Actress Glenda Jackson in Shakespeare’s King Lear


This video from England says about itself:

27 October 2016

Glenda Jackson and Antony Sher both play Shakespeare‘s King Lear this winter in London. The only question is which one you’ll see first!

By Gillian Piggott in Britain:

Thursday 17th November 2016

GILLIAN PIGGOTT sees Glenda Jackson give one of the great tragic performances in a flawed production of King Lear

King Lear
Old Vic, London SE1
3/5

IN THIS King Lear, Glenda Jackson makes a storming return to the theatre after more than two decades in British politics and her monumental performance shows just how much politics’ gain has been the stage’s loss.

Lear is the perfect choice for the wiry Jackson, whose elderly body, beautiful and androgynous, fascinates. The question of a female playing a fading old man does not even arise. She completely inhabits the role.

Jackson’s greatest asset always was, and still is, her mellifluous voice and meticulous articulation. That vocal range, moving effortlessly from gentle lower register to harsh higher notes paints Lear’s journey in bright colours and affords us the chance to relish the poetry.

But while Jackson’s performance will go down as one of the great Lears, director Deborah Warner’s uneven interpretation of the play as a domestic tragedy about the indignities and injustices of old age downplays the epic dimension and political context and fails to support Jackson’s marvellous work.

Surprisingly, Warner appears not to trust the material, seeking instead to import contemporary references at every turn.

While Jackson’s androgyny reflects the current interest in gender fluidity, clunky gimmicks such as setting the play in a rehearsal room or actors simulating masturbation and copulation are distractions.

And it’s difficult to take in the wonderful “stand up for bastards” speech by Edmund (Simon Manyonda) if it is delivered while he is working out.

Celia Imrie and Jane Horrocks are good as Goneril and Regan and the sado-masochistic relationship between the latter and Cornwall (Danny Webb) works as a reading.

But no effort is made to make a case for the sisters’ cruelty and their “filial ingratitude,” lessening the dramatic texture of the characters and the play. Rhys Ifans, genuinely funny, is a fine fool.

But some of the younger cast members, far less convincing, are “severely o’erparted,” an instance being Morfydd Clark. Her excessively emotional interpretation of Cordelia renders her delivery inaudible.

Runs until December 3, box office: oldvictheatre.com.

Shakespeare and British poetry today


This 2012 video says about itself:

Shakespeare Sonnet 18 performed by 8 year old child actress Alexis Rosinsky.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

‘All of human life in a poetic instant’

Saturday 23rd April 2016

o mark the quatercentenary of Shakespeare’s death, Hannah Crawforth and Elizabeth Scott-Baumann invited 30 leading contemporary poets to respond to Shakespeare’s sonnets in their own form, voice and style. The resulting book is, they say, a unique poetic celebration of a writer whose work ‘contains multitudes’.

WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE died on April 23 1616, which may have been his birthday. That his life should seemingly end on the anniversary of the day it began is apt, for Shakespeare’s death represents the start of a long and vibrant afterlife for the poet’s works.

Shakespeare’s plays and poems have continued to be read and performed around the world, translated into every language imaginable, and reinterpreted in every possible way.

Our book seeks to continue the tradition of reinventing Shakespeare, while also serving to commemorate his writing in the year of the quatercentenary of his death.

The poems they produced appear alongside the sonnets with which they engage most closely. At times this engagement is detailed and sustained; at others a single word, phrase, metaphor or fleeting feeling prompted their imaginations to take flight. In all instances it is Shakespeare’s language, his verbal brilliance, the dazzling way that he crystallises all of human life into a poetic instant, which our poets respond to.

While such virtuosic qualities are on display throughout his works, they are perhaps most potently captured in his sonnets; 154 poems of 14 lines of interwoven rhyme, first published in 1609, that form a loose sequence.

