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Shakespeare's Restless World

Another excellent series of podcasts from the BBC, exploring Shakespeare's plays in the wider context of culture, politics and knowledge of the times; twenty 13-minute pieces, all presented by Neil McGregor, the Director of the British Museum, who was such a success with the History of the World in 100 Objects podcast series. The single one which was most useful to me was the one abouit Ireland, making the point that MacMorris is in fact the only Irish speaking character in Shakespeare, though there are plenty of Scots and several Welsh; and many plays have kern or gallowglass hovering round. The second-last episode, on cruelty and torture, is particularly gruesome. But generally an excellent investment of four hours or so of listening.

(And absolutely no mention of the so-called authorship debate!)


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 17th, 2012 09:30 am (UTC)
I caught several of those, and was both impressed and enlightened. Every time some idiot whinges about the cost of a tv licence, I point them at programme such as this (and full marks to the BBC for archiving both series online).
(Deleted comment)
Jun. 17th, 2012 03:23 pm (UTC)
That's an interesting idea. It seems to have been Shakespeare's year for public recantations (c.f. "Oldcastle is not the man" in the epilogue to 2 Henry IV). I wonder who would have been doing the yelling, though? Someone powerful and political, or someone closer to home - a fellow actor, or a miffed Arden in-law, perhaps?

Mind you, Fluellen shares a lot of "ridiculous" characteristics with Glendower, don't you think? Both verbose, priding themselves on their learning, brave certainly but also bombastic. Gower essentially has to calm down his excitable Celtic comrades, with a bracing douche of Anglo-Saxon common sense.

They're an odd triplet of plays, though, and might almost be a study of the same kinds of actions in different lights, like Monet with his haystacks: 1HIV is a sunshine play; 2HIV is darkening toward evening; HV glitters in artificial light and sharp shadow. Falstaff palls, of course, and the thievery of the Cheapside crew which was hi-jinks at Gads Hill, in France becomes a hanging offence. Henry as politician giddies his people's minds with foreign quarrels, but what had been Machiavellian advice from his father is recast as glorious in Henry's execution. And in Act V of Henry V, Henry becomes (or pretends to become) just the no-nonsense, down-to-earth, hyper-masculine soldier he had previously mocked Hotspur for being, except that now we are to find it impressive.
Jun. 18th, 2012 08:31 am (UTC)
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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