Archive for Shakespeare

Next! – The Complete Animated Shakespeare

Posted in Literature, Television with tags , , , on April 23, 2016 by telescoper

I’m sure most readers are aware that today is the 23rd April 2016, which is the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare. Despite the fact that most modern scholars agree that many of Shakespeare’s plays were not actually written by Shakespeare, but by someone else who had the same name, it’s still a good excuse to celebrate the life and work of a towering figure in the world of literature and drama. I was trying to think I suddenly remembered this marvellous animated film I saw when it was first released over 20 years ago. I couldn’t remember the name so it took me a bit of time to find it, but I got there in the end. It’s by Aardman Animations (best known for the later Wallace and Gromit films) and it was part of a splendid series of animated shorts called Lip-synch commissioned by Channel 4 and broadcast in 1990. It’s hard to imagine Channel 4 doing anything this good nowadays.  This film, called Next,  is only 5 minutes long yet it manages to refer to every single one of Shakespeare’s plays by having the immortal bard himself do them all as an audition. It’s not only clever and visually appealing but also a lot of fun…

 

 

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Prison and Academia

Posted in Education, Literature with tags , , on February 7, 2015 by telescoper

I looked for this quotation last week when I heard a reference to it on Radio 3 in connection with some incidental music written by Dmitry Shostakovich for a film of King Lear. Reading the full text it struck me that academic life has many of the advantages of being in prison…

No, no, no, no! Come, let’s away to prison:
We two alone will sing like birds i’ the cage:
When thou dost ask me blessing, I’ll kneel down,
And ask of thee forgiveness: so we’ll live,
And pray, and sing, and tell old tales, and laugh
At gilded butterflies, and hear poor rogues
Talk of court news; and we’ll talk with them too,
Who loses and who wins; who’s in, who’s out;
And take upon’s the mystery of things,
As if we were God’s spies: and we’ll wear out,
In a wall’d prison, packs and sects of great ones,
That ebb and flow by the moon.

(King Lear, Act V Scene 3)

Alms for Oblivion

Posted in Literature with tags , on November 9, 2013 by telescoper

When I posted the great St Crispian’s Day from Henry V a while ago, a colleague of mine mentioned another great speech from Shakespeare that I might like to share. This is froma much less familiar play, Troilus and Cressida, which interweaves a love story between the title characters, with an account of the siege of Troy. This speech, from Act III, finds Ulysses trying to persuade the legendary warrior Achilles, who is sulking in his tent, to enter the fray and help his struggling army.

What Ulysses says, in a nutshell, is that all of Achilles’ past deeds, great though they were, will soon be forgotten and count for nothing. All that matters is what he does now, so he should stop resting on his laurels, get off his backside and come to the aid of his comrades.

It’s an important message for those in any field, including academia, who try to trade on past glories without making a contribution at the present moment. Honour goes to those who persevere. In other words, do it now or push off…

Time hath, my lord, a wallet at his back,
Wherein he puts alms for oblivion,
A great-sized monster of ingratitudes:
Those scraps are good deeds past; which are devour’d
As fast as they are made, forgot as soon
As done: perseverance, dear my lord,
Keeps honour bright: to have done is to hang
Quite out of fashion, like a rusty mail
In monumental mockery. Take the instant way;
For honour travels in a strait so narrow,
Where one but goes abreast: keep then the path;
For emulation hath a thousand sons
That one by one pursue: if you give way,
Or hedge aside from the direct forthright,
Like to an enter’d tide, they all rush by
And leave you hindmost;
Or like a gallant horse fall’n in first rank,
Lie there for pavement to the abject rear,
O’er-run and trampled on: then what they do in present,
Though less than yours in past, must o’ertop yours;
For time is like a fashionable host
That slightly shakes his parting guest by the hand,
And with his arms outstretch’d, as he would fly,
Grasps in the comer: welcome ever smiles,
And farewell goes out sighing. O, let not
virtue seek
Remuneration for the thing it was;
For beauty, wit,
High birth, vigour of bone, desert in service,
Love, friendship, charity, are subjects all
To envious and calumniating time.
One touch of nature makes the whole world kin,
That all with one consent praise new-born gawds,
Though they are made and moulded of things past,
And give to dust that is a little gilt
More laud than gilt o’er-dusted.
The present eye praises the present object.
Then marvel not, thou great and complete man,
That all the Greeks begin to worship Ajax;
Since things in motion sooner catch the eye
Than what not stirs. The cry went once on thee,
And still it might, and yet it may again,
If thou wouldst not entomb thyself alive
And case thy reputation in thy tent;
Whose glorious deeds, but in these fields of late,
Made emulous missions ‘mongst the gods themselves
And drave great Mars to faction.