Shakespeare’s sonnets are at once the apex of the form, representing the heights of what it can achieve, and also an afterword to a poetic tradition that had dominated literary fashion some 20 years earlier: the 1590s saw sonnet sequences by Philip Sidney, Edmund Spenser, Richard Barnfield, Samuel Daniel and others and it may have been during this period that Shakespeare first worked on his own poems.

An element of belatedness is central to our understanding of the sonnets, and to this book. Our poets, like Shakespeare himself, are returning to a form that is itself propelled by the logic of return, as its rhyme sounds constantly bring the reader back to preceding lines, making the past vividly present in the current moment.

One of the preoccupations of Shakespeare’s series is with how the poet and his lovers will be remembered after they are gone. As such, the sonnets make a particularly fitting place at which to pause and commemorate Shakespeare himself.

The themes of loss, grief, the passing of time, mortality, and posthumous remembrance that pervade the sequence have proved enduring. Our own poets frequently take them up and, like Shakespeare, explore such terrain as a way of thinking about what poetry itself can do.

When Shakespeare imagines his own poems as “the living record of your memory,” he speaks of each reader’s ability to bring life to his verse, as well as his verse’s ability to memorialise the beloved.

There is a knowing bravado there too and these new poems respond to the cynical competitiveness of the sonnet as well as its capacity for more reverent celebration. A concern with inheritance — the transmission of ideas, values and even words from one generation to another — often guides the writers assembled in the book, who look to the past and its literary riches as well as to the future and their own legacies.

This past is at once a source of inspiration and a shadow any writer must step out of. Shakespeare felt this acutely and now he himself casts perhaps the longest shadow of all.

The desire to emulate and surpass the writers of the past drove Shakespeare to new literary heights, while rivalry with his contemporaries prompted some of the most astonishing theatrical and poetic experiments ever known.

This potent combination of past tradition and individual innovation makes Shakespeare’s voice unique. His metaphors, in particular, deserve comment for their power, aptness and sheer unexpected beauty.

Shakespeare remakes the language afresh, and our poets in turn rework the imaginative landscape of poetry.

Sleep is figured as the sea, ebbing and flowing to its own rhythms. A fragile flower or plant comes to hold the weight of the universe. A storm summons up all the forces of nature and human invention. The sonnet form requires that each poem is often built around one such image — or conceit — exploring a metaphor by turning it inside out.

The “volta,” or turn, that comes in the latter lines of each sonnet gives this particular force, allowing a poet to radically rethink his or her own ideas within the security of a tightly constrained form.

Our contributors have seized this imperative and often borrow the logic of the Shakespearean sonnet, even where they do not choose to write in this form themselves.

The skeleton of such poems, which are usually structured in two units of eight and then six lines, but which retain a sense of quatrains and a couplet, prompts numerological play and allows a writer to create a counterpoint between the movement of a poem and the differing rhythms of the ideas it contains.

Again, Shakespeare does this to a superlative degree and our poets have internalised this aspect of his writing, giving it new life in their own verse.

The sonnet is at once the most compressed of literary forms and also one of the most expansive. Like Shakespeare, it contains multitudes.

We believe the poems in this collection do the same.

On Shakespeare’s Sonnets: A Poets’ Celebration, edited by Hannah Crawforth and Elizabeth Scott-Baumann, is published by Bloomsbury in association with the Royal Society of Literature and King’s College London, price £12.99.

Sonnet 116

William Shakespeare

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments; love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove.
O no, it is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wand’ring bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

Magnetism

Gillian Clarke

Pull between earth and moon, or chemistry,
carries the swallow home from Africa
to perch again on his remembered tree,
the weeping birch by the pond. A star
will guide his mate home in a week, perhaps,
to the old nest in the barn, remade, mould
of spittle and pond-sludge in its cusp
as the new year in the mud-cup of the old.
Loss broke the swan on the river when winter
stole his mate when he wasn’t looking. Believing,
he waited, rebuilt the nest, all summer
holding their stretch of river, raging, grieving.
So would I wait for you, were we put apart.
Mind, magnetism, hunger of the heart.

