Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Shakespeare References in No Second Chance

Harlan Coben’s novel No Second Chance contains a couple of Shakespeare references. The first is both a mention of Shakespeare himself and a reference to a line from my favorite speech from Macbeth. Coben writes, “They reminded me of Shakespeare’s sound and fury signifying nothing” (p. 48). The “They” of that sentence are two investigators trying to find out what became of the protagonist’s missing daughter. At that point in the story, the two seemed to be talking a lot, but telling him nothing of importance. The reference is to Macbeth’s speech from Act V scene v, which reads, in part: “Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player/That struts and frets his hour upon the stage/And then is heard no more: it is a tale/Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,/Signifying nothing.” The other reference is to Hamlet. Coben writes, “And, ah, there’s the rub” (p. 71), a reference to Hamlet’s most famous soliloquy.

No Second Chance was published in 2003.

Monday, June 15, 2020

Shakespeare References in Papa Hemingway

A. E. Hotchner’s Papa Hemingway: A Personal Memoir contains a few Shakespeare references. This first is in a line the author spoke to Ernest Hemingway: “‘John O’Hara’s review in The New York Times called you the greatest writer since Shakespeare,’ I told him” (p. 69). The second is in something that Hemingway said of Luis Miguel Dominguin: “‘At his peak he’s a combination of Don Juan and Hamlet, but now looked beat up and drained’” (p. 138). The third comes while Ernest Hemingway is speaking of his short story “The Killers”: “‘Mr. Gene Tunney, the Shakespearean pugilist, once asked me if the Swede of the story wasn’t actually Carl Andreson,’ Ernest said” (p. 163). The last reference is to The Merchant Of Venice. Hotchner writes, “The owner, whom Ernest had known since his first days in Madrid, came to make peace, but Ernest turned on him too and accused him of having turned Shylock that summer when Ernest and I had tracked down Rupert Belville at the Callejon, drunken almost to the point of expiration” (p. 259).

Papa Hemingway: A Personal Memoir was published in 1966.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Shakespeare Study: Revisiting Some of the Histories

I have been taking advantage of this time of isolation and unemployment brought on by the coronavirus to revisit some of Shakespeare’s histories. Here are notes on the books that I read.

Henry IV Part 1 by William Shakespeare – This is one of my personal favorites of Shakespeare’s plays, and I was happy to return to it. This time around I read The RSC Shakespeare edition, edited by Jonathan Bate and Eric Rasmussen. This book contains an introduction by Jonathan Bate, in which he talks about how Shakespeare’s ability to combine comedy, history and tragedy reached its peak in the two parts of Henry IV. Bate writes: “As history, the plays paint a panorama of England, embracing a wider social range than any previous historical drama as the action moves from court to tavern, council chamber to battlefield… As comedy, they tell the story of a prodigal son’s journey from youth to maturity and an old rogue’s art of surviving by means of jokes, tall tales, and the art of being not only witty in himself, but the cause that wit is in other men. As tragedy, they reveal the slow decline of a king who cannot escape his past, the precipitate demise of an impetuous young warrior who embodies both the glory and the futility of military heroism, and the heart-breaking dismissal of a substitute father who has loved a prince with a warmth of which his true father is incapable” (p. xii). About Falstaff, he writes, “Falstaff is at once the great deceiver and the great truth-teller, who reduces war to its bottom line: common foot soldiers are but ‘food for powder’” (p. xi). This edition is heavily annotated and contains a summary of each scene. But what is particularly special about this edition is the section on productions of the play by the Royal Shakespeare Company. Following that is a section of interviews with Michael Pennington, who played Prince Hal, and Adrian Noble and Michael Boyd, both of whom directed productions of Henry IV Part 1. Adrian Noble says: “The Henry VI/Richard III tetralogy was the first time since Sophocles and Euripides that someone had attempted a cycle of interrelated plays for the secular stage. It hadn’t happened for two thousand years” (p. 169). Michael Pennington says: “I’m not so sure about this education of Hal. I think he has a great struggle between his impulses and his duties; he realizes what he will have to sacrifice, and in playing the part I came to think it costs him something” (p. 172). Michael Boyd says: “‘I know you all’ is a very unusual soliloquy in that it seems not to be addressed to the audience but to his offstage friends and is overheard by the audience. Shakespeare hardly ever does this” (pages 173-174). This book also contains a bit of biographical information on Shakespeare and information on theatre in his day.

Henry IV Part 1 was published in 2007. The copy I read was the 2009 Modern Library Paperback Edition.

