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Theater Review: 13 Hours of Shakespeare’s Henrys, in Brooklyn

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From the Berkshires to Broadway and Beyond

Sep 04, Sammy rated it liked it Shelves: non-fiction , theatre , shakespeare. A good, if bewildering book. Bogdanov is something of a legendary director, and his insights into the plays were eagerly sought out by me. He has been a vocal proponent of reinvigorating Shakespeare, of creating theatre that engages and challenges, rather than allowing the Bard to become merely a national icon, like the Eastern European folk dancers one sees at street carnivals, who are all of 15 and are the grandchildren of immigrants, speaking English their whole life, yet reenacting rituals w A good, if bewildering book.

He has been a vocal proponent of reinvigorating Shakespeare, of creating theatre that engages and challenges, rather than allowing the Bard to become merely a national icon, like the Eastern European folk dancers one sees at street carnivals, who are all of 15 and are the grandchildren of immigrants, speaking English their whole life, yet reenacting rituals without any context.

As early as the '70s, Bodganov was making a name for himself as an iconoclast, vocally opposing the classical ideals of the BBC Shakespeare series in favour of his own theatrical explorations on rival channels. There is much good about this book. In each chapter, Bogdanov suggests - often in as little as half a sentence - ways in which we can view the plays as relevant to the 20th and 21st centuries, even if it's just a fleeting suggestion of a different but relevant environment in which to set it. These ideas show how much can be taken from these works, although - as always - one must remember you can only set a classical play in, say, an airport waiting lounge, if you are willing to completely commit to the concept, and figure out how it is going to be pointful.

Bogdanov also engages with the characters in a way that we sometimes forget when we read the plays in classrooms, focusing on what we see with our 21st century eyes as literary ideas, metaphor, simile, etc. Instead, he asks how these people were seen by Shakespeare and how they can be seen by us, and he seems to expect - wonderfully!

This probably leads to one of my biggest issues with the book is that it doesn't seem to have a target audience in mind. This is, perhaps, fair. Bogdanov has some very leftist leanings and perhaps he is frustrated by more typical academic writings. In this sense, he has written a book that is at times even playful in its use of slang, even though I ultimately find this a letdown.

Like so many opinion pieces online, the slang quickly dates and the communicative tone - that would make sense in speech - can be challenging to read on the page, which is why we tend to use more formal words and proper punctuation in text form! Not to mention that, as a twentysomething Australian, I often find his references or turns of phrase absolutely perplexing.

This in itself is not cause for complaint, of course I'm sure a book written in Nigeria would also use references I don't understand - that's my issue, not the Nigerians' , but this is combined with a sense that the book is both for neophytes and old-hands. Some chapters, particularly those on Shakespeare's tragedies, amount to little more than annotated plot synopses, reflections on the plays couched in cod-psychological analyses. Yet Bogdanov will then compare a character in one sentence to three other Shakespearean characters, without citing the plays in which they appear or how they fit.

Again, it's his British-educated mind assuming that people have a widespread knowledge of the Bard. Luckily, I do, but I'm not sure the average reader can tell you from whence Alcibides or Richmond comes.

Richard II: Entire Play

The grossest perpetrator of this is the - admittedly beautiful - chapter on "The Winter's Tale", which tells the plot of the play and asks a lot of questions about motivation, but provides few suggested answers. Bogdanov is at his best, unsurprisingly, in the chapters on the Histories. He is suitably self-critical but also fascinated by these stories, and the ways we or, rather, British subjects can engage with them hundreds of years on. Again, this subject spends too much time excoriating reviewers for the sins of thirty years past, but what can you do?

Shakespeare's work is the pinnacle of world drama and thought, and Bogdanov is another Bardolater like the rest of us. His unique point-of-view is greatly appreciated, as is his willingness to remain outspoken. At the same time, this is not the book it could have been. Apr 09, Boar's Head Eastcheap rated it it was amazing Shelves: theatre. As soon as I read the Introduction to Bogdanov's book, I blogged excitedly about it - I sensed a kindred spirit: someone I would have enjoyed a boisterous, passionate debate with over a few drinks. The book consistently lived up to the opening fireworks.

“I am Richard II; know ye not that?” or, when Shakespeare was actually politically controversial

It consists of a suite of lively, thought-provoking and refreshingly irreverent essays on plays that Bogdanov has been professionally involved in bringing to the stage. To this end, there's a brisk practicality about some of his commentary that As soon as I read the Introduction to Bogdanov's book, I blogged excitedly about it - I sensed a kindred spirit: someone I would have enjoyed a boisterous, passionate debate with over a few drinks. To this end, there's a brisk practicality about some of his commentary that those not involved in stagecraft might find insightful.

Bogdanov's writing style is peppered with rapid-fire questions and links to modern situations and politics. He jumps, restlessly, from idea to idea, often leaving us with a 'drop-mic' moment before leaping to another mad notion. Here's an example: "What is his [Malcolm's] reaction on being present when Macduff receives the news of the slaughter of his family? This and much more, much more than twice all this, Condemns you to the death.

See them deliver'd over To execution and the hand of death. Lords, farewell. Drums; flourish and colours. How brooks your grace the air, After your late tossing on the breaking seas? Dear earth, I do salute thee with my hand, Though rebels wound thee with their horses' hoofs: As a long-parted mother with her child Plays fondly with her tears and smiles in meeting, So, weeping, smiling, greet I thee, my earth, And do thee favours with my royal hands. Feed not thy sovereign's foe, my gentle earth, Nor with thy sweets comfort his ravenous sense; But let thy spiders, that suck up thy venom, And heavy-gaited toads lie in their way, Doing annoyance to the treacherous feet Which with usurping steps do trample thee: Yield stinging nettles to mine enemies; And when they from thy bosom pluck a flower, Guard it, I pray thee, with a lurking adder Whose double tongue may with a mortal touch Throw death upon thy sovereign's enemies.