Gillian Clarke, National Poet of Wales 2008-2016, was awarded the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry 2010 and the Wilfred Owen Award 2012. Her recent books include Ice, shortlisted for the TS Eliot Award 2012 and The Christmas Wren, 2014. She is currently working on a new collection Zoology and her New Selected Poems is to be published by Picador next month.

William Shakespeare, book republished


This video about William Shakespeare is called King Lear: The Fool.

By Gordon Parsons in Britain:

Of his, and our time

Thursday 21st April 2016

GORDON PARSONS reflects on the timely republication of a book on Shakespeare’s significance in his own period and today

Shakespeare: Poet and Citizen by Victor Kiernan (Zed Books, £14.99)

THERE are many Shakespeares.

There’s the Stratford lad whose private life, despite many biographies, remains relatively unknown. In consequence an inventive industry, questioning whether such a “nonentity” could possibly have been the playwright and poet whose achievement is recognised as the Everest of world literature, has spawned a mountain of publications.

There’s the writer whose texts are seen by the educational establishment as necessary examination fodder for generations of children who mostly will never again wish to read or even to see Shakespeare on stage, his natural and essential habitat.

Then there’s the national icon whose name can be employed to stir up patriotic spirits in time of need and the commercial “Shakesploitation,” whereby cigars are only one of the myriad products that use the Bard tag.

But both his huge and creative vocabulary and his poetry live in the bloodstream of the language.

They inform everyday conversation, so that Colonel Tim Collins can rouse his troops for battle in Kuwait with an extemporised version of Henry V’s “band of brothers” Agincourt speech and, less auspiciously, there’s the Royal Marine sergeant, unluckily videoed paraphrasing Hamlet. “Shuffle off this mortal coil, you cunt,” he told a wounded Afghan prisoner before shooting him in cold blood.

Undeniably, the plays have captured the imagination and spoken to the generations in the theatre and now on the screen over the 400 years since his death, the quatercenteneary of which is marked on Saturday.

Innumerable books have attempted to answer why this should be the case, literary specialists have analysed the poetry and the characters, while directors and actors have explored the stagecraft and thematic meaning in productions in every kind of venue from village halls to the Royal Shakespeare and National Theatre stages.

Whatever the works may have meant to previous ages — grotesquely adapted in the 17th century or played alongside pantomimes and circus acts in the 19th — they have engaged with our troubled modern world with a particular acuity.

Victor Kiernan, one of that outstanding group of Marxist historians, including Eric Hobsbawn and EP Thompson, spent nearly 50 years studying the 16th century, which shared with today the unnerving crisis of a fundamentally changing world. The movement from feudalism to early capitalism questioned every element of life as codes of behaviour, ethics, class and economic power were going through tectonic shifts.

Few would deny that our own world is undergoing momentous upheavals, from post-capitalism’s decay into an unknown future.

Kiernan’s exhaustive research led, at the age of 80, to the 1993 Shakespeare: Poet and Citizen, now republished.

His detailed knowledge of the plays and the period they emerged from give an enormous authority to his analysis of the forces at work in them. He covers the entire canon, including the sonnets and the comedies but his analysis of the histories is central.

As an historian, Kiernan was understandably more interested in Shakespeare the citizen than the poet, believing that “all good critics are historians” who cannot divorce literature from the socio-political world that spawned it.

If he believes that the sonnets would not be much read if they had been written by anyone other than Shakespeare, he finds them most interesting in their range of social and political implications. An example is “lease” in the line “Summer’s lease hath all too short a date,” which, according to Kiernan, reminds us that “short leases were weapons in the hands of landowners who were busy ejecting superfluous tenants.”

He maintains that “past politics fascinated Shakespeare from the beginning so obviously it is scarcely possible to think that he was not interested in the politics of his own time.”

Half of his plays, including the great tragedies — treated in depth by Kiernan in his later Eight Tragedies of Shakespeare — are set in historical times. His central analysis of the English history cycles, mapping the 14th and 15th centuries of civil turmoil from the reigns of Richard II to Richard III, captures the essence of Shakespeare’s instinctive understanding of the forces at play in power and personal politics, forces that emerge in all his works.

