Happy Birthday/ RIP/ William Shakespeare
I often forget that Shakespeare was apparently born (1564) and died (1616) on the same date – St. George’s feast day, in fact.
If I were in London today, I would pop into the National Portrait Gallery for a quick salute to the so-called Chandos portrait, named for the dukes who owned it.
It is far more vital than any reproduction; the luminous eyes pick you up when you enter the room and keep a curious watch until you exit stage left (or right).
He is watching you, as he observed the mortals in his world, as he made artistic deductions about the people of his time and the myths of the past.
There is always something to learn about Shakespeare – considering that some people think he is an amalgam, a composite, an alias. Fact is, he was a living, breathing presence – an actor and playwright who walked the streets of London.
Then there is Marie Mountjoy.
I recently picked up a terrific book, “The Year of Lear,” by James Shapiro, published in late 2015, about the tumultuous year of 1606, a year of near revolution, a year of intrigue, a year of creativity.
One thing is documented: the playwright who had real status with the court and playgoers alike, when day was done, trekked back to Silver St. on the north bank of the Thames, and resided in the home of the Mountjoys, Christopher and Marie.
Never heard of them before, even though my life is forever enriched by my exposure to the great Shakespearean tradition at Hofstra University.
According to Shapiro’s book, Marie Mountjoy and her husband – from a Huguenot family escaped from France -- apparently did not get along; but she could converse with the star boarder who wrote in his room.
There was a dispute over a dowry to a Mountjoy daughter; Shakespeare, not a lawyer but an entitled property-owner from Stratford, counselled his landlady.
That is all Shapiro, a renowned scholar, wrote on the subject. But with a name like that and an active imagination, one could imagine that the friendship went beyond that – particularly with the landlady’s name straight out of Wycherly’s 1675 play, “The Country Wife” (Mistress Fidget, Harry Horner, Mistress Squeamish and, in one recent version, Margery Pinchwife, played by, be calm, my beating heart, Helen Mirren.)
Speaking of dirty minds, the tabloid, the Daily Mail, speculated about Shakespeare and Marie Mountjoy in 2007:
On Shakespeare’s birthday and death day, my wife turned up the all-day program on WQXR-FM – music with mostly Shakespearean themes: Delius, Beach, Gounod, Mendelssohn.
In this barbaric epoch, could Shakespeare have fun with a Trump, a Bannon, an Ivanka, a Pence, a Palin, a Flynn, a Kellyanne, a Spicer? You betcha.
Happy birthday, dude.
4/23/2017 10:28:14 pm
Whether he was or whether he wasn't, we will never know. Neither will we know the politics of the author of those wonderful plays. But perhaps, just perhaps, there may be human qualities in the defamed as there were in almost all Shakespearean characters. Perhaps there is a Cordelia in Marine Le Pen and a Lear in Nigel Farage. It's 1848 all over again, George, and perhaps this time it will be different, and maybe better. Let's see.
4/24/2017 08:19:49 am
4/24/2017 08:23:35 am
4/24/2017 10:10:57 am
Bruce, we currently have Sirius on our new car....with a classical station, the BBC, a Grateful Dead station, NPR, etc. But I like the local feel, as we drive through.
4/24/2017 11:22:50 am
4/24/2017 12:41:39 pm
Re; "could Shakespeare have fun with a Trump, a Bannon, an Ivanka, a Pence, a Palin, a Flynn, a Kellyanne, a Spicer?"
4/24/2017 05:07:57 pm
Josh: we've seen Coriolanus twice -- once with Ian McKellan, live in London. I think he got machine-gunned. Recently, with Tom Hiddleston, live in the Kew Gardens Cinema, Queens, from one of the small theatres in London. Coriolanus is a hero, a soldier, but has a low opinion of the masses. (His mother goads him on, as I recall.) It seems to have been written after the failed revolution of November, 1605. GV
4/25/2017 11:27:20 am
George, if the McKellan production was around Dec. '84-Jan'85 (National Theater, I think), then we saw the same production. Senators dressed in a mix of roman robes and business suits.
4/25/2017 02:12:42 pm
Josh: sounds about right. I wish I had kept all our playbills and those one-page cast lists from RNT.
4/25/2017 03:26:01 pm
4/25/2017 05:47:34 pm
Bruce, I never kept much....life was moving too fast. Gave it to friends, family, charity.
4/25/2017 05:55:54 pm
4/25/2017 08:53:43 pm
I once heard Frank Robinson say, when he was managing (Orioles?) that the greatest record he knew was DiMaggio's 361 homers vs. 369 career strikeouts. He just shook his head. And that was before today's swing-from-your-butt-at-every-pitch spectacle.
4/25/2017 09:12:00 pm
4/25/2017 06:07:15 pm
4/25/2017 08:49:52 pm
Some things one tends to remember.
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“I don’t think people understand how Covid affects older Americans,” Mr. Caretti said with frustration. “In 2020, there was this all-in-this-together vibe, and it’s been annihilated. People just need to care about other people, man. That’s my soapbox.”
---Vic Caretti, 47, whose father recently died of Covid at 85.
---From an article by Paula Span, who covers old age for the NYT, which currently has 2646 comments, the majority criticizing the American public – and public officials – for acting as if the pandemic is “over.”
Classic wishful thinking, at a lethal level.