1606 was a rough year for England. In late 1605 the Gunpowder plotters nearly blew up the government; a Catholic rebellion in Warwickshire sharpened the country's fear. England's ports were closed and an army raised; bonfires lit the streets of London and guards manned the city gates. Later, the Tower drew its bridge and loaded cannons upon the (false) report of Kin ... More
It has been said we get the versions of Shakespeare that mirror our times. If so, it is chilling to speculate what Australian director Justin Kurzel’s take on Macbeth, the story of a loyal warrior who succumbs to the temptation to commit regicide, says about the current state of the world.
Macbeth, Shakespeare’s darkest and bloodiest tale, ... More
John Rickard reviews 'Why Acting Matters' by David Thomson and 'Great Shakespeare Actors' by Stanley Wells
Why Acting Matters has on its cover the face of an ape; well, actually it’s Andy Serkis playing Caesar, ‘the top ape’ in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014). The point of this rather unexpected image from a movie not discussed in the book is, the blurb tells us, that ‘acting is baked into our primate DNA’. These two books, however, by elder ... More
Ian Donaldson reviews 'Lost Plays in Shakespeare's England' edited by David McInnis and Matthew Steggle
‘The art of losing isn’t hard to master,’ Elizabeth Bishop once famously wrote; ‘So many things seem filled with the intent / to be lost that their loss is no disaster.’ Much modern technology seems designed specifically to counter this natural human propensity towards loss. We have key rings that respond obediently to their owner’s whistle, immediately ... More
It was not until the middle years of the nineteenth century, so far as we can tell, that anyone seriously doubted that the man from Stratford-upon-Avon called William Shakespeare had written the plays that for the past two and a half centuries had passed without question under his name. In the early 1850s, however, a private scholar from Connecticut named Deli ... More
The humanities are currently experiencing what’s been called a ‘material turn’ that is in some ways comparable to the linguistic turn that animated the academy half a century ago. Then it was language that commanded attention, and appeared to constitute a primary ‘reality’; now the focus is on physical objects, and what they can tell us about the wor ... More
Others abide our question. Thou art free.
We ask and ask: Thou smilest and art still,
(Matthew Arnold, ‘Shakespeare’)
When Arnold wrote his famous sonnet, he could have been anticipating John Bell’s book, which repeatedly asks provocative questions about the man and t ... More
Literary critics used to adopt a persona claiming disinterested separation from the text being analysed. Critical theory, in particular post-colonial and gender studies, eroded this stance, showing that criticism is always self-interested, concealing or inadvertently revealing tacit assumptions stemming from the critic’s biography, class, gender, and political per ... More