Shakespeare: Prospero’s revels and As You Like It

April 23 is believed to be the birthday of William Shakespeare (1564-1616) and this is also the day he died. So it’s time to recall some of my favourite lines from Shakespeare, recited by the actor John Gielgud, and then keep my date with my Shakespearean heroine, Rosalind, in a wonderful, playful love scene from As You Like It.

But first Sir John Gielgud, in the role of Prospero in The Tempest.

Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Ye all which it inherit, shall dissolve
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.

(Act IV, Scene 1, The Tempest)

And now over to As You Like It.

A tide in the affairs of men

The Ides of March had me looking up Julius Caesar, recalling my favourite lines from Shakespeare’s play.

There is a tide in the affairs of men
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat;
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.

Sir John Gielgud delivers those lines with such feeling in this video. Those are stirring words, reminding us of the rise and fall in fortune, that unless we make best use of our opportunities, we will live to regret their loss. Continue reading “A tide in the affairs of men”

Shakespeare’s birthday and St George’s Day

St George and dragon
St George and dragon

Google.co.uk is running this image’s day. It’s St George’s Day — and traditionally celebrated as Shakespeare’s birthday, too. The Writer’s Almanac reminds us why it’s celebrated as Shakespeare’s birthday:

Today we celebrate the birthday of William Shakespeare, born in Stratford-upon-Avon, England (1564 -1616). We don’t know his birthday for sure, but he was baptized on April 26th, and since infants were usually baptized about three days after their birth, his birthday is celebrated today.

Oxford Classics sticks to the facts and tweets

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Continue reading “Shakespeare’s birthday and St George’s Day”

I can hear music

I love the Beach Boys' song, I Can Hear Music. The ardour of young love and the sweet harmony capture all that is beautiful in life. Yes, it's just a teenage love song, but listen to the jangling guitars, insistent beat and plaintive voices. Isn't that what life is all about: wishing and hoping and, if you are lucky, getting what you want?

Popular music perhaps most faithfully articulates our feelings, for it changes with every generation, and no two generations have ever seen eye to eye. I can't stand rap music any more than the rappers have time for the Beach Boys and the Beatles. This evanescence is what makes popular music so appealing, for it mirrors our own lives. We know it's going to fade away, just as we will, but that's why it's all the more dear to us, because we can identify with it.

Continue reading “I can hear music”

Martin Amis on life and Kingsley Amis

Martin_amis_2010
Martin Amis (left) describes seeing his father, Kingsley Amis (below), in a dream in his autobiography, Experience. Published in 2000, five years after his father's death, it's one of the most intimate accounts of a father-and-son relationship that I have ever read.

He writes:

Why should I tell the story of my life?

I do it because my father is dead now, and I always knew I would have to commemorate him. He was a writer, and I am a writer; it feels like a duty to describe our case — a literary curiosity which is also just another instance of a father and a son.

Kingsley_amis_2010 He writes about his father explaining the mysteries of sex to him and his elder brother, Philip, when they were schoolboys and the conversations they had when he had grown up.

His father pops up even when he is writing about other things. He recalls the articles he published in the New Statesman following the death of the critic FR Leavis and calling them a "symposium". A symposium originally meant a drinking party, he says and adds: 

And that is what Kingsley liked, above all things. Well, he probably liked adultery even better, in his manly noon, but the symposium was a far more durable and unambivalent pleasure — a love whose month was forever May.

Continue reading “Martin Amis on life and Kingsley Amis”

Shakespeare’s bawdy

William Shakespeare was baptized on this day in 1564 and what a life he led before he died at the age of 52 on April 23, 1616. He explored love and sex in his plays with a detailed vividness that leaves Masters and Johnson looking pretty skimpy, writes Simon Callow in the Guardian.

The Elizabethans were as prurient as the stereotypical Victorians were prudish. They loved bawdy and double entendre — and Shakespeare had to entertain his audience.

Sexual desire is rampant in the opening lines of A Midsummer's Night's Dream. Theseus tells Hippolyta he is impatient about having to wait four more days for their wedding. She says the days will pass quickly. Look at the imagery they use.

Continue reading “Shakespeare’s bawdy”

Shakespeare: Much ado about love

It's that day of the year when we remember William Shakespeare.

Here's a link to the most famous scene from my wife's favourite play —– Judi Dench as Lady Macbeth in the sleepwalking scene. But give me the romantic comedies any day. Boy meets, boy gets girl, and they live happily ever after.

Just watch Helen Mirren  playing Rosalind, my favourite Shakespearean heroine, in As You Like It. Fun-loving, high-spirited, she's just like my wife (Rosalind, not Mirren — no, my wife isn't Rosalind; Rosalind's like my wife — ach, grammar!) 

Here's the text of the scene — Act III, Scene II —- from The Oxford Shakespeare.

And here's Emma Thompson in the last scene of Much Ado About Nothing. Now, that's entertainment.

Continue reading “Shakespeare: Much ado about love”