Henry Chettle, Thomas Dekker, Thomas Heywood and William Shakespeare.
As the title suggests this Elizabethan play underwent a complicated history of production and although a fair copy was eventually made by Anthony Munday, apparently it never made it onto a London Stage. Although many hands were involved the actual finished item (if it was ever finished) reads very well indeed. Claims have been made that it is one of the best of the Elizabethan history plays and the form in which it can be read today demonstrates that it is stage worthy: ie that it would work well enough without major adjustments. In addition to this there are three pages of the manuscripts that have been confidently identified by some, as being by William Shakespeare's own hand and these seem to be the only pages of a manuscript written by Shakespeare that have come down to us. All this points to it being a bit of a mystery as to why it is not better known.

The play based on incidents in the life of Sir Thomas More falls fairly neatly into two parts; depicting his rise to power and then his dramatic fall and execution. The intense anti-foreigner feeling expressed in the first part of the play more than echoes the anti immigrant convictions of the majority of people in The UK, in America and in Europe today, perhaps it's topicality is one aspect of it's failure for being considered for a serious modern revival. Governments today are still shy of appearing as out and out racists, while at the same time encouraging their people to be so. In Henry VII's England the people of London rioted against the foreigners living in the city, they lived in enclaves that were seen to have economic and social advantages over the native population. In the play this comes down to an incident where foreigners are forcibly taking food from a London artisan, who is not deemed worthy enough to appreciate the delicacies and then also taking his wife into the bargain. Preachers at Spitalfields encourage the anger against the foreigners and it is Thomas More's intervention when he was an under Sheriff that persuaded the rioters to return to their homes. Thomas More is knighted and he becomes chancellor to king Henry VIII. This part of the story is skilfully conflated by the authors and there follows a scene midway through the play where Sir Thomas is entertaining dignitaries at his London home and provides a troupe of players to provide the entertainment. This play within a play entitled "the marriage of wit and wisdom" provides a sort of hiatus in the proceedings. It is included to demonstrate the wit of Sir Thomas, because the troupe are a player short and Sir Thomas himself offers to play a part. The final two acts of the five act play, show More's fall from power when he refuses to sign the articles that make the King the supreme head of the church. This part of the play shows Sir Thomas as a martyr to his faith. Going to his execution with equanimity joking to the last and confident in himself and his family. It is poignant but without actually saying so points to the king as merciless and a villain.

Sir Thomas More was one of the few Elizabethan plays to be based on recent history; Elizabeth I was Henry VIII 's daughter and so it was no surprise that the play would run into censorship problems and it is well documented that the Master of the Revels Edmund Tilney; became involved and sent the original copy back for rewriting. Anthony Munday was a fierce anti-catholic involved in priest hunting and so it would seem that he would make the necessary adjustments, but although some were made, Sir Thomas More is still very much the hero. Perhaps then it was never politically suitable to be played during Elizabeths reign. It might be more ( the play is full of puns) appropriate today with its anti foreigner messages.

Act scene iii is the portion written in Shakespeare's hand and contains the speech of Thomas More that quells the riot. It certainly gives no quarter to the rioters, reminding them that they are the kings subjects, under his protection and reminding them that they owe allegiance to the king. More is able to convince them to desist, because he is seen as an honest man and one who does not necessarily wish to take revenge on the common man. The writing does not particularly stand out from all that has gone before or all that follows, because the writing is of a good standard throughout. This modern spelling edition makes for an enjoyable and entertaining read for anyone interested in Elizabethan drama.

I read the Revels Plays edition edited by Vittorio Gabrieli and Giorgio Melchiori, which proves to be an excellent guide for the interested reader. The introduction, painstakingly yet fairly precisely takes the reader through all the amendments and interventions to Anthony Munday's fair copy. It surmises on the date order of the amendments and the probable reasons as to why they were made. It is an excellent example of its kind, holding the reader interest and giving food for thought on possible additional reading or enquiry. The notes that appear on the same page as the text are detailed and support the information given in the introduction. There are appendices that show amendments that were never included and also details of the source material that was used. It really is an excellent package and enhanced my reading of the play, which is one where the history of the production is as fascinating as the play itself. All in all a five star read.

heinäkuu 12, 2021, 4:12 am

The Famous Victories of Henry the Fifth - Anonymous
A Knack to Know an Honest Man - Anonymous
Two popular plays from London stage of 1594 both of which have connections to Shakespeare, so much so that there has been much critical study to see if he had a hand in either of them. Neither of them claim much evidence of his genius, but both would seem precursors of plays that have safely been attributed to him.

The famous Victories of Henry the Fifth seems to be a template of Shakespeares Henry V and follows the same broad pattern. The first part describes the young prince Henry as a roustabout in London associating with criminals and committing robberies, with the character of Sir John Oldcastle being an earlier version of Shakespeares Falstaff. The play turns at the death of Henry IV when prince Henry becomes king and accepts his new responsibilities and brings to the kingship his prodigious energies in leading England to its famous victory at Agincourt. The play is fairly pedestrian, but might have owed its success to the part of the clown Derick, which tradition has it, was played by the famous comedian Tarlton. There is some conjecture that Tarlton may have written parts of the play himself, anyway he was such a personality on the Elizabethan stage that he only had to make an appearance and he would cause the audience to laugh. Tarlton died in 1588 and so while the play was entered in the Stationer's Registers in 1594 it is clear that it was written some years earlier: the version I read was in prose rather than blank verse which also points clearly to a play that was probably being staged some ten years earlier.

A Knack to know an Honest Man was also entered in the Stationers Registers in 1594, but the version that has come down to us was probably cobbled together from an actual stage performance. It is not divided into acts and scenes and there are no stage directions, the text is apparently not in a good state with some parts missing. It has a complicated plot, but there is evidence that it may well have been at one time a well produced play that was more popular than most. It is written in blank verse, but is fairly uneven and points to being a collaboration of sorts. The action takes place mostly in Venice where nobles and merchants strive to appease the iron rule of Corrodino the Duke of Venice. The play starts with two members of the nobility Sempronto and Lelio fighting after Lelio accuses Sempronto of seducing his wife. Lelio appears to kill Sempronto and flees the city fearing retribution from the Duke. However Sempronto is nursed back to health by the hermit Philip and takes on a disguise as Penitent Experience. Servio the uncle to Sempronto takes advantage of Leilo's absence to sequester his property while Fortunato the Dukes son, has plans to seduce his daughter Lucida and his friend the senatot Marchetto has eyes on his wife Annetta. Brisheo father to Annetta organises a guard on Leilo's house and Fortunato and Marchetto are beaten off, but Brisheo must now also flee the city. It is the task of Sempronto as Penitent Experience to heal all the wounds and make honest men of the various combatants. It is only the merchant and money lender Servio who is beyond being an honest man. Venice, and a recalcitrant money lender like Servio could have been an inspiration for Shakespeares Merchant of Venice.

Neither of these plays would warrant serious consideration today, but are interesting because both were popular in their time and so 3 star reads.

syyskuu 11, 2021, 6:31 pm

The Poems of Sir Walter Ralegh - edited by Agnes Latham
It is a happy coincidence when two separate reading projects come together in one book, and even more happy when the book is as good as this one. The book was edited by Agnes Latham and was published in 1951; the subject is the poems of Sir Walter Ralegh, many of which were thought to be in circulation during the period 1587- 1592. The dating of Raleghs poetry is difficult as none of them were submitted for publication; he has been called an amateur poet (but not by Agnes Latham) because he probably never intended that they should be read outside the group of courtiers surrounding Queen Elizabeth. None were printed during his lifetime and they were not collected after his death. They appear in various later collections and many have been dubiously attributed to Ralegh by those editors. They were of course written in manuscript form and when these survive, the authorship can be guessed from examples of the handwriting, although a knowledge of the professional scribes would be extremely useful.

From the poetry that has been collected and attributed by Agnes Latham; Ralegh is clearly not an amateur poet in the sense that his work is incompetent or inept. It could also be argued that they are not un- professional, because poetry to some extent was the lingua franca of the Elizabethan court and Raleghs poems were professional in the extreme. He was after favours from the queen and inept or incompetent poems would not have cut it. His poetry was admired by his contemporaries and he had something of a champion in his corner, the great English poet Edmund Spenser. There does also seem to have been a rush by later editors to attribute poems to Ralegh and this maybe because Ralegh's poems speak more clearly to contemporary readers. They can burst out from their courtly confines; putting personal feelings ahead of aesthetic sense. The reader catches more than a glimpse of the man behind the poetry and for that reason it is useful to know some of the history of the man himself.

After a brief introduction Agnes Latham launches right into a potted history. He owed his position at Elizabeth's court through his intelligence, his zeal and his ability to play the power games that were a feature amongst Elizabeth's entourage. It was mostly about pleasing and doing the Queens bidding and of course providing entertainment for her majesty, the courtiers vied to become among her favourites and Ralegh without the benefit of a powerful family succeeded in becoming captain of the Yeoman of the guard, with much access to the queen herself. His other exploits as an adventurer, discoverer, coloniser and spy, do not seen to have provided him with much inspiration for poetry. His poetry was all about providing a proxy love to the virgin queen and then expressing regret when it was all over. Ralegh's career as a courtier was almost over by 1592 when he fell out of favour and attempts to get back in the queens good graces were unsuccessful. He threw himself into the discovery of new lands with a voyage of exploration to Guiana perhaps with thoughts of buying his way back into the court.

Agnes Latham attributes 41 existent poems to Ralegh, but some of them are hardly more than epigrams. In a separate section of notes she provides details of her sources for each of the poems, sometimes with short comments on the subject matter and perhaps an attempt to place the poem along the time line of Ralegh's life. Ralegh was a translator and like all good authors of the time, intent on plundering earlier sources for inspiration, and where this is obvious Latham provides a copy of the original work. Latham does not skate over the difficulties in editing the poems and one can only admire her energy in researching the originals, because for some of the more popular poems there are plenty of alternative versions. By far the longest poem is 'The 11th: and last booke of the Ocean to Scinthia' and Latham says:

"I have not attempted to interpret difficult passages. Neither careless scribe or meddlesome printer come between reader and the text, which is, so far as I can reproduce it, what the author wrote. The problems are simply problems of interpretation; matters for the most part upon which a reader prefers his own opinion to any one else's. The meaning in several places is very dark and I cannot claim that I am more enlightened than another"

Well I can vouch for the fact that this is a difficult poem. Fortunately perhaps the previous ten books are non-existent, apart from Ralegh there is no evidence that anybody had read the previous books. Perhaps they were never written, the subject matter is a sort of homage to Queen Elizabeth with a more popular title being 'The ocean's love for Cynthia'; Cynthia being Queen Elizabeth. Perhaps even Ralegh shied away from writing ten volumes in praise of the Queen. The poem is not without interest, as there are some good passages.

Latham refers to some of the poetry as being very dark and certainly as Ralegh started his fall from grace his poetry becomes melancholy and even a little bitter. He was not frightened of writing what he felt, and because of the political nature of the poems he shied away from publication. There are some good love poems, there are plenty on the subject of the wiser adult looking back with envy on his youth and ageing and death never seem far away.

This is an excellent publication for anyone that wants to get more up close and personal with Sir Walter Raleghs poetry and a five star read.

This is one of the most famous poems
The Lie
Go, soul, the body’s guest,
Upon a thankless errand;
Fear not to touch the best;
The truth shall be thy warrant.
Go, since I needs must die,
And give the world the lie.

Say to the court, it glows
And shines like rotten wood;
Say to the church, it shows
What’s good, and doth no good.
If church and court reply,
Then give them both the lie.

Tell potentates, they live
Acting by others’ action;
Not loved unless they give,
Not strong but by a faction.
If potentates reply,
Give potentates the lie.

Tell men of high condition,
That manage the estate,
Their purpose is ambition,
Their practice only hate.
And if they once reply,
Then give them all the lie.

Tell them that brave it most,
They beg for more by spending,
Who, in their greatest cost,
Seek nothing but commending.
And if they make reply,
Then give them all the lie.

Tell zeal it wants devotion;
Tell love it is but lust;
Tell time it is but motion;
Tell flesh it is but dust.
And wish them not reply,
For thou must give the lie.

Tell age it daily wasteth;
Tell honor how it alters;
Tell beauty how she blasteth;
Tell favor how it falters.
And as they shall reply,
Give every one the lie.

Tell wit how much it wrangles
In tickle points of niceness;
Tell wisdom she entangles
Herself in overwiseness.
And when they do reply,
Straight give them both the lie.

Tell physic of her boldness;
Tell skill it is pretension;
Tell charity of coldness;
Tell law it is contention.
And as they do reply,
So give them still the lie.

Tell fortune of her blindness;
Tell nature of decay;
Tell friendship of unkindness;
Tell justice of delay.
And if they will reply,
Then give them all the lie.

Tell arts they have no soundness,
But vary by esteeming;
Tell schools they want profoundness,
And stand too much on seeming.
If arts and schools reply,
Give arts and schools the lie.

Tell faith it’s fled the city;
Tell how the country erreth;
Tell manhood shakes off pity;
Tell virtue least preferreth.
And if they do reply,
Spare not to give the lie.

So when thou hast, as I
Commanded thee, done blabbing—
Although to give the lie
Deserves no less than stabbing—
Stab at thee he that will,
No stab the soul can kill.

lokakuu 13, 2021, 5:22 am

John Dickenson: Prose and Verse
This is a book edited by Rev. Alexander B Grosart and was published in 1878. The Rev Grosart in his introduction says that little is known about the Elizabethan author John Dickenson and there are very few surviving texts of his work. Apparently little has changed since 1878 as a brief search on the internet did not throw up much new information. There are three works by Dickenson in this volume

The Shepheardes Complaint
This is an eclogue - a pastoral poem in a classical style. There is nothing new here, but the poetry is lively enough.

Arisbas Euphues Amidst his slumbers or Cupids Journey to Hell.
This is a pastoral romance probably published in 1594. It is a a mixture of prose, sonnets, lyrics and elegies and tells the story of the exiled prince Arisbas venturing into Arcadia the home of the shepherds. He is found wandering and in distress by a shepherd (Damon) who takes him home to his rude but honest domicile where Arisbas tells his story. He had been betrothed to a woman by his father who he did not love and had since fallen in love with Timocleas. They had run away together and taken ship, but Arisbas had been separated from Timocleas and was now searching for her. Damon tells him that a very handsome young man had recently arrived in Arcadia and perhaps Arisbas should consult him. As in most romances of this type the young man proves to be Timocleas in disguise. She also has a tale to tell. There is also a story of Cupids journey into hell told very much in classical style in poetry and prose which was well known in the Arcadian community of shepherds. As an Elizabethan romance this works quite well.

Greene in Conceipt. New raised from his grave to write the tragique historie of Valeria of London
This is perhaps the most interesting of the three items, If only for the woodcut picture of the Elizabethan writer Robert Greene depicted as wearing his shroud. Greene had died some years earlier, but obviously his works were still popular, hence Dickenson's story supposedly inspired by Greene himself. It is told in prose form with the occasional poem and is very much in the style of John Lyly. It is a moral tale very much in keeping with Greene's oeuvre and moves away from the classical pastoral work of the previous items. The story could have taken place in Elizabethan London. It tells of a rich older man's love (Giraldo) for the beautiful much younger Valeria. There is much debate about an older mans lust for a younger woman and the dangers of a relationship between an older man and a younger woman. Giraldo is not put off by the pitfalls and weds Valeria. As the years pass, Valeria a shrewd young woman looks for romance outside of Giraldo's home and her exploits are revealed to Giraldo by one of his servants. One of Valerias admirers Arthemio takes Valeria into his house, but her expensive habits soon ruin them both.

These items point to a skilled writer, who although has nothing original to say proves to be perfectly at home in the styles of Robert Greene and John Lyly. As examples of the writing of the Elizabethan era they are competent and lively. However at the end of the day for the modern reader they are much of a muchness. 2.5 stars.

lokakuu 13, 2021, 6:05 pm

Richard Barnfield - The Affectionate Shepherd

Scarce had the morning starre hid from the light
Heavens crimson canopie with stars bespangled,
But I began to rue th' unhappy sight
Of that faire boy that had my hart intangled;
Cursing the time, the place, the sense, the sin;
I came, I saw, I viewd, I slipped in.