Here was a world, like both Shakespeare’s and our own, struggling to emerge from a crumbling system into a new world of hope and fear. His plays give “a human contour to impersonal tides of change.”

In the “feminine” world of the comedies, the heroines collectively demonstrate “the vision of a humanity not yet in being,” with an intelligence, strength and sensitivity greater than any of the male characters.

By comparison with the histories, the comedies centre on individuals, with the group “much less a microcosm of society.” Yet the comedies do mirror a society “permeated by money and money-making.”

Primarily, though, Shakespeare was and is an entertainer.

But, as Kiernan has it, “every genuine poet is a teacher” and for his contemporary audiences and those of today he reflects a dramatic image of the past “in order to understand the present better and what was needed to understand the future better than either.”

‘Shakespeare’s skull was stolen’


This video from England says about itself:

TRAILER: Shakespeare’s Tomb | Saturday 8pm | Channel 4

21 March 2016

William Shakespeare‘s grave has long been subject to rumour and intrigue, but has never been investigated, until now

Find out more here.

From the BBC:

Shakespeare‘s skull ‘probably stolen’ from Stratford grave

23 March 2016

A hi-tech investigation of William Shakespeare‘s grave has concluded his skull was probably stolen.

The discovery gives credence to a news report in 1879, later dismissed as fiction, that trophy hunters took the skull from his shallow grave in 1794.

A team used a ground-penetrating radar (GPR) scan to look through the grave at Holy Trinity Church in Stratford in the first archaeological probe of the site.

It allowed investigators to see below ground without disturbing the grave.

Archaeologist Kevin Colls of Staffordshire University, who carried out the project with leading geophysicist Erica Utsi, concluded: “We have Shakespeare’s burial with an odd disturbance at the head end and we have a story that suggests that at some point in history someone’s come in and taken the skull of Shakespeare.

“It’s very, very convincing to me that his skull isn’t at Holy Trinity at all.”

The investigation was carried out to coincide with the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death.

The documentary Secret History: Shakespeare’s Tomb will be shown on Channel 4 on Saturday 26 March at 20:00 BST.

The playwright’s final resting place has long been the subject of argument among historians and archaeologists, because it is too short for an adult burial.

It also carries no name, only the chilling curse: “Good friend, for Jesus’ sake forbear, To dig the dust enclosed here. Blessed be the man that spares these stones, And cursed be he that moves my bones.”

Key findings of the investigation

Evidence of a significant repair to the head end of the grave, leading to the theory that it was needed to correct a sinking of the floor possibly caused by a previous disturbance

The repair gives new credence to a story published in The Argosy magazine in 1879 claiming Shakespeare’s skull was stolen from his shallow grave

The survey found the playwright, his wife Anne Hathaway and other relatives were not buried in a large family vault deep underground, as has long been thought, but in shallow graves beneath the church floor

Shakespeare and his wife’s graves are less than a metre deep

His grave was found to be significantly longer than his short stone – extending west towards the head end, making it the same size as the other family graves

The GPR also found no evidence of metal in the area of the grave, such as coffin nails, suggesting they were not buried in coffins but simply wrapped in winding sheets, or shrouds, and buried in soil

Investigators went to another church, St Leonard’s, in Beoley, Worcestershire, where legend has it a mysterious skull in a sealed crypt is that of Shakespeare‘s.

A forensic anthropological analysis revealed it to belong to an unknown woman who was in her 70s when she died.

Mr Colls said: “It was a great honour to be the first researcher to be given permission to undertake non-invasive archaeological investigations at the grave of William Shakespeare.

“With projects such as this, you never really know what you might find, and of course there are so many contradictory myths and legends about the tomb of the Bard.

“The amazing project team, using state-of-the-art equipment, has produced astonishing results which are much better than I dared hoped for, and these results will undoubtedly spark discussion, scholarly debate and controversial theories for years to come. Even now, thinking of the findings sends shivers down my spine.”

