Category Archives: Shakespeare

Church of the Holy Trinity, Stratford-upon-Avon, at Night

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During our stay in London last month, we made a day trip to Stratford-upon-Avon for two plays. Shakespeare is buried in Church of the Holy Trinity. Of course, in November, in England, the sun sets around 4:20 p.m. After the first play and an early dinner, the church was closed, and the sun had long set. But I walked with one of my daughters from the theater to the church, where I remembered, in a very dark churchyard full of tombstones, that Shakespeare’s grave is inside the church. I had been there, and made it inside, about two decades before. This time, locked out and sentimental, I was sure to put a hand on the church’s stone exterior. It was a good walk with my daughter from the theatre to the church and back—a good memory for us.

Thus sayeth the Archbishop of Canterbury — in ‘Henry V’

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As I sit here in Lambeth, home of Lambeth Palace, the London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury —

Yesterday I couldn’t resist taking several photos of the 1888 monument in Stratford-Upon-Avon. This panel on the monument includes a quotation spoken by the Archbishop of Canterbury character in Shakespeare’s Henry V. When Prince Hal’s father dies, Hal (a.k.a. Harry) becomes King Henry V, and as the Archbishop of Canterbury notes, the new responsibilities instantaneous turned the revelling boy into a serious-minded adult.

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Aside

Albany:  Well, you may fear too far. Goneril:  Safer than trust too far. — The Tragedy of King Lear 

Dave Tennant and Catherine Tate in ‘Much Ado About Nothing’

This evening we saw an hysterical production of Much Ado About Nothing at Wyndhams Theatre.

David Tennant (Benedick) and Catherine Tate (Beatrice)are masters of comedy in this production.

This take on the play is set in the 1980s. The set and costumes have a little bit of a Mama Mia! feel, and a pinch of beach music shows up.

I took my 9-year-old and 11-year-old, so I was a little concerned about some of the more sexually provocative moments in the play — yet those moments were still pretty much in the PG13 range. My wife pointed out my daughters had already gotten the basic idea from the film version starring Denzel Washington and Emma Thompson.

That’s not to knock this production, not at all. Tennant and Tate were very funny, and the play was oustanding.

More Shakespeare in London, via Tom Stoppard, Trevor Nunn, Kevin Spacey, and Sam Mendes

Generous in-laws are helping my two professions: teaching in an English Department and writing, rather timidly, mostly about beer.

Last night I saw Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead by Tom Stoppard, directed by Trevor Nunn, at The Theatre Royal Haymarket. To summarize as simply as possible, the play focuses on two minor characters from Hamlet, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, who have a series of existential crises while Hamlet’s story happens around them.  I had neither seen nor read this one. I enjoyed the humor, and I engaged the philosophical anxiety underlying the play.

Tonight I saw Richard III by Shakespeare starring Kevin Spacey, directed by Sam Mendes, at the Old Vic. This production has some very interesting approach to the sets, staging, and so forth. I had seen a Royal Shakespeare Company production of Richard III about 15 years ago, and of course, this one was much different, but my real interest was in Spacey. His Richard was nasty, funny, ruthless and aggressive — in ways only Spacey can do it. Mendes was right, in his program comments: After seeing The Usual Suspects and Seven, he knew Spacey would make a perfect Richard III. Thinking about tonight’s performance, I would add Spacey’s roles in The Big Kahuna and maybe Glengarry Glenn Ross. It’s that kind of Spacey who comes out in Richard III.

 

Jowett: The apprehending spirit

One of the most precious endowments in the Christian life is an apprehending spirit, a healthy delicacy of soul, which can detect the hidden presence of the Lord. I think it is Bagehot who makes much of Shakespeare’s “experiencing nature,” a rich equipment of responsiveness which enables Shakespeare to enter into the lives of clowns and statesmen, of peasants and courtiers, or merchants and kings. Well, what we need as disciples of Christ is an experiencing nature, exquisite in its apprehension, which can discern the secret place of the Lord. “Thy grace betrayeth thee!” And if we are to have this fine scent for the things of the King’s gardens, we shall have to get rid of all our benumbment. Our spiritual senses may be deadened by sin, they may be blunted by formality. Prayerlessness makes us spiritually dull, while intercession makes us vigilant. Prayer makes us watch. We become alive unto God.

— John Henry Jowett, Friend on the Road and Other Studies in the Gospels, accessed through the Christian Classics Ethereal Library

Jacques Maritain, George Bernard Shaw, and Shakespeare’s ‘wounded humanity’

From a footnote in Jacques Maritain’s Creative Intuition in Art and Poetry:

“In Man and Superman, Bernard Shaw condemned Shakespeare on the ground that his philosophy was ‘only his wounded humanity.’ Well, I do not complain of being taught by the wounded humanity of Shakespeare about man and human existence, and many things which matter to me in the reality of this world.”