If it be sinne to love a sweet-fac'd boy,
Whose amber locks trust up in golden tramels
Dangle adowne his lovely cheekes with joy,
When pearle and flowers his faire haire enamels;
If it be sinne to love a lovely lad,
Oh then sinne I, for whom my soule is sad.

The opening two stanzas of this lyric poem could be said to place the reader immediately in a world of homoeroticism. It was published in 1594 when Barnfield was 20 years old and although it had some success, it seems to have suffered because of of its content. This first poem in the collection was subtitled 'The teares of an affectionate shepheard sicke for the love or the complaint of Daphnis for the love of Ganimede' It is Daphnis who is telling the story and he reveals that Queen Guendolen also has designs on the beautiful boy Ganimede. Queen Guendolen is herself being wooed by an older man but:

Now doth he stroke his beard, and now againe
He wipes the drivel from his filthy chin;
Now offers he a kisse, but high Disdaine
Will not permit her hart to pity him:

This seems all too much for Daphnis as he again thinks of the beautiful boy Ganimede and he gets more sensual:

O would to God, so I might have my fee,
My lips were honey, and thy mouth a bee!
Then shouldst thou sucke my sweete and my faire flower,
That now is ripe and full of honey-berries;
Then would I leade thee to my pleasant bower,
Fild full of grapes, of mulberries, and cherries:
Then shouldst thou be my waspe or else my bee,
I would thy hive, and thou my honey, bee.

The poem then becomes a lyric of all the good things that Daphnis has to offer Ganimede in his attempt to get Ganimede to come home with him and live in his sheepcote. He offers him all the beauty that nature has to offer and there are some fine stanzas describing the joys and wonders of the animal and plant life that abounds. He ends by reminding Ganimede that his good looks will be eroded by time, but that Daphnis will still love him. The first part of the poem finishes at this point.

The second part is entitled: 'the second dayes lamentation of the affectionate shepherd'. It would seem that Ganimede has refused Daphnis and he chides him for being cruel and unkind. He then goes on to express his love in more desperate terms. There is a curious sequence where he hones in on Ganimede's long curly hair which he has admired previously, but now he cautions the boy and reminds him that Absolom was killed when his hair caught in a tree. He says that Ganimede's hair is indecent, but he forgives it because love is blind. He the lectures Ganimede on his pride and describes for him the virtues that he should seek to achieve. Their is another curious twist at the end of this section: Daphnis reveals that he is now an old man and that he can say farewell to the love-hating boy

The third part is entitled 'The shepherds content, or the happiness of a harmless life. Written on the occasion of the former subject.' This section portrays the joys of the shepherds life, the simple pleasures and the freedom from worries. Again their is a curious section where three stanzas are inserted in praise of Sir Philip Sidney ending with the hope that his soul sleeps in sweet Elysium. The poem then goes on to further extoll the joys of a shepherds life and all thoughts of the love for Ganimede have been forgotten.

The third section certainly anchors the poem in the pastoral tradition. There follows a sonnet and a complaint, but theses can be quickly passed over. The Affectionate Shepherd is a bit of a find, there is much to delight the modern reader. The verse flows easily and does not lose its musical feel. I suppose one has to bear in mind that it is based on the classical pastoral tradition and so may appear artificial to readers who are not familiar with the genre. I thoroughly enjoyed its freshness and vitality and so 4 stars.

marraskuu 26, 2021, 6:24 pm

Samuel Daniel - The tragedie of Cleopatra from the complete works in verse and prose of Samuel Daniel
1594 saw the publication of Samuel Daniel's play The tragedy of Cleopatra. It was probably never performed on stage, even though Daniel in 1607 adapted it in an effort to make it more stage worthy. The 1594 version has come to be known as a closet drama, because it is more appealing as a printed copy to be read in private at home. There is no action to speak of, being more a series of set speeches that tell the story, of the suicide of the Egyptian queen: starting with Cleopatra herself, whose soliloquy takes up the whole of Act 1. The play is written entirely in rhymed verse and so to be successful the poetry needs to be good. In fact it is very good and there is much to be enjoyed.

Samuel Daniel was a professional writer, that is clear from the amount of publications that appeared during his lifetime. He was known mainly for his poetry having published earlier his sonnet sequence Delia which was much admired. Daniel needed the support of a patron and he was under the wing of Lady Mary, Countess of Pembroke to whom he dedicated a long poem praising her virtues, his muse, his success as a sonneteer and invoking the spirit of Sir Philip Sidney and our own Edmund Spencer. Being able to include his own name with Spencer and Sidney probably shows that he saw himself as a poet rather than a dramatist and that he was not risking being scorned for including himself in such illustrious company.

After the dedication to Lady Mary there is an 'argument,' which takes the form of a short prose piece that tells the story of Cleopatra, the same story which Daniel will expound at length with his poetry. This has the effect of diminishing any drama, because the reader already knows the story and can concentrate on the quality of the verse. After the death of Mark Anthony Cleopatra flees to her own monument where she prepares herself for death. The victorious Octavius Caesar wishes to take her back to Rome where he can show her off in his victory parade. The poem tells of the battle of wills between Cleopatra and Ottavius and how she manages to outwit him by arranging for a couple of deadly snakes hidden in a bowl of figs to be brought into her tomb.

The theme of the poem is the character of Cleopatra and describes her feelings and actions at a time of a great emotional crisis. She has lost and betrayed her lover Mark Anthony, she wants to arrange the safe exile of her son by Julius Caesar (Ceasario) and she wants to die in Egypt not in Rome. Cleopatra is now an elderly woman and can no longer trade on the exceptional beauty of her youth, she is a proud woman and a monarch, but she has lost the war with Rome and has betrayed her lover. Samuel Daniel conveys all of this with some splendid poetry, this is an example from her first soliloquy where she is torn between being queen and her responsibility for her son:

"You lucklesse issue of an wofull mother,
The wretched pledges of a wanton bed,
You Kings design’d, must subjects live to other;
Or else, I feare, scarce live, when I am dead.
It is for you I temporize with Cæsar,
And stay this while to mediate your safetie:
For you I faine content, and soothe his pleasure,
Calamitie herein hath made me craftie.
But this is but to trie what may be done,
For come what will, this stands, I must die free,
And die my selfe uncaptiv’d, and unwonne.
Bloud, Children, Nature, all must pardon me.
My soule yeeldes Honor up the victory,
And I must be a Queene, forget a mother,
Though mother would I be, were I not I;
And Queene would not be now, could I be other."

The only action in the whole play is when Cleopatra throws herself at the feet of Ottavius when he meets her for the one and only time in her tomb, in order to persuade her to let him take her as his prisoner to Rome. The dramatic suicide of Cleopatra is told by a third person who witnesses the event. Daniel never lets the drama get in the way of his poetry. At the end of each of the five acts there is a chorus of Egyptian women who give their views of the events, which are expressed in a short series of sonnets. The verse is beautifully tuned throughout the play as we follow the wild and then cunning turns of mind of a desperate woman.

The poem is a superb character study that held my attention throughout. Daniel proves to be a master of the form, but he also has plenty of interesting things to say. Shakespeare his contemporary would have course had access to Daniels work and there are plenty of studies of his use of the tragedy as source material for his own great play: Anthony and Cleopatra. I think Daniel's tragedy stands up in its own right, as an example of Elizabethan literature, but the genre is poetry rather than drama. I rate this 4.5 stars.

joulukuu 26, 2021, 12:10 pm

The Taming of a Shrew - Anonymous
The Taming of a Shrew was printed in 1594 and was probably performed in the same year. The is not William Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew, but a sort of parallel version. Much of the content of the two plays is similar and they are both written in verse format. In the Arden Shakespeare they are referred to as A Shrew (anonymous) and The Shrew (Shakespeare). While The Shrew appeared in print for the first time in the first folio in 1623 the relationship of the two plays is obscure because The Shrew was also performed in the early 1590's and that is why I have referred to A Shrew as a parallel version. There is much conjecture as to whether Shakespeare used A Shrew as source material or if A shrew was a bastardised version of the Shakespeare original, or if the two plays were developed from another play now lost.

In the Arden Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew there is a replicate printing of the anonymous version entitled 'A pleasant conceited historie called The Taming of a Shrew: as it was sundry times acted by the right honorable the Earle of Pembrook his servants. It is over 1000 lines shorter than Shakespeare's version. It starts with the hostess of an inn chucking out the drunk Sly who promptly falls asleep outside. He is discovered by a Lord of a hunting party and they decide to play a trick on the drunk. This is similar to Shakespeare's play where Sly is taken to the Lords house and when he wakes up the servants persuade him that he is the Lord, and sit him down to watch a play performed by some travelling players. The play is The Taming of the Shrew and so we have the spectacle of Sly and the servants sitting down to watch the performance and so a play within a play. In A Shrew the action takes place in Athens instead of Padua in Italy and all the names apart from Kate have been changed. In Shakespeare's play after one brief intervention Sly and the other play watchers are forgotten, but in A Shrew the story of Sly is rounded out at the end. It could be said that A Shrew tells more of the story, but in less lines for example we learn why Kate agrees to marry Ferandes ( Petruccio in Shakespeare).

But yet I will consent and marry him,
For I methinks have lived too long a maid,
And match him too, or else his manhood’s good

We are never told this in Shakespeare's version. In A Shrew Kate's submission to Ferandes is even more unequivocal: she ends her long speech with:

As Sara to her husband, so should we,
Obey them, love them, keep, and nourish them,
If the by any meanes do want our helps,
Laying our hands under their feet to tread,
If that by that we, might procure their ease,
And for a president I first begin
And lay my hand under my husbands feete,
(she lays her hand under her husbands feet).

The Taming of A Shrew makes for an interesting read, especially for those people who are familiar with The Taming of The Shrew. 3 stars

joulukuu 27, 2021, 9:06 am

George Chapman - The Shadow of Night, Chapman
George Chapman 1559-11634 was an English dramatist, translator and poet. He was a classical scholar. Chapman is best remembered for his translations of Homer's Iliad and Odyssey. He is the subject of one the most famous early sonnets of John Keats On First Looking Into Chapman's Homer (you know the one that starts with 'Much have I travelled in the realms of gold'). In that sonnet Keats says he heard "Chapman speak out loud and bold" and that is the impression I got when reading The Shadow of the Night. It would seem that Chapman does not do subtle, and although his poetry bears much witness to his classical background there is no toning down of the language: not so much of the polite poetic convention that can be found in some Elizabethan poets, especially the sonneteers. We are back in the world of Christopher marlow

Chapman spent the early 1590's abroad, and saw military action in the Low Countries fighting under the renowned English general Sir Francis Vere. His earliest published work was The Shadow of Night (1594). It consists of two complementary poems "Hymnus in Noctem" and "Hymnus in Cynthium" Both poems celebrate the intellect and assert the superiority of darkness over light:

All you possess'd with indepressed spirits,
Endued withy nimble, and aspiring wits,
Come consecrate with me, to sacred Night
Your whole endeavours, and detest the light.
Sweet Peace's richest crown is made of stars,
Most certain guides of honour'd mariners,
No pen can anything eternal write,
That is not steeped in humour of the night.

"Hymnus in Noctem" laments the fallen state of the world; the debased world of the present day that is rife with injustice, where avarice and greed rule most peoples daily actions. He calls on them to come back to the glorious mantle of the night, to think to, contemplate, to use their intellect to think about their actions.

Kneel then with me, fall wormlike on the ground,
And from th' infectious dunghill of this round,
From men's brass wits and golden foolery,
Weep, weep your souls, into felicity:
Come to this house of mourning, serve the Night,
To whom pale Day (with whoredom soaked quite)
Is but a drudge, selling her beauty's use
To rapes, adulteries, and to all abuse.
Her labours feast imperial Night with sports,
Where loves are Christmasse'd with all pleasure's sorts
And whom her fugitive and far shot rays
Disjoin, and drive into ten thousand ways,
Night's glorious mantle wraps in safe abodes
And frees their necks from servile labour's loads:
Her trusty shadows succour men dismay'd
Whom Days deceitful malice hath betray'd:

At the end of the poem he calls for the night to send down the "furies" to enable our Empress (Elizabeth I) to make virtue flourish in the light of day.

This idea of night ruling day is a turn around from the usual concept of darkness needing to be banished so that light can flourish. Chapman sees night as creative and harmonious, but also there is a feeling of melancholia as night is also mournful and of course a shadow. "Hymnus in Cynthium" is in many respects a celebration of the arrival of Queen Elizabeth I who must keep her virginity and restoire virtue to her people. An allegory of the myth of Acteon and his hounds is brought in to demonstrate the daylights propensity to encourage the more base affections, the sinful behaviour and lusty passions. The poem ends with an exhortation to Cynthia (Elizabeth I) to use all her powers for the good of her subjects and so:

And thou for ever live the planets' queen

It would seem to me that Chapman was not a man to suffer fools gladly. At the end of each poem he supplies 'Glosses': explanations of some of the classical references used, but at the end of the first poem he says :

"For the rest of his own invention, figures and similies, touching their aptness and novelty, he hath not laboured to justify them, because he hopes they will be proved enough to justify themselves, and prove sufficiently authentic to such as understand them; for the rest, God help them, I cannot do as others, make day seem a lighter woman than she is by painting her"

I can't let Chapman have the last word, however loud and bold his poetry maybe. It was however a surprise to read his more robust style. The examples above show his skill at fashioning rhyming couplets in iambic pentameters (heroic couplets) and I look forward to reading more of his poetry and perhaps his translations. 4 stars.

joulukuu 28, 2021, 3:29 am

I always loved the anecdote of Keats' epiphany when Homer' words are finally made readable by Chapman's translation. The trill of the Renaissance !
thanks Bas !

tammikuu 21, 2022, 7:30 am

The Genius of Shakespeare - Jonathan Bate
Over the last four years I have read many plays and much poetry from, shall we say the age of Shakespeare. To be more precise the late Elizabethan period when Shakespeare wrote and had produced the first batch of his plays, before the plague hit the London theatres in 1593/4 and the publication of his longer poems. I have read much that is readily available and so plays by Christopher Marlowe, Thomas Kyd, Robert Greene, George Peel, John Lyly, Thomas Lodge, Anthony Munday and that most popular playwright Mr Anonymous. I have ploughed through many of the poets and sonneteers: Edmund Spenser, Sir Philip Sidney, Samuel Daniel, Michael Drayton, Richard Barnfield., Giles Fletcher, Henry Constable et al and so I have my own ideas as to why Shakespeare was a "Genius" in an age that could be labelled The English Renaissance.

Picking up Jonathan Bate's book "The Genius of Shakespeare" I was rather hoping that he would share his views on why he thinks Shakespeare's plays and poetry were the work of a Genius. I was looking for some sort of analysis of the words on the page. What made Shakespeare's writing at its best (and that is most of it) stand head and shoulders above his contemporaries. I had to wait until the final section of his book which was entitled "The Laws of the Shakespeare Universe" to satisfy my curiosity, however it was not until I had finished the book that I could appreciate what a finely structured piece of literary criticism Bate has produced.

I think my issues with the book were focused on the first third, where after some anecdotes Bate concentrates on looking for autobiographical evidence in the poetry and then rehearsing again the known facts of Shakespeares life, adding to this, some conjectures on the the periods where there is no written evidence. This of course leads him into the authorial controversy, in which he goes at some length to ascertain that the man born in Stratford-Upon-Avon was the Shakespeare that wrote all the plays and poetry, accredited to him. I have to say this bores me silly. I think that Shakespeare from Stratford-Upon-Avon is the author of much of what is available, but I don't care in the least if he was not. What is important is the quality of the works that are available to us. Bate also launches into the speculation on: who were the people to whom Shakespeare addressed his sonnets, who was the young aristocrat, who was the dark lady. Why oh why has so much ink been spilled over these issues, I want to shake hold of these people and say read the fucking sonnets and enjoy the wonderful poetry and write about that. Don't be an inkhorn. To be fair to Jonathan Bate he does also put the sonnets in their historical perspective, reminding his readers that they could just as well be an exercise in Elizabethan sonnet style based on Petrarch as they could be actual love poems written to or for a contemporary person.