We few, we happy few..

Posted in Film, Literature with tags , , , on October 25, 2013 by telescoper

In case you didn’t know, today is St Crispin’s Day. It’s also the anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt, which took place on this day in 1415, and which features in Shakespeare’s Henry V. Here is the famous St Crispin’s Day Speech, delivered in stirring style by Laurence Olivier, in the classic 1944 film.

And here is the orginal text, slightly different from the film version,  Henry V in Act IV Scene iii 18-67. Scene: The English Camp:

WESTMORELAND. O that we now had here
But one ten thousand of those men in England
That do no work to-day!

KING. What’s he that wishes so?
My cousin Westmoreland? No, my fair cousin;
If we are mark’d to die, we are enow
To do our country loss; and if to live,
The fewer men, the greater share of honour.
God’s will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.
By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,
Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;
It yearns me not if men my garments wear;
Such outward things dwell not in my desires.
But if it be a sin to covet honour,
I am the most offending soul alive.
No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England.
God’s peace! I would not lose so great an honour
As one man more methinks would share from me
For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!
Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,
That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made,
And crowns for convoy put into his purse;
We would not die in that man’s company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.
This day is call’d the feast of Crispian.
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam’d,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say “To-morrow is Saint Crispian.”
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say “These wounds I had on Crispian’s day.”
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember, with advantages,
What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words-
Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester-
Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb’red.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.

Final Goodbyes

Posted in Biographical, Education, Literature with tags , , on June 1, 2013 by telescoper

Yesterday, as the week drew to a close, along with the month of May itself, I found myself in a visitor’s office in the School of Physics & Astronomy at Cardiff University, nursing a hangover, and finishing off a few final matters arising from my time as a member of staff here. I took part in a couple of viva voce examinations for 4th year project students. Now the reports are written up, marks agreed, and paperwork handed in. When I’ve handed in my keys and ID card that will be that. I’ll be back at the University of Sussex next week, having fulfilled my obligations (as best I could) to the students whose interest in their projects outweighed the virtually complete absence of their supervisor for half the year.

The project assessments and the examination period in general at Cardiff  now being over, it’s time for final-year undergraduate students to think about packing up their things and heading out into the big wide world, to return only briefly in July (perhaps) for their graduation ceremony. It seems that no sooner do students’ faces become familiar than they disappear, most of them never to be seen again, and sometimes without so much as a word of goodbye…

I don’t really know why but this reminded me of Brutus’ famous goodbye to Cassius on the plains of Philippi  in Scene V of Julius Caesar:

And whether we shall meet again I know not.
Therefore our everlasting farewell take:
For ever, and for ever, farewell, Cassius!
If we do meet again, why, we shall smile;
If not, why then, this parting was well made.

Blow, Blow Thou Winter Wind

Posted in Literature, Poetry with tags , on January 16, 2011 by telescoper

Blow, blow, thou winter wind.
Thou art not so unkind
As man’s ingratitude;
Thy tooth is not so keen,
Because thou art not seen,
Although thy breath be rude.

Heigh-ho! sing, heigh-ho! unto the green holly:
Most friendship is feigning, most loving mere folly:
Then, heigh-ho, the holly!
This life is most jolly.

Freeze, freeze, thou bitter sky,
That dost not bite so nigh
As benefits forgot:
Though thou the waters warp,
Thy sting is not so sharp
As friend remember’d not.

Heigh-ho! sing, etc.

From Act II, Scene 7, As You Like It by William Shakespeare.


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The Complete Animated Shakespeare

Posted in Literature with tags , , on July 30, 2010 by telescoper

While I was blathering on about Shakespeare a couple of days ago, I suddenly remembered this marvellous animated film I saw when it was first released over 20 years ago. I couldn’t remember the name so it took me a bit of time to find it, but I got there in the end. It’s by Aardman Animations (best known for the later Wallace and Gromit films) and it was part of a splendid series of animated shorts called Lip-synch commissioned by Channel 4 and broadcast in 1990. It’s hard to imagine Channel 4 doing anything this good nowadays.  This film, called Next,  is only 5 minutes long yet it manages to refer to every single one of Shakespeare’s plays by having the immortal bard himself do them all as an audition. It’s not only clever and visually appealing but also a lot of fun…