Shakespeare’s Macbeth as new film


This June 2015 video is called MACBETH – OFFICIAL TEASER TRAILER.

By George Marlowe and David Walsh in the USA:

Bloody instructions … return to plague the instructor”

A new film version of Shakespeare’s Macbeth

19 December 2015

Australian director Justin Kurzel, a relative filmmaking newcomer, has brought to the screen a new version of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth. The production, starring Michael Fassbender as Macbeth and Marion Cotillard as Lady Macbeth, is engrossing and disturbing, if uneven.

Kurzel’s version eliminates certain sequences, rearranges others (a few, questionably) and makes much of the Scottish countryside and weather, but remains faithful to the contours of Shakespeare’s drama.

The story takes place at a time of upheaval and civil war in Scotland, with rival nobles and their supporters, along with foreign powers such as England and Norway, fighting for the upper hand. (The historical Macbeth reigned for 17 years as “King of the Scots” in the mid-11th century.) Macbeth is kin to the king, Duncan (David Thewlis), but, along with his wife, aspires to much more.

After Macbeth and a fellow noble, Banquo (Paddy Considine), lead their troops––including child soldiers––to victory against a rebel army backed by Norway, Duncan plans to reward Macbeth with the title of Thane [one of the king’s barons] of Cawdor. Macbeth and Banquo encounter the famed “weird sisters,” played here like poor, outcast women, who predict Macbeth’s rise, even to the kingship, but the eventual crowning of Banquo’s heirs.

Macbeth is spurred on by desire and ambition, but vacillates as he thinks to himself, “Stars hide your fires; Let not light see my black and deep desires.” He writes to Lady Macbeth and tells her of his present success and future prospects. She is concerned, however, that he is “too full o’th’ milk of human kindness” to be sufficiently ruthless. Cotillard chillingly prays in front of a church altar: “Come, you spirits / That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here / And fill me from the crown to the toe top-full / Of direst cruelty. Make thick my blood / Stop up th’ access and passage to remorse.”

When Macbeth vacillates (“I dare do all that may become a man”), in the face of assassinating the king, Lady Macbeth convinces him, through a combination of taunts. allurements and bravado (“We fail? But screw your courage to the sticking-place, and we’ll not fail.”) Assisted by his wife, Macbeth murders the king in the middle of the night and places the blame on Duncan’s guards. The dead king’s son, Malcolm (Jack Reynor), flees Scotland and Macbeth ascends to the throne.

As Kurzel’s film unfolds, the logic and consequences of Macbeth’s initial murderous act oblige him to commit one crime after another to protect his rule, including the murder of women and children (“Things bad begun make strong themselves by ill. … [T]hey say, blood will have blood”). Lady Macbeth meanwhile falls away, in bitterness and remorse (“Nought’s had, all’s spent, Where our desire is got without content”).

The action proceeds with harrowing intensity. Macbeth’s tyranny and megalomania rally his enemies and, ultimately, a large army––including English forces––forms against him. His mental state disintegrates to the point of madness, self-destruction and acute nihilism. After his wife’s death, possibly by suicide, life becomes for Macbeth, in the famed soliloquy, “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

The acting of the two leads, Fassbender and Cotillard, in particular is very affecting and moving. The entire cast seems deeply sincere and committed. Certain scenes––of battle, the death of children and the psychological breakdown of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth––are powerfully presented.

Cotillard’s hallucinatory turn as Lady Macbeth attempting to wash the imaginary blood off her hands is riveting (“Out, damned spot! … All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand. … What’s done cannot be undone”). She represents Lady Macbeth’s tragic fate with an unusual degree of sympathy. When Fassbender half-smilingly proclaims, “O, full of scorpions is my mind, dear wife,” it is sinister and unnerving. The scene of Banquo’s ghost appearing at Macbeth’s banquet also stands out.