In the first section of the book I did enjoy the chapter entitled Marlowe's ghost, where Bate concentrates on Shakespeares contemporary playwrights, paying particular attention to Marlowe, who was something of a genius himself and someone who may have provided a springboard (unwittingly of course) for Shakespeare to launch his own particular style.

Part two of the book examines Shakespeare from a historical perspective. How has his work been judged over a period of some 400 years. How have changes in fashion affected his appreciation. What influence has his work had on other artists, dramatists of course, but also musicians, philosophers, painters and more casual readers. Bate comes up with the idea of Shakespeare as a field of forces in space-time, while acknowledging he is also the chief of the dead white authors brigade.

It was the final section of the book that interested me the most. He gets down to the nitty-gritty of the words on the page. Shakespeare's art is all about the condensing of his ideas in memorable words and phrases, this condensing also leads to ambiguity. It is the ambiguity that fuels the imagination, that brings readers back to the plays and poems time and time again. It also has given the work an appeal to readers over the time span since Shakespeare wrote his masterpieces: different modes of life, different fashions, different philosophies, different movements for example the Romantics have been able to relate to the plays and the poems. Bate gives examples of alternative readings of the plays and how directors can emphasise different sections, phrases, or even right down to individual words to turn preconceived thoughts on their head; something that Bate calls the truth of aspectuality. The fact that Shakespeare was an actor, and a producer of plays as well as a writer and collaborator gave him the ammunition to ensure that the plays worked as performances. Bate has used the idea of a 'performative truth' to encompass this idea. A more mundane reason for the success of Shakespeare's plays is their availability. The first folio printed after Shakespeares death in 1623 contained the 36 principal plays, collections such as this were not normal, many playwrights suffered through plays being lost or not even printed at all.

The final section satisfied my reasons for reading Bate's book, but it also brought into focus the structure of the whole thing, which was not immediately obvious to me. Bate is attempting to provide an analysis of all aspects of Shakespeare's genius. His education, his experience, the effect of his work on other artists, the adaptability of his plays, the raising of his profile over the time period and finally why his work can be considered the work of a genius. Occasionally Bate disappears briefly down some rabbit hole or other, but one cannot accuse him of lacking in ideas or insight. An excellent critique of an enormous subject and so 5 stars.

tammikuu 22, 2022, 7:46 am

5 star review. Thank you Bas; this one goes on my wishlist

helmikuu 11, 2022, 10:01 am

The Arden Shakespeare's Sonnets - Edited by Katherine Duncan-Jones
Reading Shakespeare's Sonnets - A New Commentary by Don Paterson
Shakespeare's Sonnets, Stephen Booth - Edited with analytic commentary by Stephen Booth

Don Paterson says in his excellent introduction to his New Commentary that it is impossible to read all the sonnets in one sitting (there are 154). You would certainly need super human powers of concentration to attempt the task and I am not sure the general reader would get much from it as many of them are not easy to read. I read them over a period of a month checking my understanding of them with the commentaries of Katherine Duncan-Jones, Don Paterson and Stephen Booth. I probably read each sonnet 5 or 6 times and at least once out loud, before I moved onto the next one. In many anthologies of English poetry one or two of the sonnets will appear and can be enjoyed as stand alone items. However if you are going to read them all then reading them in the order of publication will enable you to get a feel for the story behind the poems and more importantly there are many instances of sonnets following on from previous ones, so that it is almost like reading a double sonnet.

The 154 sonnets plus A Lovers Complaint were printed in 1609 under the title of SHAKE-SPEARES Sonnets, never before imprinted it says, although this was not quite true as a couple of them had appeared in a 1598 quarto. There are not many clues as to when WS wrote the sonnets and critical analysis has ranged from 1582 to 1609. It would seem that WS himself oversaw the 1609 printed version, probably collecting together and organising them into a form for publication. 1609 was a year when London was again badly hit by the plague and theatres would have been closed.

The first 17 sonnets have been labelled the procreation sonnets. The speaker gives advice to an attractive young man to find himself a wife in order to father children, to keep his family line in existence and to pass on his own marvellous qualities to his children. By the time we reach sonnet 18 the speaker has fallen in love with the young man and the bulk of the collection details the trials and tribulations of that love affair. Sonnet 127 then starts the story of the speakers infatuation with the dark lady. These are misogynistic and bitter in tone and take us to sonnet 152. The last two sonnets are an improvisation on a Greek epigram and serve to lighten the tone if nothing else. Don Paterson claims the sonnets to be:

They are alternately beautiful, maddening, brutally repetitive, enigmatic, sweet, prophetic, pathetic, bathetic, triumphant, trite, wildly original, contorted, screamed, mumbled, plain-speaking, bewildering, offensive, disarming and utterly heartbreaking.

Patersons description as utterly heartbreaking, puts him fairly and squarely into the camp of those critics who think that the speaker in the poems is WS himself and that at least some of the poems are written from personal experience. If this is the case then WS was clearly homosexual or bisexual, which would account for the fact that his sonnet collection was not universally liked following the initial publication. There are examples of analysis where critics tie themselves into knots trying to prove that WS was heterosexual.

Collections of love sonnets were very much in vogue during the 1590's. Sir Philip Sidney's Astrophil and Stella published in 1591 set the bar high with his 108 sonnets describing a seemingly unrequited affair with a noble lady he referred to as Stella. The collection took inspiration from the Italian Poet Petrarch whose poems worshipped at the altar of his Laura, but Sidney created an atmosphere all of his own without breaking drastically the conventions of love sonneteering. Collections by Samuel Daniel (Delia) Henry Constable (Diana), Thomas Lodge (Philis), Giles Fletcher (Philis) soon followed, but these clung steadfastly to the conventional feel of courtly love poetry and have little interest for the modern reader. Shakespeare after mocking the love sonneteers in his plays then went on to publish his own collection which stood the conventional Petrarchan collection of love poetry on its head. The subjects of his poems were an unnamed man and an unnamed women. Some of the poems to the Young Man (YM) are indeed passionate love poems, with clear indication that there was sexual activity between the two of them. The same applies to the Dark Lady (DL) but here the speaker is cursing his infatuation and accusing her of wilful promiscuity. This is far removed from the respectful courtly love poetry, which also looked to spiritual enlightenment, as practised by most of his contemporaries. Having said that WS stood the Petrarchan conventions on their head: there are still a number of his sonnets that are as conventional as previous collections and address the same themes, but his condensed lines serve to give most of these a new life.

I suppose the bad news to approaching these sonnets is that they have not become easier to read the further we have moved away from the Elizabethan age. Poems written over 425 years ago with all the conventions and context of that era and changes to the language are going to make them harder to understand. The good news is that critical editions similar to the ones reviewed here are available to help the reader through. The hard work of tracking down the references, of pointing out anomalies, of putting the poems in the context of when they were written has all been done. I can imagine someone picking up the sonnets for the first time and looking at sonnet 1

Sonnet 1

From fairest creatures we desire increase,
That thereby beauty's rose might never die,
But as the riper should by time decease,
His tender heir might bear his memory:
But thou, contracted to thine own bright eyes,
Feed'st thy light's flame with self-substantial fuel,
Making a famine where abundance lies,
Thyself thy foe, to thy sweet self too cruel.
Thou that art now the world's fresh ornament
And only herald to the gaudy spring,
Within thine own bud buriest thy content
And, tender churl, makest waste in niggarding.
Pity the world, or else this glutton be,
To eat the world's due, by the grave and thee.

This might put a few people off and most of us will need some help through some contorted syntax. So lets see how our three editors deal with it:

Katherine Duncan-Jones gives a brief summary of the subject of the poem

"The sonnet sets out a eugenic proposition: the most excellent examples of natural beings are under an obligation to reproduce themselves. But the addressee, to whom this rule applies is narcissistically dedicated to self love, allowing his beauty to go to waste by hoarding it up"

She then goes through the poem giving explanations to difficult words and phrases. This along with her general introduction to the sonnets where she explains that the first 17 sonnets are aimed at giving advice to a young man on issues around procreation are enough to get us through the poetry. She will also point out where she thinks that an idea is awkwardly expressed. However her comments are mostly devoid of her opinions and are neutral in most respects. Some readers might find this an advantage.

Don Paterson first reminds us that this is the first of 17 poems which basically say the same thing (he has also covered the idea of procreation in his introduction) and then says this about the subject of the poem;

"The argument here runs something like: ‘We want the lovely things to breed and perpetuate themselves, so that they don’t disappear from the earth. You’re a lovely thing yourself – but alas, you’re also a preening narcissist, and instead of spreading the love, you hoard yourself. Oh – you’re jack-the-lad right now, you’re the one-and-only, you’re gilded youth incarnate, you are; but you’ve sunk your happiness into your own youth Within thine own bud buriest thy content. If you don’t have some sympathy for the world, you’ll be remembered as the guy who consumed himself in self-love, and whom the grave ate without the world seeing any return on its investment in you."

He then goes on to give his opinion of the first 17 poems and points out the clever poetical tricks that he sees in this poem and how it adds to the meaning and our enjoyment. A different style and in some ways more informative; if you do not mind the less reverent approach.

Stephen Booth does not tell us anything about the subject of the poem he just gets down to the nitty gritty of analysing the words and phrases and examining the metaphors that WS has used and what these would have communicated to his contemporary readers. It is scholarly work and sometimes taken too extreme I feel.

Katherine Duncan-Jones gives a fulsome introduction which is in keeping with the Arden Shakespeare editions. She covers the history of their printing, surmises on evidence as to when they were written. She also covers the context with pointers to other love sonnet collections. She gives a brief rundown on the structure of sonnets. She also covers their reception through the ages. She points out the fact that much ink has been spilled in identifying the Young Man and the Dark Lady and then proceeds to spill more ink on the subject, but at least she doesn't go into the question of authorship too deeply.

Don Paterson gives us a lively introduction which as well as being informative gives the reader his experiences in tackling a re-reading of the sonnets. He is not afraid to express his opinions on the quality of the poetry and will show how various poetical effects work or don't work. For the more obscure sonnets he will give a line by line interpretation. His glosses on phrases and words are a little perfunctory, but this is not what he is about, his ides is to give the reader some lively information, which will be enough for the reader to enjoy the poem.

Both Katherine Duncan-Jones and Paterson refer to the work done by Stephen Booth and both are not afraid to disagree with him, although Paterson does this more than Duncan-Jones. Booth commentaries take up far more apace than the poems and can go into extraordinary detail. He hardly ever misses a sexual pun or innuendo and Paterson thinks he is a trifle obsessive in this respect. However as both of the other editors refer to Booth, it is handy to be able to have his original commentaries to hand.

Duncan-Jones and Paterson give us the sonnets with modern spelling, Duncan Junes commentaries sit on the page facing the poem while Paterson comment underneath each one. Booth gives us the sonnets first, both in original and modern spelling and his commentaries appear after the collection. The sonnets take up 128 pages and the commentaries 325 pages.

In my opinion Duncan-Jones's Arden edition is probably the go-to edition for facts, context and detail, however the lively enthusiasm and poetical insight of Don Paterson makes for a thrilling experience; to have him whispering in your ear (figuratively speaking), while you get to grips with the poetry. I put post-it notes on my favourite poems and found I had thirty so marked. In a collection of 154 poems there are going to be some you enjoy more than others. I would rate both Duncan-Jones edition and Patersons new commentary as 5 star reads; with the more pedestrian scholarship of Booth a four star read.

huhtikuu 16, 2022, 6:06 am

The life of Cardinal Wolsey; George Cavendish (His Gentleman Usher)
George Cavendish's biography was written in manuscript form; probably between 1554-8. It was widely circulated at the time and could have been source material for William Shakespeare and John Fletcher's play: Henry VIII.
A garbled version was printed in 1641, but I read the version edited by Samuel Singer in 1825 which claims to be from the original autographed manuscript.

From my own experience of reading Elizabethan prose this is a biography that can be easily admired by the modern reader. Perhaps the earliest example of a biography that goes far and away beyond the usual hagiography that was usual at the time. George Cavendish was Wolsey's gentleman usher and there is little doubt that he admired and loved his employer, but he has not written a panegyric. His admiration and love does not stop him from giving examples of his employers less admirable qualities. At times Cavendish is writing from actual remembered conversations that he had with his employer or that he heard his employer speaking with someone else. This gives the work a feeling of immediacy, the reader can imagine being right there with the Cardinal especially in the last year of his life when his health was failing and he was at odds with the court of Henry VIII.

The biography does follow the accepted fashion of the rise and fall of a great man. There is a mid point in the story where Wolsey makes his first big mistake and that is to cross Ann Boleyn. In Cavendish's account it is Wolsey that intervenes in the affair between Ann Boleyn and the young Lord Percy. He summons Percy to his office and threatens him with public disclosure if he does not annul his pre-marriage contract with Anne. Of course he is acting under instructions from King Henry, but his overbearing character already hinted at from Cavendish's account does not make him the most diplomatic person to manage this affair and Ann will soon get her revenge. It is from this point on that Henry's court influenced by the Boleyn family turn against Wolsey, we know this from history and we, as readers of this biography can appreciate how it all panned out for the Cardinal. His negotiations with the French King and then his unsuccessful attempts to influence the Popes legate to allow Henry to Divorce Catherine of Aragon saw his rapid fall from grace. There is an excellent account of Katherine's evidence at the inquisition into her marriage with Henry.

The second half of the biography provides the reader with a more intimate portrait of Wolsey. His household has been drastically reduced, the king has sequestered his palace at Hampton Court, he is under threat of standing trial as a traitor, but he clings to the thought that his previous close relationship with King Henry will save him in the end. While the first part of the biography deals with Wolseys rapid rise to power and his intellectual achievements it is written in a more anecdotal form; a little removed, because the author was probably not present at that time. It is the second part that provides the more intimate details of a closer relationship and the tragedy of Wolsey's final fall from grace.

Apart from the insight into the character of Wolsey and King Henry the biography goes into some detail of the pageantry that surrounds Wolseys life as Chancellor to the king. His fabulous palace at Hampton Court, his easy relationships with the most powerful men and women in Europe. It provides much fascinating context of a life led at the highest reaches of Tudor England.

I read this biography as background material for a reading of Thomas Storers's long poem 'The life and death of Thomas Wolsey Cardinal divided into three parts, which appeared in 1599. I have not yet read the poem, but I am grateful it led me to read Cavendish's biography 5 stars.

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 17, 2022, 7:44 am

Thomas Storer - The Life and Death of Thomas Wolsey Cardinal
Little is known of Thomas Storer apart from the fact that he was a student of Christ Church in Oxford, but his reputation as a poet was such that in 1599 appeared The life and Death of Thomas Wolsey Cardinal: divided into three parts. The first describes his rise, the second his prosperity and the last his fall. It consists of 101, 89, and 51 seven line stanzas respectively of decasyllabic verse. It written in rhyme royal (ababbcc). The first thing to say is that the poem flows along sedately and the rhyming scheme works well and is easy to read. It is not without interest and Storer adapts his style to the subject of the poem.

The poem is not a straightforward recitation of Wolsey's life. It is largely written in the first person and imagines that Wolsey is addressing his thoughts to Clio one of the seven muses: the muse of history. In the first part after paying tribute to his college he talks of his ambition and his particular talent: his silver tongue which allowed him to rise in the world. He asks himself questions, he examines his motives and he talks about the life of a poor clergyman as compared to the lives of the courtiers. He talks about his arrival at the court of King Henry and how his silver tongue allowed him to play the game of flattering his masters and keeping his rivals in check. There is then a section of the poem that launches into the personification of theology and here Storer indulges us into some flights of fancy and proves that he can raise his poetry to enlighten the reader. The second part describes his power and his position, but there are misgivings about his continual need for more works of art, more comfort, more prestige and he thinks again of the life of a lowly churchman. In the final part he contemplates his fall and his final journey around England looking for succour. Almost wishing that he had not been so ambitious:

Thus in I went into their holy Cell,
Where new obiections wandred in my mind,
Why could I not be once content to dwell,
In like meane sort, and to like orders bind
My life? why was I not so well inclin'd?
A quiet roofe seem'd then too meane for me,
I sold my selfe to purchase high degree.

