In the week I first read the Poetical Essay on the Existing State of Things — the long lost poem of Percy Bysshe Shelley — the tune on loop in my head was that of a less distant protest song, Masters of War. In 1963, unable to bear the escalating loss of American youth in Vietnam, the 22-year-old Bob Dylan sang out against those faceless profiteers of war.
Ezra Pound was a major figure in the early modernist movement. During his lifetime he developed close interactions with leading writers and artists, such as Yeats, Ford, Joyce, Lewis, and Eliot. Yet his life was marked by controversy and tragedy, especially during his later years.
‘My first impression is of daybreak, light and colour and golden and purple fruits at the level of my shoulder.’ With this beautiful sentence, so characteristic in its fusion of poetry and physical, bodily detail, Rudyard Kipling evokes the fruit-market in Bombay, the city (now Mumbai) where he was born in 1865.
We want to know what Shakespeare believed. It seems to us important to know. He is our most important writer, and we want to know him from the inside. People regularly tell us that they do know what he believed, though mainly by showing what his father believed, or his contemporaries believed or, more accurately, what they said they believed—by demonstrating, that is, what was possible to believe.
Say you wanted to take over the world—how would you do it? Let’s agree it looks much like the world we live in today, where some countries hold inordinate power over the lives of people in others; where global systematic racism, the shameful legacy of colonization and imperialism, has contrived to keep many humans poor and struggling.
Where did Shakespeare obtain material for his English history plays? The obvious answer would be to say that he drew on the second edition of Raphael Holinshed’s Chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland (1587), a massive work numbering no fewer than 3,500,000 words that gave rise to more Renaissance plays than any other book, ancient or modern.
Get to know the team behind the Illuminating Shakespeare project as they reveal their stand-out Shakespearean memories, performances, and quotations.
What do America’s most famous novelist and the world’s largest purveyor of paperback romances have in common? More than you would think. Jack London (1876-1916), author ofThe Call of the Wild, White Fang, and other classics, was published in the UK and overseas by Mills & Boon, beginning in 1912.
The proudly coifed and teased hair, the desire to make a splash, the lust after wealth, the racist remarks: Donald Trump? Or Mark Twain? Today is Mark Twain’s birthday; he was born on 30 November 1835, and died on 21 April 1910.
How many children had Lady Macbeth? The great Shakespearean critic L. C. Knights asked this question in 1933, as part of an essay intended to put paid to scholarship that treated Shakespeare’s characters as real, living people, and not as fictional beings completely dependent upon, and bounded by, the creative works of which they were a part.
Humans are very good at reading from start to finish and collecting lots of information to understand the aggregated story a text tells, but they are very bad at keeping track of the details of language in use across many texts.
Though a Queen ruled England, gender equality certainly wasn’t found in Elizabethan society. Everything from dress to employment followed strict gender roles, and yet there was a certain amount of room for play. There are several cases of (in)famous women who dressed as men and crossed the bounds of “acceptable behavior.”
To celebrate the new BBC Radio Four adaptation of the French writer Émile Zola’s, ‘Rougon-Macquart’ cycle, we have looked at the extraordinary life and work of one of the great nineteenth century novelists.
Why adapt Zola? What’s he got to say to us today? If the novels are so good why not leave them as they are – as novels – and forget it?
Not so long ago, we ‘went to the pictures’ (or ‘the movies’) and now they tend to come to us. For many people, visiting a cinema to see films is no longer their principal means of access to the work of film-makers. But however we see them, it’s the seeing as much as the hearing of Shakespeare in this medium that counts. Or rather, it’s the interplay between the two.
The start of a film version of a Shakespeare play offers a pretty good clue to the nature of the adaptation. So how, for instance, does Richard II begin? In one sense it begins like this…