The moody cinematography and desolate-beautiful Scottish landscape add an eerie quality and match the overall tone of the performances. There are striking images and inspired moments in this Macbeth that linger in one’s mind with a dreamlike force. There is much that is commendable here––although there are significant problems too, which we will discuss below.

Literary historians suggest that Macbeth was written in 1606 or so. There appear to be references in the play to the Gunpowder Plot (a conspiracy by a group of English Catholics to blow up Parliament and murder King James I of England and VI of Scotland) of 1605.

The play is the shortest of Shakespeare’s tragedies, only a little more than half as long as Hamlet. It is a frightening work, as every critic (and audience member) has attested to. In the early 19th century, British commentator William Hazlitt observed that Macbeth is “driven along by the violence of his fate like a vessel drifting before a storm.” He is “hurried on with daring impatience to verify” the predictions of the witches, “and with impious and bloody hand to tear aside the veil which hides the uncertainty of the future.”

In more recent times, A.C. Bradley noted that “Darkness … broods over this tragedy.” It is difficult, Bradley wrote, “to be sure of [Macbeth’s] customary demeanour, for in the play we see him either in what appears to be an exceptional relation to his wife, or else in the throes of remorse and desperation.” Harold Goddard described the play as a “Descent into hell.” For G. Wilson Knight, “Fear is predominant. Everyone is afraid. … The impact of the play is analogous to nightmare. … The central act of the play is a hideous murder of sleep.” Polish-born critic Jan Kott, in the postwar period, observed: “Everyone in the play is steeped in blood: victims as well as murderers. The whole world is stained with blood.” American critic Harold Bloom described Macbeth as “a great killing machine” and “the bloodiest of all Shakespearean tyrant-villains.”

The play is frightening, not only because of the events, but because of the insight we obtain into Macbeth’s bloody and restless imagination. Among the perpetrators of crime or murder in Shakespeare, including Richard III, Iago, even Brutus and others, Macbeth is unique in his ability to envision his misdeeds and their possible consequences and to constantly anticipate and later relive them. They are always present with him and with us. Much of the drama takes place in his evolving consciousness (which may, in fact, contain the ghosts and spirits). A villain by any objective standard, Macbeth is endowed with perhaps the most unrelenting, corrosive conscience in world literature.

Shakespeare, with his customary thoroughness and psychological insight, took on the problem of political ambition, usurpation and tyranny. The play was written at a time of considerable instability and insecurity: the last years of the reign of Elizabeth I and the first years of James I’s rule. Conspiracies abounded, and repression was severe and cruel. However, it is worth bearing in mind that Macbeth is a historical play, set nearly five centuries before its writing. Shakespeare may well have had in mind aspects of contemporary life, the behavior of rival factions in his own time, but if his play had been perceived as a direct commentary on England’s ruling circles, he would have been clapped in jail.

One of the difficulties with much of the commentary, and Kurzel’s film itself, is the lack of historical perspective. Macbeth’s world, often with references to Hitler and Stalin, is gloomily proclaimed to be identical with ours. Bloom, who freely cites Nietzsche in his essay, goes so far as to assert that “Shakespeare rather dreadfully sees to it that we are Macbeth, our identification with him is involuntary but inescapable.” This is one of those, “Speak for yourself!” moments.

Kott writes that “There is only one theme in Macbeth: murder. History has been reduced to its simplest form, to one image and one division: those who kill and those who are killed.” Macbeth’s supposed recognition that “a man is he who kills, and only he,” the Polish critic terms the “Auschwitz experience.”

Kurzel’s Macbeth, of course, does not go so far or presume so much. However, the occasionally jittery and often close-in camera work, especially during the battle scenes, which suggests video footage, somehow draws in the spectator and implicates him or her. We are meant to see this as “our world,” in some fashion. So too Kurzel’s ending, with Banquo’s son practicing with a sword and running into the murk, suggests too easily that the “cycle of violence” will continue.