I can't pretend that this long poem held my attention throughout, but there were certainly some stanzas that I found interesting and the poetry was well worked and musical. There was no mention of the political facts that led to Wolsey's downfall. Ann Boleyn does not get a mention. It is not always easy to follow the story, because for most of the poem there isn't one. It is Wolsey's contemplations on the life he has led and so it sets itself apart from being a biography/autobiography. After reading through the poem I found myself going back to enjoy individual stanzas and so 3 stars.

toukokuu 6, 2022, 5:43 pm

Willobie His Avisa or The true Picture of a Modest Maid and a Chaste and Constant Wife.

This was a pamphlet originally published in 1594. I read the modern spelling version in book form, with an essay towards its interpretation by Charles Hughes published in 1904. It is basically a poem of 74 cantos which takes the form of arguments between the virtuous Avisa, a woman of modest social status and various disreputable suitors who ply her with courtship both before and after marriage. Anything with a connection to William Shakespeare is going to be of interest and this poem has two: in an introductory poem following the usual dedications there is a direct reference with the line "And Shake-speare, paints poore Lucrece rape" (Shakespeare's The Rape of Lucrece was printed in 1594) and in the poem itself the author's friend who gives him advice on how to pursue Avisa is identified as W. S.

Initials, false names, fake news perhaps, certainly adds to the mystery of who may have written this poem. There is a record of a Henry Willobie being a student of law at the time but no record of his friend Hadrian Dorrell who writes an introduction. If Henry Willobie was the author he goes by the initials H. W. in the poem along with a D. H. and a D. B. There has of course emerged a number of theories as to who all these people were and who actually wrote the poem (George Gascoigne anyone?). There has also been speculation as to whether Avisa was a real person. (Queen Elizabeth anyone?). While all of this is not without interest I concentrated mainly on the worth and readability of the text in front of me.

“ The mirror of this sinneful age
That gives us beasts in shapes of men
Such beasts as still continue sinne,
Where age doth leave, there youths begin."

The poem is written in six line stanzas with eight syllables to a line, this is instead of the usual pentameter line of 10 syllables. This gives the whole thing a song like rhythm and feel. It has a rhyming scheme of ababcc with little deviation. In my opinion this gives the whole thing a lighter feel than much of the poetry written at the time. The first seven cantos provide the reader with a long introduction and then we get the first of the would be lovers N. O. B. who promises Avisa a life of luxury if she will be his mistress and perhaps his wife. This seems to be a man of the nobility. Avisa refuses him and his love turns to hatred he finishes:

I was thy friend, but now thy foe,
Thou hadst my heart, but now my hate,
Refusing wealth, God send thee woe,
Repentance now will come too late,
That tongue that did protest my faith
Shall waile thy pride, and wish thy death.

The second tempter is Caveleiro (a lusty hot headed Spaniard)
'And therefore wench, be not so strange,
to grant me that which others have,
I know that women love to change,
T'is but deceite, to seem so grave,
I never have that women tri'd,
Of whom as yet I was Deni'd

From Avisa's response it is now evident that she is newly married and she will not entertain the Spaniard. The next tempter is D. B. a frenchman; he is more subtle. However he also fails to bed Avisa and after an exchange of letters he accepts her decision with some grace:

Though thou in sorrow make me dwell
Yet love will make me wish you well

The next tempter is D. H. an Angle-German. His pursuit of Avisa takes place over a number of years and he visits her house in order to leave some verse he has written for her. He realises that Avisa will not consent to his wishes.

Now grant I Pray this last request,
That fraudlesse hart doth frendly send,
That if my fayth deserves it best,
Accept me for your honest friend
And if I seek your spoil, or shame,
Then raze me out, and blot my name.

It is interesting that in her replies to her suitors; Avisa increasingly differentiates between love and lust. She accuses her suitors of foul lust and so lust is taking on a more modern meaning: something sexual rather than just adventurous in spirit.
The final suitor is H. W. (Henry Willobie himself?), but first he asks advice on how to court Avisa from his good friend W. S. We are told that W. S. has recently been successful in love and his advice to H. W. is to keep on pursuing Avisa as she is bound to consent in the end. H. W. certainly takes W. S. advice and there is a long exchange of verse between him and Avisa. At first she chides him for his youthful puppy love, but when he continues to chase her, she must again use all her powers of persuasion to fend him off. The poetry now has become a little repetitive. A sort of challenge in thinking up different ways for Avisa to say no. Finally she puts an end to it all and asks him not to write to her anymore.

The 1904 book ends with two final poem celebrating a chaste and constant wife and then a contented mind. There follows a postscript in the form of an Apologie where the mysterious Hadrian Dorrel writing now two years later in 1596 (a subsequent reprinting) asks to be forgiven for suggesting that Avisa was a real person. He states categorically that the author had made up the name as a generic for a constant wife.

This is not difficult poetry to read and it certainly highlights the problems that a faithful wife, who is also very attractive would face from would be suitors. She is threatened, cajoled, made to feel guilty, promised everything she could want, and she must find a way to say no. There is very little evidence that she has encouraged the men and the poetry owes much to the courtly verse of earlier times. However, here it seems more concrete, not quite a new reality, but plainer speaking does not always lead to better poetry. 3 stars.

Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 7, 2022, 5:23 pm

W Percy - Sonnets to the fairest Coelia.

William Percy third son of the eighth Earl of Northumberland was born in 1575. At the age of fifteen he went to Oxford University, where he took up residence for the rest of his life. He made friends with a small group of scholar poets and his sonnet collection was his only work published in his lifetime. He had a reputation for gaiety and wit and earned his reputation as a published poet with the Coelia sonnets. In his introduction to the poems he says:

To the Reader

COurteous Reader, whereas I was fullie determined to haue concealed my Sonnets, as thinges priuie to my selfe, yet of courtesie hauing lent them to some, they were secretelie committed to the Presse, and almost finished, before it came to my knowledge. Wherefore making, as they say, Vertue of necessitie, I did deeme it most conuenient to proepose mine Epistle, onely to beseech you to account of them as toyes and amorous deuises, and ere long, I will impart vnto the world another Poeme which shall be both more fruitfull and ponderous. In the meane while I commit these as a pledge vnto your indifferent censures. London,

Perhaps Percy should not have signed his name to these toys and amorous devices. There are twenty sonnets and a madrigal to Coelia very much in the accepted pattern of Elizabethan love sonnets. In Percy's case his rhyming schemes do not always work so well, but perhaps he thought he was pushing the boundaries. There is little for the modern reader to enjoy here, as his poems are exercises in style. Percy was marching on a well- trod path with these sonnets. Perhaps his best offering is sonnet XX

Receaue these writs, my sweet and deerest frend,
The liuelie patterns of my liuelesse bodie,
VVhere thou shalt find in Hebon pictures pend,
Hovv I was meeke, but thou extremelie blodie.
I'le walke forlorne along the vvillovv shades,
Alone complaining of a ruthlesse dame;
Where ere I passe, the rocks, the hilles, the glades,
In pittious yelles shall sound her cruell name.
There I will vvaile the lot which fortune sent me,
And make my mones vnto the sauage eares,
The remnant of the daies which nature lent me,
He spend them all, conceald, in ceaselesse teares.
Since vnkind fates permit me not t'ennoy her,
No more, burst eyes, I meane for to annoy her.

2 stars for this then and moving quickly onto the next collection: Fulke Greville's Caelica

Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 7, 2022, 5:24 pm

Zepheria - Anonymous
Printed in 1594 this is a collection of poems, mostly fourteen line sonnets, written by now in the firm tradition of the Elizabethan Love sonnet. There seemed to be a gaggle of sonneteers either connected with the court of Queen Elisabeth or with the Inns of court (which provided schooling in the law and were based around Lincoln's Inn Fields in London). The anonymous poet who wrote his love sonnets to Zepheria was probably from the latter court as some of the poems are chock full of legal terms. They are love poems following the example set by the Italian renaissance poet Petrarch. They are poems of unrequited love and were closely connected with the idea of courtly love. In the hands of many sonneteers they had by 1594 become mere exercises in style and the modern reader is hard pressed to find any originality or any strength of feeling. We feel no sympathy for the love lorn poet as he takes us along a well trodden path, but sometimes there are individual poems that work through the music they create or some originality in the use of metaphors or rhymes. In the case of the Zepheria poems there are odd lines, couplets or even quatrains that give pleasure, but this does not last for the whole poem.

Certainly the Zepheria poems do not read as smoothly as some other collections. The iambic pentameters can be rough and the poet seems to have made up or altered some words to fit his rhyming scheme; he seems to have invented more words than most. Although most sonnets follow the traditional rhyming scheme made famous by Shakespeare and are fourteen lines in length, there are a couple with 16 or even eighteen lines. Although the poems were published as a series, unlike the better collections there is no connecting story. Reading them through one after another, therefore can be a pretty uninteresting experience. They would almost certainly have appeared firstly in manuscript form and so would have been read individually, which would have shown some of them in a better light.

As an example of the collection: Canzon 25 will serve. There are some interesting lines and the theme is the the old chestnut of the poets claim to making his subject famous through his published poems.

LET not Disdain, thy soul unsanctify!
Disdain, the passport for a lover’s vow!
Unsieging, where its seeks to fortify
With deadly frowns, the canons of the brow!
Let not Disdain (the Hearse of virgin Graces! 5
The Counterpoison to unchastity!
The Leaven that doth sour the sweetest faces!)
Stain thy new purchased immortality!
’Mongst Delian nymphs, in Angels’ University,
Thou, my ZEPHERIA, liv’st matriculated! 10
The daughters of ethereal JOVE, thy deity
On holy hill, have aye perpetuated!
O then, retire thy brows’ artillery!
Love more! and more bliss yet, shall honour thee!

I found this collection more lively than some, but they outstayed their welcome, especially the latter ones that seemed to weigh heavy with legal terms and metaphors. 3.5 stars.

heinäkuu 12, 2022, 2:22 pm

Caelica - Fulke Greville
Caelica is a collection of 110 poems written by Fulke Greville probably between 1580 and his death in 1628. They were never published during his lifetime. They existed in manuscript form until they were printed in 1633. They have been labelled a sonnet collection although in effect only 41 of the 110 poems keep to the 14 line rhyming sequence that we associate with sonnets. It is conjectured that many of the early poems in the collection (perhaps 1-40) were written in conjunction with Sir Philip Sydney as the two men were firm friends both serving at the court of Queen Elizabeth. Perhaps Greville is best known for the biography of Sir Philip Sydney written between 1610-12 and published in 1652.

Loaded with this information I approached the sonnet sequence with some trepidation, having recently trudged my way through sonnet sequences by Giles Fletcher, Barnabe Barnes, Henry Constable, Samuel Daniel; all collections named after a woman with whom the poet had supposedly fallen in love. Elizabethan love sonnet collections can be dreary things indeed, as by the 1590's they had quickly fallen into a pattern that owed far more to a style of writing than to any emotional content. They were seemingly based on ideas of courtly love, wedded to the example and template set down by the Italian poet Petrarch. They usually take the form of poems addressed to the named woman who is the love of the poets life; usually an unrequited love, hence the standard phrases and images of the love lorn speaker pleading his case to be accepted as a lover. A quick glance at the Caelica collection seemed to point to the same sort of thing. I thought I might be spending a couple of evenings with them, but ended up by reading them for over a week. It is true that in many respects they do follow the well trodden path of other sonnet collections, even more so in Greville's case because we never get any idea of Caelica as a living breathing woman, but there is something different at work here. In all such collections that I have read there are the occasional poems that stand out, or an arresting stanza, or a few lines that sing that can make the reading experience worthwhile. In the case of Greville this seemed to happen more often than not and in many instances I was fascinated by what I had just read.

The early poems are in the traditional form of Elizabethan love poetry, but there are enough good poems to make the reading worthwhile. Sonnet number two (and this is a traditional 14 line sonnet) is an example. It revisits the story of the hunter Acteon who stumbles on the Goddess of chastity Diana who is bathing naked in a stream. She is so outraged that she turns Acteon into a stag and his dogs tear him to pieces. This story from classical mythology has been used by any number of poets, but Greville's first line is

Faire dog, which so my heart dost tear asunder

Fair dog? could easily be read mistakenly as fair god and so we are alerted to Greville telling the story in a different way. Greville's poem about Acteon and Diana is a rarity, because he seldom falls back on classical mythology as a subject for his poems (that is with the exception of Cupid who features in several) and his imagery tends to be drawn from real life and so the reader does not feel the need of a classical education to enjoy the poems. What the reader does need is some patience because Greville's syntax can be knotty in the extreme. This is especially true in the 14 line sonnets where it is my guess that he has so many ideas to cram into each line that it becomes difficult to unpick. In my opinion his poetry becomes much more readable when he is not constricted by the sonnet form and he can let his ideas flow. Fortunately there are many examples in this collection.


WHO worships Cupid, doth adore a boy;
Boyes earnest are at first in their delight,
But for a new, soone leaue their dearest toy,
And out of minde, as soone as out of sight;
Their ioyes be dallyings and their wealth is play,
They cry to haue, and cry to cast away.

Mars is an idol, and man's lust his skye,
Whereby his glories still are full of wounds;
Who worships him, their fame goes farre and nigh,
But still of ruine and distresse it sounds.
Yet cannot all be wonne, and who doth liue,
Must roome to neighbours and succession giue.

Those Mercurists that upon humors worke,
And so make others' skill and power their owne,
And like the climats, which farre Northward lurke,
And through long Winters must reape what is sowne;
Or like the masons, whose art building well,
Yet leaues the house for other men to dwell.

Mercurie, Cupid, Mars, they be no gods,
But humane idols, built vp by Desire;
Fruit of our boughs, whence heauen maketh rods,
And babyes1 too for child-thoughts that aspire:
Who sees their glories, on the earth must prye;
Who seeks true glory must looke to the skye.

Sonnet 62 is an example of a poem written in sestain units popular with Greville; as the collection moves forward he writes fewer 14 line sonnets. When we get to sonnet 85 he has abandoned all thoughts about Caelica and has moved on to matters that concern an older perhaps more reflective man. His Calvinist religious thoughts dominate the later poems, but also his political views. He held views which were typical of the time concerning order in the world; how everybody should know their place in society. He expresses the view that the Creator (God) has a master plan and he hints at predestination. He is obsessed with mutability, but firmly of the belief that man should accept the changes that are inevitable. He does rail against ambition and bad rulers, but stops well short of advocating any changes to the world order. Greville is not without a sense of humour. Sonnet 107 advocates taxing the rich more thoroughly and so it is no wonder that the collection was not published in his lifetime. It could also be said that there is scant evidence of misogyny: Caelica sometimes called Myra and sometimes Cynthia; goddess of the moon does not suffer the usual diatribe against women.

I said earlier in this short piece that many of the sonneteers however dull they maybe could occasionally come up with a line or two which can connect with the modern reader. Greville does this more often than not and he ends many a poem or a stanza with a rhyming couplet that makes the reading worthwhile. Greville has his admirers amongst modern critics and one or two have placed him just behind Shakespeare and Sir Phillip Sidney in the order of merit. Certainly a few of his poems from this collection have been anthologised and are available to read on the internet. I found some of his poetry a delight to read and have made notes to re-read some of them. I think he is never without interest especially within the tradition of Elizabethan sonnet writers and so I rate this collection as 4 stars.

Muokkaaja: syyskuu 3, 2022, 8:40 am

Michael Drayton - Ideas Mirrour
Michael Drayton 1563-1631 was an English poet and playwright. He was successful and widely read in the Elizabethan and Jacobean era, but has since suffered some obscurity. The Concise Cambridge History of English Literature says:

Michael Drayton was a major poet of his age; but neither the present nor any future age will believe that a complete knowledge of his very extensive poetry is a necessity of intellectual life.