The Second Part Of King Henry IV by William Shakespeare – This time around I went with the Arden Shakespeare edition, edited by A.R. Humphreys. The text of this edition is based largely on the Quarto of 1600, and is heavily annotated, occasionally using comparisons to other works to further illustrate a point. There are also interesting notes regarding language, such as this: “‘Its’ as possessive pronoun appears in books just before 1600 but not in the Bible or any of Shakespeare’s works in his lifetime” (p. 25). This volume contains an informative and long introduction, going into detail on different topics related to the play. There is a section on whether two plays were intended by Shakespeare, or one that became too long. “The conclusion, then, is that Shakespeare seemingly intended two plays from the outset, or very near it; that Daniel shaped the one play for him and Holinshed the other; that the Wild-Prince traditions required Hal to spend most of each play in disgrace but that Daniel’s account showed him as heroic at Shrewsbury and Holinshed’s as kingly at his accession; that while naturalistically speaking these twin-redemptions are an incoherence, dramatically and by folk-tale or morality canons they are acceptable” (p. xxviii). The book also details the ways in which Shakespeare diverges from Holinshed’s Chronicles, and gets into the differences between the Quarto and the Folio editions of the play. This volume also contains a lot of the source material.

The Second Part Of King Henry IV was originally published in 1981, and reprinted in 2001 and 2003 by Thomson.

The Wars Of The Roses by Charles Ross – While this is a book on the history of the strife between the houses of York and Lancaster, and not strictly a Shakespeare book, it does of course mention Shakespeare several times. Ross writes, “From Polydore the idea of divine retribution reached down to Shakespeare, in whom, however, it was often in dire conflict with notions of fate, fortune, the limited influence of free will and the malign or benignant influence of the stars” (p. 8). Ross indicates that these civil wars were widely written about in the Tudor period. Ross writes: “In Shakespeare’s hands, civil war reached a high point of terror. With dramatic licence to avoid (except for passing mention) ‘this weak piping time of peace’, to telescope events so that the cruel highlights are illuminated, even to introduce avenging ghosts into the dreams of a remorseful king, the picture became much more terrifying” (p. 10). Later he adds, “Shakespeare made the greater battles of the Wars of the Roses – Barnet and Bosworth, Towton and Tewkesbury – part of the folklore of English history” (p. 109). This book dispels some of the misconceptions about the period, including the significance of the roses as emblems, with Ross writing “the so-called Red Rose of Lancaster was not used at all by Henry VI, the chief Lancastrian protagonist in the civil wars, although it became the principal badge of Henry Tudor after his accession to the throne as Henry VII in 1485” (pages 11-13). Regarding Richard III, Ross writes: “The existence of these rivalries was what made possible Duke Richard’s seizure of the throne in June 1483. Probably it was fear for his own safety and future which inspired his action, rather than any deep-laid plan or the determination ‘to prove a villain’ which Shakespeare and the Tudor tradition attributed to him. But in the circumstances his seizure of power could only be achieved by extremely violent means, and these seriously weakened the ruling Yorkist party and heightened the divisions within it” (pages 94-95). He also writes: “Richard was by no means the personification of evil which he was to become in the hands of hostile Tudor propagandists. He had charm, energy and ability, and he worked hard to win popularity. But it took time to live down the legacy of suspicion and mistrust generated by the violence of his usurpation” (p. 100). It is interesting to learn that, as Ross writes, “the Wars of the Roses were essentially – but with important exceptions like Towton, St. Albans and Bosworth – a series of local conflicts” (p. 137). Also: “In the fifteenth century, the forces were mostly unprofessional and unpaid, and problems of supply meant that they could not be kept together for more than a few weeks at the very most” (p. 150). Ross then adds, “Because of the highly intermittent nature of the fighting, the impact of civil war on the daily life and security of the ordinary Englishman was much less significant and far reaching than it was to be in the seventeenth century” (p. 150). This book contains plenty of historical illustrations too.

The Wars Of The Roses was published in 1976. The first paperback edition came out in 1986, and the edition I read was the 1994 reprint.

Henry VI Part 1 by William Shakespeare – The BBC put on productions of all thirty-seven Shakespeare plays in the 1970s and 1980s, and published books to accompany the televised series. This volume is from The BBC TV Shakespeare series. It includes a preface by John Wilders, in which he contends that the three parts of Henry The Sixth were written in chronological order, and that Henry VI Part 1 was Shakespeare’s first play to be performed in a theatre. He mentions that while it was popular at that time, it has since been one of Shakespeare’s least performed plays. John Wilders also provides an introduction, in which he talks about the power of the play’s opening scene and the importance of the play. Regarding the three parts of Henry VI, Wilders writes, “They are plays about internal dissension and violence written during a time of unity and peace, and to that extent maybe have been, indirectly, tributes to the Queen who had brought to the country more than thirty years of stability” (p. 12). Concluding the introduction, Wilders writes: “If we follow the course of all three plays, we can see that Shakespeare was not only fascinated by the causes which change history but saw their effects largely as a series of ironies. For him history was a record of human inadequacy” (p. 17). This volume provides a genealogical table to help us keep track of the players. The book also contains notes of the television production by Henry Fenwick, including thoughts from the show’s director Jane Howell and designer Oliver Bayldon on the play, the set, the battle scenes and so on. There are some notes throughout the text on omitted lines and such, but no footnotes explaining words or phrases. Instead, a glossary is included. There are also several photos, both color and black and white, from the production

Henry VI Part 1 was published in 1983.