Mock not my senseless conjuration, lords: This earth shall have a feeling and these stones Prove armed soldiers, ere her native king Shall falter under foul rebellion's arms. The means that heaven yields must be embraced, And not neglected; else, if heaven would, And we will not, heaven's offer we refuse, The proffer'd means of succor and redress.

DVD/Blu-Ray Review: Richard II, by the Royal Shakespeare Theatre

So when this thief, this traitor, Bolingbroke, Who all this while hath revell'd in the night Whilst we were wandering with the antipodes, Shall see us rising in our throne, the east, His treasons will sit blushing in his face, Not able to endure the sight of day, But self-affrighted tremble at his sin. Not all the water in the rough rude sea Can wash the balm off from an anointed king; The breath of worldly men cannot depose The deputy elected by the Lord: For every man that Bolingbroke hath press'd To lift shrewd steel against our golden crown, God for his Richard hath in heavenly pay A glorious angel: then, if angels fight, Weak men must fall, for heaven still guards the right.

Lest you mistake the heavens are o'er our heads. Parle without, and answer within. Then a flourish. Lady Madam, we'll play at bowls. Lady Madam, we'll dance. QUEEN My legs can keep no measure in delight, When my poor heart no measure keeps in grief: Therefore, no dancing, girl; some other sport. Lady Madam, we'll tell tales. Lady Of either, madam. QUEEN Of neither, girl: For of joy, being altogether wanting, It doth remember me the more of sorrow; Or if of grief, being altogether had, It adds more sorrow to my want of joy: For what I have I need not to repeat; And what I want it boots not to complain.

Lady Madam, I'll sing. Lady I could weep, madam, would it do you good. Enter a Gardener, and two Servants. Westminster Hall. Now, Bagot, freely speak thy mind; What thou dost know of noble Gloucester's death, Who wrought it with the king, and who perform'd The bloody office of his timeless end. In that dead time when Gloucester's death was plotted, I heard you say, 'Is not my arm of length, That reacheth from the restful English court As far as Calais, to mine uncle's head?

Shall I so much dishonour my fair stars, On equal terms to give him chastisement? Either I must, or have mine honour soil'd With the attainder of his slanderous lips. There is my gage, the manual seal of death, That marks thee out for hell: I say, thou liest, And will maintain what thou hast said is false In thy heart-blood, though being all too base To stain the temper of my knightly sword. If thou deny'st it twenty times, thou liest; And I will turn thy falsehood to thy heart, Where it was forged, with my rapier's point.

Dr Kat and William Shakespeare's Richard II

Lord I task the earth to the like, forsworn Aumerle; And spur thee on with full as many lies As may be holloa'd in thy treacherous ear From sun to sun: there is my honour's pawn; Engage it to the trial, if thou darest. That lie shall lie so heavy on my sword, That it shall render vengeance and revenge Till thou the lie-giver and that lie do lie In earth as quiet as thy father's skull: In proof whereof, there is my honour's pawn; Engage it to the trial, if thou darest.


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If I dare eat, or drink, or breathe, or live, I dare meet Surrey in a wilderness, And spit upon him, whilst I say he lies, And lies, and lies: there is my bond of faith, To tie thee to my strong correction. As I intend to thrive in this new world, Aumerle is guilty of my true appeal: Besides, I heard the banish'd Norfolk say That thou, Aumerle, didst send two of thy men To execute the noble duke at Calais.

Many a time hath banish'd Norfolk fought For Jesu Christ in glorious Christian field, Streaming the ensign of the Christian cross Against black pagans, Turks, and Saracens: And toil'd with works of war, retired himself To Italy; and there at Venice gave His body to that pleasant country's earth, And his pure soul unto his captain Christ, Under whose colours he had fought so long. Lords appellants, Your differences shall all rest under gage Till we assign you to your days of trial. A street leading to the Tower. But heaven hath a hand in these events, To whose high will we bound our calm contents.

To Bolingbroke are we sworn subjects now, Whose state and honour I for aye allow. I would to God, my lords, he might be found: Inquire at London, 'mongst the taverns there, For there, they say, he daily doth frequent, With unrestrained loose companions, Even such, they say, as stand in narrow lanes, And beat our watch, and rob our passengers; Which he, young wanton and effeminate boy, Takes on the point of honour to support So dissolute a crew.

Servant These were his very words. Servant He did. Come, let's go: I am the king's friend, and will rid his foe. My brain I'll prove the female to my soul, My soul the father; and these two beget A generation of still-breeding thoughts, And these same thoughts people this little world, In humours like the people of this world, For no thought is contented. The better sort, As thoughts of things divine, are intermix'd With scruples and do set the word itself Against the word: As thus, 'Come, little ones,' and then again, 'It is as hard to come as for a camel To thread the postern of a small needle's eye.

Thoughts tending to content flatter themselves That they are not the first of fortune's slaves, Nor shall not be the last; like silly beggars Who sitting in the stocks refuge their shame, That many have and others must sit there; And in this thought they find a kind of ease, Bearing their own misfortunes on the back Of such as have before endured the like.