A bit of a put down, but the Cambridge History certainly does not take any prisoners when discussing authors outside of the elite canon. At the end of its summary of Drayton's works it concludes that "Drayton is a kind of poetical epitome. There is something of almost every kind of poetry in him. Drayton may not be read, but he is delightful to read in". There is little doubt that Drayton was a popular poet and his popularity was based on his printed work. He was disdainful of those gentleman poets who did not publish their work, referring to them as 'Cabinet Poets'. He had trouble finding a patron either due to bad luck or his ability to say the wrong thing at the wrong time and so he needed to get into print.

Ideas Mirrour was published in 1594 at the height of the Elizabethan craze for love sonnets and Drayton writes very much within the Petrarchan template. It is an early work and he revised and added to the poems repeatedly throughout his career, but I have read the original 51 sonnets: two of which are stretched to eighteen lines. On the whole it is a good collection and I would say better than most, as it repeatedly introduces arresting imagery and for much of the time avoids the obscurity that belabours some of these collections when the poets launch into mere stylistic exercises. The poems however do not breakout of the straight jacket imposed by the unwritten rules of love sonnets at the time and so there is little evidence of personal feeling.

In his introductory sonnet Drayton acknowledges his debt to Sir Philip Sydney:

Divine Syr Phillip, I avouch thy writ,
I am no Pickpurse of anothers wit.

And in the first sonnet titled Amour 1 he comes straight to the point in the very first line:

Reade heere (sweet Mayd) the story of my wo,

He is addressing directly the woman who has rejected him as a lover. The idea of unrequited love is usual in theses collections, but Drayton seems to be making this personal: the Mayd is never named and referred to as Idea, but it is conjectured he is writing the poems for Anne Goodere the daughter of his patron at the time, she married someone else, but remained on good terms with Drayton. He emphasis her virtue throughout as well as his own chaste desire and so there is a feeling of a genuine love story here.

The sequence runs through the usual gamut of praise for the beloved and then the realisation that he has been rejected. There are a few instances where bitterness of his loss is reflected in some vitriol against his beloved, but he soon recovers, wishing to internalise his feelings and ends by restating his love and admiration.

There are many enjoyable poems in this collection, but of course not every one would be to my taste and there are plenty of examples where the poet is either labouring the same point over a sequence of poems or is indulging in exercises of style, but even Shakespeare in his wonderful collection is guilty of this. It is therefore pertinent to think about those poems that appear to be successful and please the reader: here are a couple of examples:

In Amour 7 he plays with a personification of Time:

Stay, stay, sweet Time; behold, or ere thou passe
From world to world, thou long hast sought to see,
That wonder now wherein all wonders be,
Where heaven beholds her in a mortall glasse.
Nay, looke thee, Time, in this Celesteall glasse,
And thy youth past in this faire mirror see:
Behold worlds Beautie in her infancie,
What shee was then, and thou, or ere shee was.
Now passe on, Time: to after-worlds tell this,
Tell truelie, Time, what in thy time hath beene,
That they may tel more worlds what Time hath seene,
And heauen may joy to think on past worlds blisse.
Heere make a Period, Time, and saie for mee,
She was the like that never was, nor never more shalbe.

Amour 45 later in the sequence when things are not to rosy:

Blacke pytchy Night, companyon of my woe,
The Inne of care, the Nurse of drery sorrow,
Why lengthnest thou thy darkest howres so,
Still to prolong my long tyme lookt-for morrow?
Thou Sable shadow, Image of dispayre,
Portraite of hell, the ayres black mourning weed,
Recorder of reuenge, remembrancer of care,
The shadow and the vaile of euery sinfull deed.
Death like to thee, so lyve thou still in death,
The grave of ioy, prison of dayes delight.
Let heavens withdraw their sweet Ambrozian breath,
Nor Moone nor stars lend thee their shining light;
For thou alone renew'st that olde desire,
Which still torments me in dayes burning fire.

I rate this as 3.5 stars.

Matilda The faire and chaste daughter of the Lord Robert Fitzwater. The true glorie of the noble house of Sussex.

Another dip into the poetry of Michael Drayton. Matilda was published in 1594 and is an epic poem of nearly 200 stanzas written in rhyme royal: a stanza of seven lines, in iambic pentameter rhyming ababbcc. It harks back to the poetry in William Baldwins The Mirror for Magistrates published in 1559 which had the same format. It also has the same idea as the protagonist in the poems in that collection, which were all ghosts of famous people who claimed to have been unjustly murdered. Drayton does the same thing in Matilda; daughter of the Earl of Sussex, who claimed she was murdered by King John.

Like the collection in Mirror for magistrates it is a sorry tale. Matilda is an outstanding beauty at the court of King John. He falls in lust with her and she realises her virginity is in danger. She flees to the protection of her father the Earl of Sussex. King John exiles her powerful father and Matilda enters a convent. She is soon visited by a messenger from the king who gives her a stark choice; she must either consent to going to bed with the king or she must drink a vial of poison. She drinks the poison and seeks revenge through the poem written by her ghost.

No new ground being broken here and none is claimed by Drayton who refers to a couple of the poems in the earlier collection, notably Shore's wife. The Mirror for Magistrates proved to be a popular collection when printed and so for Drayton there would be no harm in repeating the formula. His versification is smooth and his imagery is lively enough. The interest from a 21st century standpoint is what the poem tells us about the power of kings and the helplessness of women like Matilda. Her own thoughts on the tragedy of her life finally comes to the surface when she is given the poison to drink, she bemoans the evil king on one hand, but she also says it is within his right to command his subjects as he wishes.

3 stars.

marraskuu 28, 2022, 11:15 am

Love's Labour's Lost - The Arden Shakespeare
Love's Labour's Lost - BBC Shakespeare Collection 1985
Shakespeare does it again, he writes a play that builds and deepens on much of what has gone before (1594/5) on the British stage, producing a play that seems totally original. Between August 1592 and the spring of 1594 the London theatres were closed due to the plague and Shakespeare's career as a playwright seems to have come to a halt as he probably spent his time preparing his narrative poems Venus and Adonis (1593) and The Rape of Lucrece (1594). Certainly he must have been busy writing sonnets, because a few of them appear in Love's Labour's Lost. There is a lot of poetry in the play and a good percentage of it is rhymed iambic pentameters. It is a delight to read and the only comparison I can make is with the later plays of John Lyly for example Loves Metamorphoses where the themes are virginity, chastity and constancy in love, all wrapped up in a froth of light entertainment. Love's Labour's Lost is certainly a comedy and would fall under the genre of light entertainment, but there is more depth, more word play and the jokes are more funny.

There is not much of a plot in Love's labour's Lost. Ferdinand the King of Navarre has persuaded three of his courtiers Berowne, Longaville and Dumaine to give up all pleasures for a three year period to study with him in his academy. They have forsworn oaths that they will not even speak to any women during this time. Berowne points out that the king must break his oath the next week because he has agreed to welcome the Princess of France and her attendants who are arriving on a diplomatic mission. The inevitable happens the four men fall in love with the Princess and her ladies Rosaline, Maria and Katherine and must devise ways of courting their intended. A Spanish gentleman, a clown are both looking to get their way with Jaquenetta a dairymaid and a pedantic schoolmaster Holofernes are all thrown into the mix. There are the usual elements of disguises, mistaken identity, a play within a play and many opportunities for double entendres, however Shakespeare introduces two major items of originality in that the women always seem to have the upper hand and are wise and worldly compared to their male counterparts and the ending of the play is open ended.

The four men appear foolish from the very start with their oath making and only proceed to become more foolish when they fall in love. The play does not rely on mistaken identities or slapstick comedy to entertain, but does rely on wordplay, wit and characterisation. This can make it more difficult to catch all the jokes and puns, because of the differences in language and culture between modern times and the Elizabethan era, but I think there is still enough which comes through to entertain us today, which was shown by the BBC production: the penultimate scene of the play put on by the nine worthies (commoners) was hilarious. As in much of Shakespeare more familiarity with Elizabethan culture and drama will result in a more in depth all round entertainment. A feature of this play is the craze for sonnet writing. Shakespeares contemporaries were rushing into print with sonnet collections based on ideas from a previous era of courtly love where the poet would write reams of words complaining about his unrequited love, for the unattainable woman or man of his affections. Ferdinand, Berowne, Longaville and Dumaine all write sonnets to their loved ones and those proudly read out by Ferdinand, Longaville and Dumaine are certainly no better than much of the dross that was served up by the Elizabethan sonneteers. The sonnet written by Berowne is a cut above the others, but unfortunately this one gets misplaced and read out by Nathaniel the curate to Jaquenetta the dairymaid, when it finally gets back to Berowne he immediately tears it up; this is surely Shakespeare's joke. There are many jokes concerning book worms and ink horns, which stretch across the social divide from the nobles to the professionals. Unrequited love is a feature of most sonnet collections and at the end of this play love is unrequited for all of the sonnet writers.

A play then about the battle of the sexes, with the women as the morally superior beings, but of course it is the foolish men who are the stars of the show. Much can be read into the play; for example Shakespeare's comments on the life of the courtiers, the tomfoolery and ignorance of the working classes, but although this may be interesting from a historical point of view this is an entertainment first and foremost. The reader can appreciate the word play with the puns and the innuendos, but the BBC production of the play showed how it works on stage. It is a delight for the eye as well as the brain and can be adapted to enhance Shakespeare's original stage craft. I was pleased to see that not too much was made of the sexual innuendos by the actors and if the viewer reads anything in the dialogue then this was not the result of leery comments or facial expressions from the players. This play does not need that, it has Shakespeare's genius to lift a mundane plot full of clichés into superb entertainment. A four star read and a five star view.

marraskuu 28, 2022, 2:45 pm

and a five star review

tammikuu 11, 9:28 am

Amoretti & Epithalamion - Edmund Spenser
The Genius of Spenser transforms an Elizabethan love sonnet sequence into something delicate and personal with poems that are sometimes striking in their beauty. Despite Spenser's use of some antiquated words they prove to be relatively easy to read and this is because of Spenser's ear for melody and his skill in making the poems flow. For the most part they follow a logical development and end in a rhyming couplet that brings the poem to a natural end. Spenser developed his own rhyming scheme for his 14 lined sonnets which knits the poems together. In many ways they are more traditional than Shakespeare's sonnets and are less complex and for the most part avoid some of the knotty language that Shakespeare preferred.

Elizabethan love sonnet collections can be dreary things indeed, as by the 1590's they had quickly fallen into a pattern that owed far more to a style of writing than to any emotional content. They were seemingly based on ideas of courtly love, wedded to the example and template set down by the Italian poet Petrarch. They usually take the form of poems addressed to a woman with a fictitious name who is the love of the poets life; usually an unrequited love, hence the standard phrases and images of the love lorn speaker pleading his case to be accepted as a lover. Spenser, while drawing on the Petrarchan form using themes and imagery that would be familiar to readers, subtly changed the raison d'être of his collection.

Firstly he addressed his poems to Elizabeth: Elizabeth Boyle who became his wife in 1594 the year before the poems were published and so they became a tribute to her. This is not a sequence of poems where the love remains unrequited: about three quarters through the collection, there is a change of mood and in sonnet 64 they kiss and it is evident that Elizabeth has given her consent. The poems are sequenced so that the reader can follow the outcome of the poets courtship, this was not the case in other collections: usually the lady was already married or remained an etherial figure and the poets painful love affair continued in keeping them apart. Spenser's Amoretti can be seen as a denigration of the courtly love ideal that was a feature of previous collections, because although his courtship went through the usual pains of thankless striving for acceptance, it ended with a commitment to marriage and then a celebration of his success.

The traditional imagery used by Petrarch and his followers is used by Spenser, however he takes these images and exaggerates them to such an extent that they become almost a parody. This is particularly noticeable in the power of his lovers eyes: the withering looks that the lady gives her suitor alternates with her celestial gaze that has the power to attract everyone and everything:

Sonnet 36
Is there no meanes for me to purchace peace,
Or make agreement with her thrilling eyes;
But that their cruelty doth still increace,
And dayly more augment my miseryes?

Sonnet 16
One day as I unwarily did gaze
On those fayre eyes, my loves immortall light,
The whiles my stonisht hart stood in amaze,
Through sweet illusion of her lookes delight,
I mote perceive how, in her glauncing sight,
Legions of Loves with little wings did fly,
Darting their deadly arrows, fyry bright,
At every rash beholder passing by,

The exaggeration used becomes almost comic. We have no idea how his contemporary Elizabethan readers would have interpreted the sonnets, but reading them today the poet seems to be laughing at himself as well as his intended:

Sonnet 54
Yet she, beholding me with constant eye,
Delights not in my merth, nor rues my smart:
But when I laugh, she mocks; and when I cry,
She laughs, and hardens evermore her hart.
What then can move her? If nor merth, nor mone,
She is no woman, but a sencelesse stone.

Spenser certainly praises the beauty of his beloved in typical male gaze fashion, but he emphasises that it is her wit and mind that he values above all else and that will make for a lasting happy relationship:

Men call you fayre, and you doe credit it,
For that your selfe ye daily such doe see:
But the trew fayre, that is the gentle wit
And vertuous mind, is much more praysd of me.
For all the rest, how ever fayre it be,
Shall turne to nought and lose that glorious hew;

Elizabethan sonneteers tended to link the idea of an unrequited love to somehow making them better men because of the pain that they suffer. They in typical courtier fashion learn go the extra mile in all the things that they do to impress their beloved. Spenser was not a typical courtier although of course he relied on his reputation as a poet and a gentleman to secure positions in government. He found himself almost in exile in Ireland, unable to secure a position at court. His courtship of Elizabeth was in keeping with traditional protestant virtues and therefore successful in leading to matrimony and much has been made of the links between the sonnets and the religious calendar.

There are 89 sonnets in this collection and sonnet 64 acts like a turn in the whole collection because at this point the relationship changes; It starts with "Coming to kiss her lyps, (such grace I found)'', there had been no evidence of physical contact before this point. Now it is the poet who is in control of the situation and his beloved accepts her situation, but not without fears of losing her liberty sonnet 65 addresses this beautifully:

The doubt which ye misdeeme, fayre Love, is vaine,
That fondly feare to lose your liberty,
When, losing one, two liberties ye gayne,
And make him bond that bondage earst did fly.
Sweet be the bands the which true love doth tye,
Without constraynt or dread of any ill:
The gentle birde feeles no captivity
Within her cage, but sings, and feeds her fill.

The poems now are a celebration and a triumph and include the sonnets that appear most in various anthologies, however the last four sonnets end the collection on a downbeat note. Sonnet 86 is an angry poem addressed to a slanderous accusation and the last three sonnets deal with a temporary separation and the pain it brings to both of them. I found great pleasure in reading these poems and because of their musicality and their accessibility I rank them together with Shakespeare and Sir Philip Sidney's collections and a 5 star read. Difficult to choose one of the sonnets to close this appreciation, but I do like sonnet 71:

I ioy to see how, in your drawen work,
Your selfe unto the Bee ye doe compare,
And me unto the Spyder, that doth lurke
In close awayt, to catch her unaware.
Right so your selfe were caught in cunning snare
Of a deare foe, and thralled to his love;
In whose streight bands ye now captived are
So firmely, that ye never may remove.
But as your worke is woven all about
With woodbynd flowers and fragrant eglantine,
So sweet your prison you in time shall prove,
With many deare delights bedecked fyne:
And all thensforth eternall peace shall see
Betweene the Spyder and the gentle Bee.