Henry VI Part 1 by David Oyelowo – This is a volume in the Actors On Shakespeare series, in which actors share their thoughts and experiences regarding certain roles. David Oyelowo is the first black actor to play an English king for the Royal Shakespeare Company, playing Henry VI in November of 2000, and this book provides a personal account of some of the worries an actor has when approaching Shakespeare. He talks about the historical inaccuracies of the play, and about learning to ignore the actual history and instead focus on the text. He also talks about the way certain scenes were staged. He writes: “I’ve heard it said that an actor can’t play being royalty; it is a quality given you by those around you. I found this to be true” (p. 15). Regarding Gloucester, he writes: “I took special delight in the Gloucester-Henry relationship because I was aware that it would be my only opportunity within the three Henry VI plays to explore requited love. Henry and Gloucester are never at any point dishonest with each other – the exact opposite of Henry’s involvement with nearly every other character except Talbot” (p. 23). Regarding actors playing multiple roles, he writes: “Michael’s idea to have any actor whose character had died re-emerge as a new character but retain the philosophy of their former incarnation (i.e. remain a Lancastrian or a Yorkist) meant that, even though nearly every actor played more than one character, the audience were never lost as to where their allegiance lay. The idea behind having the actress playing Joan re-emerge as Margaret was so that the audience would make a connection between these two characters, who both in their own ways are England’s nemesis” (p. 45). This book also contains an introduction by series editor Colin Nicholson.

Henry VI  Part 1 was published in 2003.

Henry VI Part 2 by William Shakespeare – This volume is part of The BBC TV Shakespeare series. As with the previous volume, this book contains a preface and an introduction, both written by John Wilders. IN the preface he mentions that the early published version of this play is an inferior, reported text, dictated to the printer by some of the actors involved. In the introduction he writes, “The history plays, like history itself, reveal that no problem can ever be said to have been finally settled, and that the resolution of one crisis more often than not creates a different kind of crisis: the King’s marriage to Margaret arouses discontent among his peers, the murder of Gloucester provokes an uprising among the citizens of London, and York’s victory at St. Alban’s incites Margaret to retaliate against him” (p. 9). A little later he writes: “Shakespeare has so constructed the play that each uprising is more violent than the previous one and involves an increasingly greater part of the population. At the end of the first episode one man has been secretly smothered in his bed but at the end of the last England itself has become a battlefield” (pages 10-11). And regarding Cade, Wilder writes: “Cade’s apparently popular mutiny is, moreover, deliberately engineered by York who has known him since their campaigning days together in Ireland, and is designed to test public opinion before York himself embarks on what will be the real rebellion. He is thus the figure who links the three sections, each one of which brings him closer to the crown” (p. 11). Henry Fenwick provides notes on the television production, mentioning the changes in tone and costumes form the first part to the second, as well as changes in the way fights and battles were staged. As with the previous volume, there are some notes in the margins of the text, on omitted lines and such, but no footnotes. Instead, there is a glossary. The book contains a genealogical table to help us keep track of the relationships, as well as several photos from the production, both color and black and white.

Henry VI Part 2 was published in 1983.

Henry VI Part 3 by William Shakespeare – This volume is part of The BBC TV Shakespeare series. As was the case with the previous two volumes, this book contains a preface and an introduction, both written by John Wilders. In the preface, he talks about the early, corrupt edition of the play which was printed in 1595, and about the adaptations that were presented. In the introduction, he describes some of the play’s action and the shifting allegiances, writing, “There is, however, one cause for which several of the characters are prepared to make sacrifices, even of their lives if necessary, and that is revenge, a word which is spoken with increasing frequency as the play develops” (p. 11). He adds, “Family loyalties take precedence over public responsibility and, moreover, as Shakespeare repeatedly shows us during the action of the play, violence provokes violence” (p. 12). And soon it is as if “violence appears to acquire a momentum of its own” (p. 15). Henry Fenwick provides some notes on the television production, including thoughts from director Jane Howell and fight choreographer Malcolm Ranson. There are a few notes in the margins of the text, indicating cut or changed lines, but no footnotes. Instead, there is a glossary. The book contains a genealogical table, to help us keep the participants straight in our minds, and several production photos, some in color, some in black and white.

Henry VI Part 3 was published in 1983.

Shakespeare Reference in Back When We Were Grownups

Anne Tyler’s novel Back When We Were Grownups contains a Shakespeare reference. The main character, Rebecca, provides her family with little rhymes on special occasions. After one such occasion, Rebecca is feeling unnecessary and means to call herself a superfluous woman. But what she ends up calling herself is a superficial woman. Tyler then writes, “so Zeb, misunderstanding, said, ‘They can’t expect a Shakespearean sonnet, for heaven’s sake’” (p. 270).

Back When We Were Grownups was published in 2001. The copy I read was from the fourth printing, June 2001.