However, neither 11th-century Scotland nor Shakespeare’s era of royal absolutism is our world. Things have changed and historically progressed in many ways. Of course, we have bloodiness today, but it is not feudal or even pre-feudal bloodiness. Class society still exists, but there are great differences. Whether they are conscious of it or not, the filmmakers’ ahistorical and somewhat bleak approach has the effect of resigning the viewer to his or her supposedly unalterable fate (“You see, things have always been like this––and always will be”).

Associated with that, there is simply too much bloodiness. We get the point after two or three throat-slashings and such, which in the play largely occur offstage.

The artistic method is somewhat simplistic as well: to suggest the brutality of the period, Macbeth has to look and feel just as “brutal.” One is disinclined to agree with that. The bloodiness is too close, too immediate to provide any intellectual-aesthetic distance. The brutality at times seems to overcharge the performance with the suggestion, again, that everyone is implicated in the monstrousness.

There are other issues. The filmmakers make too much of an effort, too self-consciously, at times to impress with a visual splash. Also, occasionally, the overemphasis on the authentic Scottish accents tends to obscure the play’s incredible language. The direction of the actors, in the interest presumably of realism, sometimes reduces them almost to a whisper and mumble in a number of scenes. Certainly, avoiding heavy-handedness or pompous declaiming is a legitimate goal, but the lines still need to be heard and understood.

The tone is somewhat “one-note” throughout. This Macbeth is missing some of the emotional-intellectual texture of the play and some of its earthier, healthier figures.

These are real issues, and we raise them, not to pick points, but because Kurzel’s film as a whole is such a serious effort. The performances and the dramatic tension leave a distinct imprint. Even if it stumbles somewhat over its historical appreciation of Shakespeare’s drama, this Macbeth, at its best, conveys a genuine sense of the corruption and barbarism of our own times.

William Shakespeare, King Lear and King James I


This video is about KING LEAR by William Shakespeare, as performed in 2008 in New York City in the USA.

By Gordon Parsons in Britain:

Shakespeare: a man of his time – and ours

Saturday 17th October 2015

1606: William Shakespeare and the Year of Lear
by James Shapiro
(Faber & Faber, £20)

MOST of the vast output of Shakespearean criticism naturally comes to the Bard through his works. With so little known of the man, even the numerous attempts at biography have had to rely on his poetry and plays.

Indefatigable US academic James Shapiro, though, ploughs a rather different furrow. Following his in-depth study of the social and political context of key years in Shakespeare’s development in 1599: A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare — which could have been subtitled The Year of Hamlet — he has produced a sequel exploring the playwright’s dramatic and theatrical responses to the new, troubled Jacobean age.

The new king James I, determined to cement his position by uniting England with Scotland, faced a world of factional infighting fed by the toxic mix of politics and religion. At the centre¸ of course, was the Gunpowder Plot, the equivalent of potential twin-towers devastation.

If successful, it would have wiped out the whole Establishment and the inevitable reaction to its discovery affected every area of the country — even Shakespeare’s Stratford-upon-Avon.

Shakespeare and his company, newly appointed The King’s Men, were inevitably drawn into the world of the court both as part of the lavish entertainment and official attendants. Having been relatively quiet for a time, the playwright set about writing and producing three of his greatest plays, King Lear, Macbeth and Antony and Cleopatra.

All mirror in language and action the political currents of the time. So where Macbeth is built around the seemingly innocuous term “equivocation,” contemporary theatre-goers, probably the great majority of London’s populace, would have recognised a loaded accusation which had played a key part in unmasking the “traitors.”

There must too have been a note of critical daring in Shakespeare’s King Lear. No doubt James, the uneasy possessor of England’s throne, would [not] have been pleased to have his subjects shown a foolish king dividing his kingdom.

Shakespeare’s play, unlike his sources, does not end triumphantly but with the king’s death and no certainty of a rosy future.

Shapiro’s book reads like a splendid detective story as it fleshes out our recognition of the world from which some of the world’s greatest dramatic works emerged.

In making Shakespeare a man of his own time, it draws him even closer to us.