Linking Amoretti with the bridal poem Epithalamion are several stanzas telling a mildly erotic story of Cupid and a bee. Epithalamion has 24 stanzas one for each hour of the wedding day. They describe the happy couples delight in all of the arrangements for a perfect wedding day. It is a joyous celebration with each stanza averaging 18 lines fitted to a rhyming scheme. The final stanza has 7 lines which forms a conclusion. The poem hopes for the blessing of children, fidelity and all things good in the marriage. Perhaps he envisioned it not only as a celebration of his marriage, but a poem that could be used to celebrate other marriages.

tammikuu 20, 7:05 am

Anonymous - Locrine
Printed in 1595 this play has been variously ascribed to Robert Greene, George Peele and even in collaboration with Shakespeare, however I think it is best that it remains anonymous. It is not a particularly bad play but reading it today it just feels very 'run of the mill'. It is a relatively simple story with no surprises: Brutus has conquered Britain and has established his family as future rulers. He is about to die when the play opens and his three sons and three brothers all swear to maintain family unity. Locrine the eldest son is declared king and he has been betrothed by Brutus to Gwendoline. Humbar king of the Scythians and his son Hubba are attempting to invade Britain. They first meet Albanact: Locrine's young brother in battle. Albanact's army are defeated and Albanact commits suicide rather than being captured. Locrine takes to the field to avenge his brother. Albanact's ghost has appeared before Humbar and shown him his troops desecrated on the battlefield. Humbar is defeated and Hubba is slain. Back at Locrines court Estrild: Humbars wife is brought in, Locrine is minded to kill her, but falls in love with her and gives her the option of being his mistress. Corineius Locrine's uncle warns that Locrine should remain faithful to Gwendoline and leaves the court. It is seven years later when Corineius dies and Locrine brings Estrild into his court. Meanwhile the defeated Humber has been on the run and starving, he decides to commit suicide by throwing himself in the river. Thrasimachus: Gwendoline's brother vows revenge and he and Gwendoline raise an army and defeat Locrine. Locrine commits suicide as does Estrild and their daughter Sabren drowns herself.

It is the usual story of a royal family in discord, a kings inflexibility and weakness, but in Locrine the guilty party is firmly nailed as either Estrild or Gwendoline, because in a closing speech Ate the goddess of revenge says:

Lo here the end of lawless treachery,
Of usurpation and ambitious pride;
And they that for their private amours dare
Turmoil our land, and set their broils abroach,
Let them be warned by these premises.
And as a woman was the only cause
That civil discord was then stirred up,

There is very little character development in Locrine. It is a moral story and looks back to earlier plays with its dumb shows at the beginning of each act. It is written mostly in pretty good iambic pentameter, with language that harks back to Marlowe; particularly Tamburlaine the Great. Running through the earlier acts are the clowns Strombo and his entourage and they are genuinely funny and corse. It is a play that sets out to tell a story and succeeds admirably. It calls itself a tragedy and reminds the audience that it is based on chivalry. It has ghosts, it has battles, it has a history of sorts, but it does not say anything different to what has gone before. I enjoyed the read through 3 stars.

helmikuu 18, 7:03 pm

King John (Arden Shakespeare)- William Shakespeare
The life and death of King John - BBC Film
The Arden Shakespeare edited by Jesse M. Lander and J. J. M. Tobin have chosen to call the play King John instead of the usual title The Life and Death of King John. It is unusual in the Shakespeare cannon as it appears to be a rewrite of an earlier play: The Troublesome Reign of John, King of England which was published in 1591, some four years earlier than the probable date of Shakespeare's play. In my opinion Shakespeare could have called his play The Troublesome play of King John, because although he improved the dramatic effect of the earlier play, he lost some continuity in his version. It was a play depicting an historical event and the telling of the story, however accurate or inaccurate it might be, should be intelligible for the punters paying their money at the theatre gate. It is a play that has not enjoyed many revivals in the late 20th and early 21st century and although the poetry is typically Shakespearean the drama suffers from being tied to the earlier Troublesome Reign.

The Troublesome Reign of John, King of England has been accredited to George Peele and it is noted for its coherent story and sustained and developed characterisation. It starts in the court of King John when a messenger from king Philip of France informs John that his brother Geoffrey's son Arthur is entitled to the crown of England and that John has usurped the throne. John tells the messenger that he will take an army to France to enforce his crown. Shortly after the messenger leaves two sons of Lord Faulconbridge arrive disputing a claim to their father's property. John with the aid of Queen Eleanor sorts the dispute by knighting the bastard Philip as Sir Richard and agreeing that his brother Robert be entitled to Sir Robert's property. The newly knighted Sir Richard will join King John in his expedition to France. The armies of England and France face each other outside the town of Angiers, whose citizens will not decide who is the rightful ruler of their town. A compromise is reached when the citizen of Angiers suggests a marriage between the Dauphin and Blanche a ward of John. After the wedding the Pope's legate Cardinal Pandulph arrives to excommunicate King John and orders King Philip to restart his war with John. After the battle we learn that John has captured Arthur and returned to England and instructed Sir Richard to rob the monasteries. The Dauphin and his army land in England to rescue Arthur. King John arranges for Hubert to murder Arthur, but this is too much for his followers who side with the French. Sir Richard remains loyal and leads King John's army against the French; the English Lords who have changed sides learn that the Dauphin is planning to kill them change sides again. Cardinal Pandulph arrives to welcome John back into the christian fold and the Dauphin's invasion is thwarted but King John while residing at an Abbey is poisoned and his son Henry is proclaimed king.

It is a complex story and the plot in (TR) is reeled out in fairly pedestrian fashion. Shakespeare takes the plot by the scruff of the neck in his King John and in the very first scene the french ambassador has arrived and is squaring up to the usurper King John. In the Troublesome Reign (TR) Queen Eleanor starts by explaining the history of King Richard's brother Geoffrey and Arthurs claim to the crown. This is an early example as to how Shakespeare dramatises the action and he continues to do this as he follows and changes the story line to the plays advantage. His characters are more sharply drawn and have better poetry to speak: there is no prose in Shakespeares play. Shakespeare further enhances the drama by introducing more action; for instance he has the two Kings clutching hands while the Pope's legate is excommunicating John and King Philip must decide to let John's hand fall.

I read the two plays side by side and had the impression that Shakespeare grew into the story. The first act with the disputed land rights of the Faulconbridge brothers is confusing and goes on too long, making the play appear top heavy at the start. There follows the dispute in front of the town of Angiers and it feels like the scene has been shaped to allow processions and parades, rather than battles and action. In the second half of the play Shakespeare is able to cut out scenes that hamper the central storyline. for example in TR there is an account largely in prose of Sir Richard's sacking of a monastery: there is a semi humorous conversation between Sir Richard and Friar Lawrence. This scene has disappeared from King John.

Shakespeare's play is built around the politics of the relationship between the two kings and the women who support them. Queen Eleanor mother of John and Constance mother of Arthur are fanatical in support of their progeny and emerge as strong characters exerting some control over the men. Shakespeare emphasises the oath breaking: the changing of sides which all the men are guilty of, while the women stay firm. The action moves forward at a good pace in the second half and while it does not enjoy a particular climax the death scene of King John provides a sombre conclusion to a play where few characters are shown at their best. Commodity rules much of the action as Sir Richard reminds us in one of his soliloquies. TR is very anti catholic and while this is present to some extent in King John Shakespeare has toned it down.

I also watched the 1984 BBC production with Leonard Rossiter as King John, who gave his character a particularly Machiavellian bent; perhaps a bit too much like a pantomime character in some places. The production made excellent sense of the story and moved it along at a pace. Shakespeare indulges in much word play throughout and some of it, not even the best actors are able to deliver meaningfully, for example part of Pandulph's speech in act 3:

It is religion that doth make vows kept,

But thou hast sworn against religion

By what thou swear’st against the thing thou swear’st,

And mak’st an oath the surety for thy truth

Against an oath. The truth thou art unsure

To swear, swears only not to be forsworn,

Else what a mockery should it be to swear?

But thou dost swear only to be forsworn,

And most forsworn, to keep what thou dost swear.

Therefore thy latter vows against thy first

Is in thyself rebellion to thyself;

Of course there is much good poetry, including this much misquoted speech by Lord Salisbury:

Therefore, to be possess’d with double pomp,

To guard a title that was rich before,

To gild refined gold, to paint the lily,

To throw a perfume on the violet,

To smooth the ice, or add another hue

Unto the rainbow, or with taper-light

To seek the beauteous eye of heaven to garnish,

Is wasteful and ridiculous excess.

All in all I spent an enjoyable few days with King John, but this early play of Shakespeare's is not my favourite. 4.5 stars.

maaliskuu 31, 10:52 am

Shakespeare - Richard II
I find it exciting to pick up a Shakespeare play that I have not read before and Richard II proved to be a straightforward read. Let me explain: my modus operandi with Shakespeare is to read through the play in one sitting if possible and then note down any thoughts. I will then read the introduction and any notes or commentaries before reading through the play again at a slower pace. I finish off by watching a video performance of the play (usually a BBC production). On my first reading I was surprised how easy it was to follow the story. It is a history play and Shakespeare although reorganising and adapting the historical facts still tells a recognisable story of the latter part of Richard's reign and Bolingbroke's seizing of the crown. Other first impressions were that the heightened language that Richard and others use reminded me of Christopher Marlowe's Edward II or even Tamburlaine. It is a political play, perhaps the most political play I have read so far and its major theme is the divine right of kings. There is only a little light relief from the tragedy of the unfolding story. There are no prose passages and plenty of poetry in the iambic pentameter. The play is usually dated at 1595 and would seem to be a thoroughly professional job, by a playwright who had learnt his craft.

On to the commentaries and notes of which there were plenty, being from the Arden Collection of plays. There is certainly enough here to explain and enhance the enjoyment. I also had in my library a copy of MAXnotes from the Research & Education Association's collection of study guides, I had previously not read any of these and found it concise and easy to read. It summarises the play scene by scene and provides a good analysis of the themes and story as it goes along. It stars with a very useful introduction on Shakespeares language and was a useful back-up to the Introduction and notes in the Arden publication. I usually spend some time researching on the internet for different aspects or views, but found much of this to be superfluous for this play. I felt I really did not need to know anymore to the information to hand.

The editors of the Arden Shakespeare of course talk up the play that they have been asked to edit, but I have to agree with Charles R Forker who says:

"Its unusual formality of structure and tone as well as the impressive eloquence of its style seems to have been crafted to express the mystique of kingship more emphatically than any of the earlier histories, without neglecting a subtle handling of its major action........................In the character of Richard, Shakespeare achieved a higher degree of psychological complexity than he had yet managed in tragedy"

Forker goes on to say that Richard II is now regarded as one of the greatest of Shakespeares histories, with over 3000 books/commentaries written about it, which means that you could spend any amount of time reading about other peoples research or views if you wished.

Shakespeare starts the play with the confrontation between Thomas Mowbray Duke of Norfolk and Henry Bolingbroke in front of King Richard II. They accuse each other of being traitors to the king. Richard cannot settle the dispute and so they agree to a trial by combat. At the very last moment before the lethal joust Richard stops the contest and exiles them both. Mowbray for life and Bolingbroke who has family connections to the king for six years. Richard lives a dissolute lifestyle spending much money on his friends and hangers on, he decides to lead an army to quell a revolt in Ireland, but the treasury is nearly empty. He raises money by enforced loans on the English nobility and by the sequestration of land and property from Bolingbroke who has inherited his fathers estates, the wealthy John of Gaunt. While Richard is in Ireland Henry Bolingbroke with a host of titled followers lands in the North of England and soon attracts more support including eventually the Duke of York who Richard has entrusted with guarding his kingdom whilst he is in Ireland. Richard arrives back in England after a successful campaign to find that his army has been let go and his court favourites have fled or been executed by Bolingbroke. He is powerless and Bolingbroke looks for a way to seize power by persuading Richard to abdicate in his favour. Richard is forced to agree and becomes Bolingbroke's (now Henry IV) prisoner. Richard is murdered in Pontefract castle.

In Plantagenet England kingly succession was more often than not a tricky business, because of disputes over birthrights, however in this instance Shakespeare's focus is on a direct usurpation which brings starkly into question the divine right of kings. Richard claimed amid popular contention that he was appointed by God to rule England, still a feudal state at this time (mid 14th century) and so Richard supported by the clergy has an indisputable right to govern as he sees fit and he makes this case throughout the play. For political reasons Bolingbroke is able to lead a successful revolt, but cannot rule in security until the old king is dead. Shakespeare's skill here is in leading his audience firstly to admire Richards kingly qualities in settling a difficult dispute and then to turn them against the king when they see his unjust behaviour, to the noble families and particularly Bolingbrook. Unjust, vindictive behaviour or a politician indulging in realpolitik it's difficult to decide. However sympathies are swayed back to Richard when he is devastated by the loss of his kingship. Watching the BBC production I thought that Richard got what was coming to him, despite his tragic circumstances, but in Elizabethan England where the idea of the divine right of kings was almost sacrosanct, Shakespeares arguments brilliantly portrayed by Richard would have swayed many people to feel the tragedy of his final months.

The play is notable for its poetry and word play. There are some impressive speeches, for example John of Gaunt's patriotic 'sceptered Isle' speech or Richards 'hollow crown' speech. There are many such as these, even the assistant gardener can get in on the act:

"Why should we in the compass of a pale
Keep law and form and due proportion,
Showing, as in a model, our firm estate,
When our sea walled garden, the whole land
Is full of weeds, her fairest flowers choked up,
Her fruit trees all unpruned, her hedges ruined
Her knots disordered and her wholesome herbs
Swarming with caterpillars."

He is talking about the state of England under Richard's kingship and the caterpillars are the kings flattering supporters. We know this about the caterpillars because one of Bolingbroke's followers has already referred to Richards' flatterers as caterpillars. This is an example of the unity of Shakespeares vision and poetry in this play, which has patterns and themes interweaved throughout, for example: the idea of blood which stands for family and murder, the tears and weeping which show emotion, images of blots stains and poison, the powerful image of the mirror where Richard examines his dual identity of man and divine monarch, the idea of people and things which can be sweet or sour according to the wheel of fortune.

A Shakespeare play then that can hardly be faulted and one that has a unity of vision making it a delight to follow to the end. The character development of both Ricard II and Bolingbroke adds real depth and so 5 stars.

huhtikuu 29, 5:50 pm

William Shakespeare - A Midsummer Nights Dream (Norton Critical Edition)
A Midsummer Nights dream: BBC Shakespeare 1981
Shakespeare's wonderful A Midsummer Nights Dream is pure fantasy. The fairy hordes that populate this play have all the best lines, that is until the final act where they are largely absent and Theseus is moved to make his 'The lunatic, the lover and the poet speech." Until this time the play comes alive when we are transported to fairy wonderland.

The play starts with Theseus Duke of Athens who wants to celebrate marriage with his partner Hippolyta. The tone of this opening is set by Theseus when he addresses his future wife:

Hippolyta I wooed the with my sword,
And won thy love doing thee injuries.

Egeus enters with his daughter Hermia and two young suitors Lysander and Demetrius. Hermia wishes to marry Lysander, but Egeus has chosen Demetrius for her, he will not listen to her protestations, determined to exercise his rights as her father in accordance with the law of Athens. He expects to be supported by the Duke and he is not disappointed as Theseus tells Hermia that if she does not marry Demetrius she must either die or become a nun. After the hearing Lysander suggests to Hermia that they elope. Hermia tells her close friend Helena of her plans to elope. Helena is in love with Demetrius. Meanwhile Quince, Snug, Bottom, Flute, Snout, Starveling; local artisans are preparing a play for Theseus' wedding celebrations.

It is Act 2 when the fairies appear and all is not well in the forest. Oberon the king of the fairies has fallen out with his queen Titania. Oberon tells Puck to put a love potion on the eyes of Titania so that she will fall in love with the first wild animal she sees. He also tells Puck to use the magic potion on an Athenian gentleman who is lost in the woods, to resolve his tangled love life. Demetrius is in the forest looking for Lysander and Hermia who have also become lost and Helena is following them. The artisans are also in the forest rehearsing for their play and Puck cannot resist putting an asses head on Bully Bottom which is the first thing Titania sees when she awakes. Puck mistakenly puts the love potion on the wrong Athenian gentleman causing even more confusion between Demetrius, Lysander Hermia and Helena. Oberon manages to sort out the entanglements and also takes pity on Titania removing the donkeys head from Bottom. All is resolved to everyones satisfaction and the final act shows the artisans performing their play for Theseus and his entourage. the play finishes with the approaching dawn and the disappearance of the fairies from the forest: Puck has the last word;

If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is amended;
That you have but slumbered here
While these visions did appear,
And this weak and idle dream,
No more yielding but a dream.

The world of the fairies in the forest had never had such a sympathetic portrait as Shakespeare shows in this play. Although Puck can be mischievous, he follows Oberon's lead in trying to do good.

Jack shall have Jill
Nought shall go ill

Watching the BBC's production, which films the fairies in the moonlit splashing around a swamp like landscape, does its best to bring out the dark side of the fairies world; Puck looks on at the humans that he leads around the forest in a merry dance and says;

Lord, what fools these mortals be.

A romantic interpretation of this play held sway until the 1970's; then Peter Brooks production suggested that "the conflicts and erotic adventures of the nocturnal wood were the uncontrollable eruption of subconscious fears and desires" The BBC's interpretation is impressive in following this idea and it is stimulating to watch, however reading the play as a whole I prefer to see things in a more romantic vein. Shakespeare's poetry attains new heights, descriptions of the natural world of the fairies are lively and intense, bathed in moonlight it may be, but it is a world of wonder: a fantasy world that keeps on giving. It is a world of music and play and much of the poetry is song like in construction. Along with the fantasy world of the fairies there is the humour of the artisans rehearsals and performance of their play. In contrast to the magical woods of the fairies there is the rather staid world of Theseus and his court, but even they loosen up when the play is performed, it is as though they have been touched by the fairy world.

This is a magical play, no one gets hurt, everyone appears in a better light at the end of the play. Human troubles have been resolved and even if the play does not quite end in a joyous celebration it leaves the audience with a feel good factor that has been touched with fantasy 5 stars.

The Norton Critical edition has an excellent introduction and the critical responses to the play do well to emphasise the different interpretations. It is a short play and there are numerous extracts from Shakespeares possible source material, which might not be of interest to everybody. There is not much help with the actual text, for those who may need more interpretation. It is a play that can be read purely for its beautiful poetry, but it all came alive for me with the excellent BBC production.

huhtikuu 30, 2:10 am

No one gets hurt. A five star review.

toukokuu 20, 4:47 am

Gervase Markham - The most honorable tragedie of Sir Richard Grinuile, Knight
Gervase Markham (1658-1637) was an English poet and writer and was best known for The English Huswife. in 1595 early in his career he published The Most honorable tragedy of Sir Richard Grinville. It is a long narrative poem that could be described as Epic Poetry. It seems to fall into two parts starting off with troubles in the kingdom of the Gods and how these relate to events at the time of the Spanish Armada. The poem really gets going when it turns to a narrative on the heroic sea battle when Sir Richard Grenville took on the might of the Spanish Armada single handedly.

"Grenville was appointed Vice-Admiral of the Fleet under Thomas Howard. He was charged with maintaining a squadron at the Azores to waylay the return to Spain of the South American treasure fleets. He took command of Revenge, a galleon considered to be a masterpiece of naval construction.
At Flores Island the English fleet was surprised by a much larger squadron sent by King Philip II of Spain. Howard retreated to safety, but Grenville faced the 53 enemy ships alone, leading his single ship in what amounted to a suicide mission, stating that he "utterly refused to turn from the enimie...he would rather chose to die than to dishonour himselfe".11 His crew was reduced by nearly 100 men due to sickness on shore, but he chose nonetheless to confront the far superior Spanish force.11 For twelve hours he and his crew fought off the Spanish, causing heavy damage to fifteen galleons. According to Raleigh's account, Grenville and his soldiers fought for hour after hour, "...until all the powder of The Revenge, to the last barrell, was now spent, all her pikes broken, fortie of her best men slain, and the most part of the rest hurt".11 The ship itself was "marvellous unsaverie, filled with bloud and bodies of deade and wounded men like a slaughter house"

The poem is written in eight line stanzas with a rhyming scheme (abababcc) It builds to suitable climax when Grenville is fatally wounded, but continues to fight on although his ship is nearly destroyed. He orders the ship to be scuttled, but the surviving members of the crew refuse, choosing to surrender rather than go to their deaths with Grenville.

What foole (saith he) ads to the sea a drop,
Lends Etna sparks, or angry stormes his wind?
Who burnes the roote when lightning fiers the top?
Who unto hell, can worse then hell combined?
Pale hungry death, thy greedy longings stop,
Hope of long life is banefull to my mind:
yet hate not life, but lothe captivity
Where rests no trust to purchase victory

The second part of the poem is full of blood and thunder and Markham has written a lively and at times atmospheric poem that draws the reader into the desperate battle. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this example of epic poetry and so 3.5 stars.

toukokuu 20, 5:33 am

Henry Chettle - Piers Plainnes Seauen yeres prentiship
Henry Chettle (1564-1606) was an English dramatist and pamphleteer. He worked as a printing house factotum, author for hire and was probably a notorious forger. Piers Plainnes published in 1595 is a typical story set in a pastoral world where Pierres meets some shepherds and they sit down to be entertained by Piers telling a story of adventures in Greece and the island of Crete. I could find nothing to recommend spending much time with this and so 2 stars.

kesäkuu 7, 5:12 pm

Emanuel Ford -The Most Pleasant History Of Ornatus And Artesia

This is an Elizabethan Prose Romance probably written in 1595 and published in 1599. Little is known about the author Emanuel Ford, but this novel proved to be very popular going through at least eight editions in the 17th century. I am calling it a novel because from a 21st century perspective it reads just like one: there is no poetry, no songs just prose that is very amenable. There is no evidence of the ornate sentence structure popularised by John Lyly, which can be like so much sugar coating getting in the way of the story telling. All of the prose romances that I have read by authors such as Robert Greene, Thomas Lodge, Anthony Munday and even Thomas Nashe seem at times to struggle to break free from Lyly's ornate style. It has to be said that there is nothing groundbreaking in Ford's book, but what he has done is taken many elements of the romance stories and wielded them together into a story that works. It feels like he had a plan and kept to it, rather than letting his tale run away to wherever it felt like going.

Ornatus falls in love with Artesia after seeing her bathing in the river, however his father is a deadly enemy of her father and he has to devise a way of meeting her. He convinces a friend of hers to ply his suit, but meanwhile the kings son Lenon has fallen in lust with Artesia who is determined to reject both of them. There are secret meeting places, Ornatus disguises himself as a woman to get close to Artesia, pirates capture Artesia, Ornatus is banished with his father, there is a fight with a wild boar and Lenon holds Artesia hostage, war is declared, but all is resolved after further twists and turns.
The story itself is a mixture of fantasy with well described realistic events: there is cheating, lying, fighting, attempted rape, casual liaisons and some altruistic behaviour. Ornatus must be a master of disguise, because Artesia and his father do not recognise him when he is disguised as a woman or when he is disguised as a pilgrim, but these disguises are necessary for the plot and are familiar tropes in comedies and romances. Ornatus when disguised as a woman gets to sleep in the same bed as Artesia, but also becomes the love interest of another man; the cross dressing leads to a mixing of gender perception issues.

Caroline Lucas in her book Writing for Women claims that Emanuel Ford's Ornatus and Artesia was aimed at women readers. Its mixture of fantasy, romanticism and adventure is appealing and Artesia and her friend Adellena are right at the heart of the story. There is lust and bad behaviour from some of the male characters, but the women behave true to themselves finding ways to thwart unwanted advances to protect their honour, but consenting to love making on their own terms. There is some eroticism in the descriptions of Artesia's near naked body and a two page lovemaking scene when Ornatus and Artesia get into bed and Artesia finally decides to give up her spotless virginity, even though they are not married (she does not suffer any retribution at the hands of the author).

The story is not overly endowed with moral preaching and even though the divine right of kings is stated as an argument, at one point in the story there is a successful rising by the downtrodden classes. Ford says in his dedication/introduction that: Here you shall see lust tyrannizing avarice guilty of murder and dignity seeking his content with usurpation, yet all subverted with virtue.
There is motive in the behaviour of his character, there is self questioning and inner cogitation and there is also some logic and argument as to how they react to events. I found myself enjoying the reading experience, not getting lost or overwhelmed by the events and although the characters are mostly high born they are not shackled by traditions of courtly love. I am not sure that readers of romances in the 21st century would find this compulsive reading, but I was surprised how much I enjoyed it and so 4 stars.

kesäkuu 20, 9:05 am

Pheander the Mayden Knight - H R (Henry Roberts)
This is another Elizabethan Romance published in 1595. It is set in the kingdoms of Thessaly, Thrace, Numedia and Egypt. Dionicus is the son of Manpelious king of Numedia and he hears stories of the beautiful Nutania whom he has never seen, however Dionicus falls in love with her image and becomes so infatuated that he makes himself ill, very ill, so ill that he cannot get out of his sickbed. He is visited by Cariolus who boasts of his true love comparing her to Nutania and over a game of chess Dionicus becomes so upset he trashes the chess board and decides that he must do something to cure his sickness. He wills himself to get better so that he can voyage to see Numedia and disguises himself as a merchant calling himself Pheander. Arriving in Thrace he makes a name for himself as a knight errant and comes to the notice of Nutania who dubs him the Mayden (maiden) Knight. Nutania will not entertain Pheander as a future husband because of his low station in life; he remains disguised as Pheander the merchant. Pheander the mayden knight is then summoned to help in the wars against Egypt and he spends some years parted from Nutania whose father has died leaving his crown to her. As Queen she has resisted many suitors and longs for news of Pheander.

As Elizabethan romances go this story is slow moving, it is careful to emphasis the chivalrous behaviour of all concerned. There is great formality with long sections on the correct positioning and respect due to the nobility involved in the wars. It is a little stilted and lacks some of the drama that you may find in books of this type. It's main subject is however the love story between Nutania and Pheander with Nutania being represented as a strong and forceful personality even though she is unable to break out of conventional behaviour. I found this long story fairly dull perhaps its redeeming feature is coining the immortal phrase about Pheander that "his heart was on his halfpenny". I had not heard this before but apparently at some time halfpenny pieces were shaped like hearts. 2.5 stars.

kesäkuu 20, 9:06 am

Writing for Women, Caroline Lucas: The Example of Woman As Reader in Elizabethan Romance (Gender in Writing) by Caroline Lucas

I was interested to read this, having found Lucas's book being referred to by other critics/reviewers of Elizabethan Romances. I have read a few of these romances and have wondered who would be the target audience in the period 1560-1600. Caroline Lucas claims that they were aimed at women readers and makes a strong case for this assumption. There are no references from women readers at the time in existence saying that they had read any of the romances, but certainly there are examples of dedications by male authors to female readers; for example Sir Philip Sidney's Arcadia. The evidence points to the popularity of romance fiction by the numbers that have survived and the fact that some enjoyed reprints and therefore somebody must have been reading them.

Assuming that women were reading the romances, Lucas then asks why were they reading them and what would they have enjoyed. An issue for 21st century readers is all the romances published during this period were written by men. Written by men for women to read; they could hardly help, but to be androcentric and so Lucas stretches to giving them a 21st century feminist reading. She wonders if Elizabethan women read 'against the grain' seeing in the stories women acting strongly, independently and competently within the strictures of Elizabethan cultural norms. Remembering that men were writing about how women feel in the romances, did women readers challenge these presumptions, did they read between the lines as it were? what was their response as readers. Caroline Lucas carefully examines four texts for evidence of how male authors postulated to their female readers.

Typically in Elizabethan romances women characters are given plenty of space within the narrative. They do not take part in the fighting, jousting or wars, but they are concerned with family, their position in society and sometimes in politics. While chivalry seems still to reign supreme on the battlefield outdated ideas of courtly love no longer feature. Women are fighting for their own romantic notions whilst balancing these against the patriarchal society in which they live; who chooses their husbands or lovers, their parents, their peers or themselves? These are important and sometimes the main theme of the romances.

Lucas first looks at George Pettie's - A Petite Pallace of Pettie his pleasures 1576 which are a series of 12 stories adapted from classical Greek tales. Although Pettie places women squarely at the centre of his stories and makes them strong personalities his authorial intervention sometimes borders on being lewdly harassing. His tone is condescending and assured.

Robert Greene is next to come under Lucas's microscope; after all he was famous for his romances and fellow author Thomas Nash referred to him as the Homer of Women. Greene's female characters are usually strong resolute women, but Greene usually had a moral agenda which was typical of the time. Women must live up to man's idea of feminine virtues, he had a predilection for suffering heroines. In Greene's Mamillia it is the virtuous resourceful, women who bring their faithless men to heel. They are given significant, although limited power to act to shape their lives.

Lucas is perhaps more in admiration of Barnaby Riche who was a military man writing about martial arts, but who occasionally wrote romances. His collection of eight romances 'Riche his farewell to Military Profession' 1581 was a best seller. His fictional women have strength, independence, resourcefulness and wit. They behave virtuously and with a certain amount of freedom, which may well have surprised Riche's contemporary female readers.

Lucas final assessment is Sir Philip Sidney's Arcadia and for once she does not come to any conclusions. She acknowledges that the quality of his writing gives a more nuanced approach, but she is ambivalent about how she reads him. I think more work could have been done here, but I do agree that The Arcadia and the New Arcadia are difficult to pin down.

There can of course be few conclusions from Lucas's postulations as she attempts to get inside the minds of Elizabethan women readers. It does however present a different aspect for readers today when approaching these texts. I will continue to read them and hopefully Lucas's ideas will add another dimension to the experience. 3.5 stars

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 3, 7:12 am

Orpheus His Journey to hell and his musicke to the ghosts
This is a long poem of over 700 lines printed in 1595 semi-anonymously; the author only distinguished by the initials R. B. It is written in stanzas of six lines (sestains) with a rhyming scheme of ABABCC. It is a retelling of the story Orpheus and Euridice a story that had come down from Greek myths and was a popular theme for renaissance poets. R. B. tells the whole story in iambic pentameters mostly, with undeniable charm. These are stanzas near the start of the poem:

Where as the Maides by custome came in thronges,
when any Maid was married from their traine:
And there they spend the time in sport and songs,
that other may doe so to them againe:
Where some were dancing hand in hand in ringes,
And others sit to heare how Orpheus sings.

Here Orpheus warbles on his trembling stringes,
for to delight Euridice his joy:
She sometimes dances, then sits downe and sings,
and woman like begins to kisse and toy,
Thus these two sporting in each others sight,
Thinkes euery hower a yeare till it be night.

When as the wearie horses of the Sunne,
began to hie them downe vnto their rest,
And now their maisters iourney almost done,
they end their toylsome labour in the west:
Home hies these louers with a full intent
To change these sportes to other merriment.

The retelling of the story has resulted in some different versions springing from the original and so it is interesting to read this version from the mysterious Elizabethan poet. After his failure to bring Euridice back from hell Orpheus sings mournfully about fickle women:

And in inuectiue Ditties day lie singes,
th'uncertain pleasure of vnconstant Loue:
How manie woes a womans beautie bringes,
and into what extreames this ioy doth shoue
Poore foolish men, that ere they be awarre
Will rashlie ouershoot themselues so fatre.

There gins he sing of secrete Loues deceites,
and womens fawning fickle companie?
The outward golden shew of poysoned baytes,
that drawes so many men to miserie.
And for an instance sets himselfe to shew,
One that had suffred all this pleasing woe.

But the women have their revenge:

And with confused weapons beat him downe,
quenching their angrie thirst with his warm blood:
At whose vntimely death though heauens frowne,
yet they defend their quarrell to be good,
And for their massacre this reason render,
He was an enemie vnto their gender.

VVhich done, to rid him quite out of the way,
him and his Harpe they into Hebar fling:
Vpon whose stringes the gliding streames doe play,
and for his soule lamenting Dirges sing.
Till to the watrie Oceans greedy wombe,
They carie him for to go seeke his tombe.

It is interesting to compare this with Nick Cave's 21st century song that ends:

Poor Orpheus woke up with a start
All amongst the rotting dead
His lyre tucked safe under his arm
His brains all down his head
Oh mama, oh mama

Eurydice appeared brindled in blood
She said to Orpheus
"If you play that fucking thing down here
I'll stick it up your orifice!"
Oh mama, oh mama

"This lyre lark is for the birds, " said Orpheus
"It's enough to send you bats
Let's stay down here, Eurydice, dear
We'll have a bunch of screaming brats"
Oh mama, oh mama

Orpheus picked up his lyre for the last time
He was on a real low down bummer
He stared deep into the abyss and said
This one is for Mama
Oh mama, oh mama
Oh mama, oh mama

The story of Orpheus and Euridice is one of the great tales from Greek mythology; adapted by the roman classical poets Virgil and Ovid and still providing inspiration for poetry, drama opera and song. I enjoyed this Elizabethan version and so 4 stars.

heinäkuu 4, 12:38 pm

Thomas Edwards - Cephalus And Procris. Narcissus.
Printed in 1595 these are two epic poems written by a gentleman of whom very little is known apart from his name. They survive in a unique copy and have been reprinted for the Rorburghe Club in 1882 and edited by Rev W. E. Buckley. The original spelling and punctuation has been kept and so they do not make for an easy read. Apparently the poems were not well received at the time of publication according to two literary figures: Thomas Nashe and William Covell. They remain fairly obscure with modern critics seemingly (if the internet is anything to go by) more interested in discovering the identity of the author rather than the quality of the writing.

The poems are in effect two re-interpretations/translations of epic poems by the Classical Roman Poet Ovid, which were a treasure trove for 16th century British poets and they still are in the 21st century. They are of course regularly plundered for a good reason: they are good stories and are relatively well known. I wonder myself whether too much attention is paid today to poems that are original to the authors; with poems that are re-interpretations or even re-tellings of classical works being marked down for unoriginality. This was not the case in the 16th century.

Cephalus And Procris is the story of a newly married couple. Cephalus is a beautiful youth addicted to hunting and attracts the attention of the goddess Aurora. Aurora imprisons Cephalus who may or may not have resisted her advances. Procris wins back Cephalus with two gifts: a dog that could outrun any rival and a spear that always hits its mark. Cephalus continues to enjoy the hunt, which ends in tragedy when his spear finds its mark in the body of Procris. There is more to the story with its themes of love and sexual jealousy and the narrative is not always easy to follow in Edwards version. The poem is written in heroic couplets

Narcissus is the story of the beautiful young man who falls in love with his reflection in a stream. The poem is written in seven line stanzas and I found this to be the more enjoyable of the two. The poetry is lively and never without interest and there are many stanzas that worked well for me; here are a couple of examples:

See foulings Queen see how thou trainst me forth
Than gavest me beauty which the world admired
But when I came to talent out the worth
What issue joyed it that my youth required
A brain-sick hot conceit by love inspired
A flaming blast no sooner seen than gone
A sink to swallow up the looker on.

This is when he is staring into the water, a stream in this case not a pool and a mist comes up:

It was a vapour, fuming whole assent
Loosing the vital organ whence it sprang
Much like an untrained falcon loftly bent
Wanting the meanes, tottering till tir'd doth hang
Beating the air: so till the strength was spent
This saffron pale congealed fuming mist
Bearded my senses when my love I mist.

A little work is needed to put yourself into Edwards take on these classical stories and in this edition there are previous translations as well as versions by Boccacio for those who want to delve deeper. I just read Edwards' poems 3.5 stars.

heinäkuu 24, 6:36 pm

Francis Sabie - The Fisher-mans tale
Francis Sabie - Flora's Fortune
Francis Sabie - Pans Pipe.
Francis Sabie had thee books printed in 1595. He is another of those Elizabethan authors we know precious little about. He was designated as the schoolmaster of Lichfield and there is some conjecture that he was also a clergyman. He had a further work printed in 1596 Adams Complaint. None of these titles were reprinted and it is thought that the editions printed were not large. The wonder is that they have survived, albeit in only a single copy and so one wonders how representative they are of the sort of books that managed to get into print at this time. The Fisher-mans tale: of the famous Actes, Life and love of Cassander a Grecian Knight and Flora's Fortune: The second part and finishing of the Fisher-mans Tale is an epic poem written in blank verse.

The story starts off in the first person where a shepherd sets out to fish in his wherrie boat and gets swept out to see. He makes a landing on a rocky isle where he comes across an elderly man who has the bearing of the nobility who introduces himself as Cassander and tells the story of his life. He was a merchants son who became a great knight and fought on the side of the Christians against the pagans. He is lorded with honours when he single handedly saves the beautiful Lucina, but refuses the offer of marriage and returns to Greece intent on becoming a shepherd to live an idyllic life in Arcadia. He falls in love with Flora, but her father will not let her marry a stranger. They elope, but are discovered and chased onto a boat just as it sets sail. The boat is shipwrecked in a storm and Cassander manages to save himself. The second book is Flora's story. She and her father also survive the wreck and land on the island of Delos and visit the church of Apollo, where a scroll tells their fortunes. Flora will live a long life and Cassander has also survived the wreck. They take ship to Greece and father and daughter become famous as prophets, but Flora disowns a life of fame and sets out to search for Cassander.

The resolution of the story owes pretty much everything to Robert Greene's Pandosto a story written in prose, which was published in 1587, however borrowing from previous published works was an accepted fact of life for writers in the 16th century and Greene had himself adapted stories from classical authors and Shakespeare may have used Greene's Pandosto for his play A Winters Tale. I found that Francis Sabie was comfortable in writing in blank verse and his story was lively and well told. His chosen format of an epic poem enabled him to tell his story in a more condensed and immediate style than the prose of Robert Greene. It does not seem out of place when compared with more illustrious writers using the same format, which one can only think was popular at the time. I enjoyed the read and so 3.5 stars.

Which rent our ships against the craggie rockes,
Then might you see an heart lamenting hap,
Some hang on boords, some swimming in the deep,
All labouring to saue and keep their liues:
I held in armes my true and dearest loue:
Thinking with her to end my lothed life:
When suddenly we were by fate disioynd:
I throwne by force all headlong in the seas,
Yet labouring my life still to preserue:
For who so wretched but desires to liue,
These twinding armes caught hold vpon a boord,
Which drew me to this life-preseruing rocke,

Pans Pipe; Three Pastoral eglogues in English Hexameter with other poetical verses delightful, is not in my opinion so successful. An eglog is more commonly spelt today as a eclogue and is a pastoral long poem based on the classical example set out by the ancient Roman Poet Virgil. By 1593 it was a common form of poetical expression used by educated men associated with the court of Queen Elizabeth and made popular by Edmund Spenser's poem The Shepheards calendar in 1579. An Eglog harked back to a golden age that never existed where shepherds tended their flocks and played and sung about an idyllic life and the troubles of the world outside their own sphere of existence. Sabie follows the well trodden path of Edmund Spenser, but his attempts at writing in the style of an English Hexameter are clumsy. The first eglogue is a conversation between two shepherds in Arcadia who tell of the pleasures and some of the problems of life in the countryside. Tyterus tells of his love for a shepherdess. In Eclogue two Damon and Melibeus tell the stort of Faustus who because of a riotous life was banished from Arcadia for severn years and had to seek employment under a master in a house in town. His love for a country girl kept him going for his years in exile. The third Eclogue is a story telling competition in which Faustus is the judge. This is pretty poor reading today and so 2 stars.

Muokkaaja: elokuu 21, 5:08 pm

The First Rape of Faire Hellen - John Trussell.
I am needing a bit more perseverance to search out and to read more publications from 1595 as it seems I am getting to the bottom of the barrel. Its a little like my project of reading science fiction novels from 1951: you have to expect that the nearer you get to the bottom; then there will be a drop in quality. This has not been so evident in the Elizabethan texts, because what is and what has not been preserved is down to taste, luck and the machinations of history.

The first rape of faire Hellen is an epic poem of nearly 1000 lines: there are only two known copies in existence and one of those is illegible in places. M. A. Shaaber got permission to print a copy of the text and carried out some research on the author. He could draw no positive conclusions, but the sonnet which proceeded the poem with its praise for an unknown author has been surmised as being Shakespeare and the author J. T. declares his friendship and amitie. Shaaber's article appeared in a 1957 edition of Shakespeare quarterly, but the poet John Trussell remains a mystery.

The poem is made up of sextets with an ababcc rhyming scheme and tells the story of a very young Hellen - too young the poet says for marriage. The poet meets the ghost of Hellen while walking in the woods and she tells him the story of her first ravishment. In this way it follows the well trodden format that was so successful in "The Mirror for Magistrates" The beautiful young Hellen was already attracting much attention:

Look now on Hybla - honey seeking bees
when Phoenix shines forsake their hived bower
Loathing to touch dissembling Alpine trees
Do cling together on the fairest flower
So come enobled wights in general
To view my beauty that surpassed all

Theseus becomes a persistent suitor and takes an opportunity to ravish her, leaving the young Hellen distraught.

Then gan new sorrow vexe my souls salt taste
and uncouth passions to assail my heart:
When weighing present pain with pleasure past
my forepast solace with my feeling smart
My hoarse-grown voice a fresh began to mutter
And to the senseless rocks new sorrows utter.

The poem follows Hellen thoughts and feelings as she mourns her lost virginity and thinks to hide from her family what has happened to her. She tells her waiting maid who confesses that Theseus also raped her and they agree to keep it secret from Hellen's noble parents. However word gets to her mother who confides that the best course of action is to keep the secret and to marry King Menelaus who her father agrees is a good match.

But twas sufficient that my face was fair
And that sufficed to satisfy his mind
My virtue lost did not my beauty impair
Perfection so did his affection bind
That he would not my imperfection see
But with all faults was glad to marry me.

The story of Hellen's first abduction comes from Book II of Virgil's Aeneid, but John Trussell may well have gathered it from other sources. Classical literature was a source for many of the epic poems that appeared at the time and Trussell's story does not lose itself in too many classical allusions, but focuses on the distress of Hellen and how her family are able to navigate her into a worthy marriage. It is well told with some good stanzas. 3.5 stars.

syyskuu 13, 6:46 pm

Thomas Churchyard - A musicall consort of heavenly harmonie (compounded out of manie parts of musicke) called Churchyards charitie.

Thomas Churchyard (1520-1604) was the son of a farmer, who received a good education. He entered the household of Henry Howard Earl of Surrey where he remained for twenty years, no doubt learning something of the art of poetry. In 1541 he began his career as a soldier of fortune and continued this on and off for most of the rest of his long life. He campaigned in Scotland, Flanders, Netherlands Spain and Ireland. He was taken prisoner by the Scots but boasted that he charmed them with his language and writing skills to the extent that he was treated more like an honoured guest, while he waited for a ransom to be paid. He wrote much poetry, history, travelogues and other entertainments, he was employed to provide pageants for Queen Elizabeth, but sometimes his writing got him into trouble and he was forced to go on campaign again.

Now known simply as Churchyards charitie this pamphlet or book was printed in 1595; towards the end of his life and when he had been retired some 20 years from campaigning. It contains a dedication/epistle to Robert Devreux Earl of Essex, An everlasting memorie of Christian comfort to the Queens most Excellent majestie and then an untitled poem of twenty stanzas ; each stanza ending with the short line O charitie help. Much of Churchyard's oeuvre is autobiographical and this poem while telling of the ills that are facing England ends with the ills facing Churchyard himself:

The wo of wars, and pride and pomp of peace,
The toile of world, and trouble here and there
And churlish checks, of fortune I release
Their heavy cross, I can no longer bare
In pieces small, my scribbled scrolls I tear
So slinging verse, and books before your feet
I crave some crownes, to buy my shrouding sheet.
O charitie help.

There follows a single stanza poem to the general reader before we get to the meat of the book and Churchyardes Charitie. This is a poem of 92 stanzas of seven lines making a total of 624 lines. It is an extension of the earlier "O charitie help" poem without that final line. It has the same caesura around the middle of each line that reminds me a little of the 14th century Piers Plowman poem, like a broken back to the poem and like the earlier poem it complains of the ills facing the country, through the greed and pride of the rich, here is a sample:

Who does not sigh, to see the poor opprest
Bye rich men's reach, that wrests away the right
Who will not wail, the woe of troubled breast
Or sore lament, the state of wronged wight
When broad day brings, darke dealings unto light
who will not rue, our wretched race on earth
That keeps till death, no rule from day of birth.

The poem continues with complaints about the unchecked power of the rich and well connected. He tells of the lanes and fields being full of the sick and lame and of overflowing prisons where the inmates reach out through the grills. The rich hoard their wealth and speculate to make more money and do not give a thought to charity. He talks of the golden age of the past and how that has now been transformed:

Words are the waves, that welters on the seas
And works a froth, in colour white as snow
Makes thousands sicke, and breeds a cold disease
To those that with, such swelling surges go
Inconstant words, with tide will ebb and floe
But fruitful deeds, stands firm and fast as rock
That bides the brunt, of every blast and shock

The poem moves on to celebrate the worth and the role of charity and ends this section with God knows but charity is rare. Lust, greed and pride destroy everything and then there is new fangledness among the courtiers. Churchyard is pessimistic, believing that man cannot change. He spends several stanzas speaking of the coldness of the weather and how this is reflected in the ills of the majority of the people. He ends by saying he is old and that his hap and hope is for a better place. He ends with a plea for men to take charity aright.

There is another poem to finish the book which Churchyard calls; A praise of poetry some notes thereof drawn out of the apologie, the noble minded Knight Sir Phillip Sidney. It consists of some 60, four line stanzas, celebrating the power of poetry. Looking backwards to the classical poets and giving fairly short shrift to his contemporary poets, none of whom approach the poetical voice of Sir Phillip Sidney. There are some pleasing stanzas for example:

The childest wit and churlish mind
Lo then how poetry may
Both alter manners and bad kind
To frame a better way.

It is no surprise that Churchyard was scrabbling around towards the end of his life for patronage. His views of society could not have endeared him to the patrons he was hoping to attract. I enjoyed reading his thoughts on the state of contemporary Elizabethan life. He pulls no punches and does not hide the axe he has to grind. His poetry is not the greatest, but the insight it provides outweighs any shortcomings. I am always pleased to read something from this soldier poet and so 3.5 stars

syyskuu 23, 11:32 am

Pleasant Quippes for upstart newfangled gentlewomen or A glasse to view the pride of vainglorious women containing a pleasant invective against the fantastical Foreign Toyes used in womens apparell

A poem of 294 lines in six line stanzas with a regular rhyming scheme published in 1595, which has been attributed to Stephen Gosson by J Payne Collier. It is easy to see why this should attribution should be made because Gosson had authored The Schoole of Abuse in 1579 which was an invective against actors and other performers on stage. I read an edited version by Edwin Johnston Howard who claims that Collier had forged Stephen Gosson's signature on the copy that he studied and so the poem must be seen as anonymous.

The poem is generally humorous and light hearted, and avoids the worse kind of misogyny that was all too apparent at this time:

But when as men, of lore and wit
and guiders of the weaker kind:
Do judge them for their mate so fit
that nothing more, can please their mind.
I know not what to say to this,
But sure I know, it is amiss.

The poem gently chides women of various ages for wearing the apparel which the poet claims has largely been imported from abroad. He then runs through the various items of clothing, which are obviously difficult to wear and which only serve a purpose of hiding a true women's worth. He says that Holland smocks are like nets to trap the unwary and the hoops and rings imported from France served to hide unwanted pregnancies, he goes further:

When whoores in stews had gotten poxe
This French device kept coats from smocks.

I think thats enough from this poem, but Howard's notes at the end contain an explanation of the items of clothing referred to in the text and also some colloquial phrases for example:

Light Heeles Trash is worthless clothing and such frippery as is usually associated with whores and drabs.


The Trumpets of Fame or Sir F Drake's and Sir J Hawkins farewell, with an encouragement to all sailors and soldiers in this worthy enterprise, by Henry Roberts

With this poem Henry Roberts launched a career of Patriotic pamphlets that was to keep him occupied for the next thirty years.

The poem has stanzas of varying length on its 14 pages and is mostly rhyming couplets. There are short sections on all the famous sailors that were involved in the enterprise which is thought to be the English attack on the Spanish island of Puerto Rico and the ships that took part. It is fairly awful stuff and probably only interesting for the people named. Roberts is quite clear that England had God on its side and the treasure plundered would enrich all of England.

These two poems interested me because of the variety of their subjects, probably an example of other poems printed at the time and now lost. I cannot claim any worth as to the poetic content, but it was amusing to read them 2.5 stars.

syyskuu 23, 2:03 pm

The things you read ! : )