Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Book Note: Lear by Edward Bond

Bond, Edward. Lear. Chicago: The Dramatic Publishing Company, 1978.

This experimental, somewhat-absurdist, brutal, almost-unreadable, likely-unbearable-in-performance play offers a modern take on King Lear.

Why, then, does Bardfilm bring it up? Well, I suppose it's for completeness—a record of my responses to as much of the Shakespeare-related material I encounter that I can manage to share—and for information—letting readers know what's out there.

But it's a hard and unenjoyable play. To be fair, I'm not sure that "enjoyable" is the first adjective that springs to mind when considering King Lear, but Shakespeare's play does provide redemptive moments and a consideration of the significance of suffering in this world. Bond's Lear doesn't.

Let me give you, as is my wont, a few representative pages. In this first scene, Lear wants to execute a man who has been sabotaging the building of a protective wall (the details of the wall are deliberately left vague, but it's vaguely meant to keep out enemies). His daughters, Fontanelle and Bodice (yes, many of the names are changed) announce their matrimonial intentions.

In our next scene, Lear's eyes (yes, Lear's, not Gloucester's) are extracted by a machine Fourth Prisoner has developed:

Finally, the blind Lear becomes a voice for peace and for tearing down the wall. But he speaks in strange, difficult parables:

It's a very difficult play, and I don't think I'll be buying tickets if any productions come my way. On the other hand, I'm open to having missed something important about this play!  Feel free to comment if you think I'm a dimwitted dolt—but try to be kind about it, please.

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Monday, June 26, 2023

A Quick Bit of Shakespeare in Remarkably Bright Creatures . . . with a Spoiler

Van Pelt, Shelby. Remarkably Bright Creatures: A Novel. New York: Ecco, 2013.

I thoroughly enjoyed the inventive and entertaining Remarkably Bright Creatures, which tells the story of a man searching out his parentage, a woman adjusting to the possibility of retirement and moving, and an octopus finding meaning in his life and freedom from his captivity. The audiobook was particularly well done, bringing the voice of the octopus to life.

And then there's the Shakespeare in it!

If you haven't read the novel, stop here, track it down, read it, and come back—signifiant spoilers are about to be spilled. The brief connections to Shakespeare will wait.

The man and the woman mentioned in the opening paragraph end up in a scene in the local aquarium (she's been injured, so she's not working there at present; he's taking over her custodial duties) where they return the escaped octopus to his tank. Terry (the woman) convinces Cameron (the man) to keep the escape of the octopus (Marcellus) a secret. Here's the end of that chapter: 

Terry's son died under mysterious circumstances about thirty years prior. The twenty-nine-year-old Cameron will learn much more about that in the course of the novel.

And you've probably grasped the spoiler by now: Cameron is Terry's grandson. The genetic predisposition to like Hamlet is only one clue.

In Marcellus' narrative, the relationship is outlined, and Marcellus seems to have some Shakespeare proclivities himself—or he at least uses a term Shakespeare and other writers in his era frequently used: "Cuckold."   

That's what I have for you: A direct quote from Shakespeare and a Shakespearean term. It's not much, yet it enhances the novel just that little Shakespearean bit.

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Tuesday, June 20, 2023

A Little Macbeth with your Agatha Christie?

Christie, Agatha. The Pale Horse. New York: Harper, 2011.

The Pale Horse was published in 1961, a little late in Agatha Christie's career. It doesn't feature any of her major detectives, though Ariadne Oliver (the apple-loving mystery author) makes several appearances in it. But that doesn't make it a good read.

That's particularly the case when the characters start thinking about Macbeth. An alert student pointed the Macbeth in this play out to me. Shakespeare comes up frequently in Christie, but here we get a more extended musing on how the witches might best be portrayed. There are no spoilers here, so feel free to read this except:

I find that conversation decidedly interesting. There's a good discussion about what would be truly frightening in a portrayal of the witches.  Hermia (nice little Shakespearean name there, eh?) thinks that Macbeth is entreating the doctor to euthanize Lady Macbeth.  Poppy thinks perhaps Bacon wrote Shakespeare. Well, all right, that's not terribly interesting, but it serves as a nice bit of comic relief.

Then, nearer the end of the book, we get one more Macbeth reference:

The main connection to the plot of novel is that question of wanting to put someone out of the way (but not wanting to do it oneself). For Macbeth, Hermia thinks the doctor is being hired for the purpose. In the novel, Poppy gabbles some nonsense about getting it done with a pale horse.

Need something for your reading list this summer? Why not find out more by reading The Pale Horse?

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Bardfilm is normally written as one word, though it can also be found under a search for "Bard Film Blog." Bardfilm is a Shakespeare blog (admittedly, one of many Shakespeare blogs), and it is dedicated to commentary on films (Shakespeare movies, The Shakespeare Movie, Shakespeare on television, Shakespeare at the cinema), plays, and other matter related to Shakespeare (allusions to Shakespeare in pop culture, quotes from Shakespeare in popular culture, quotations that come from Shakespeare, et cetera).

Unless otherwise indicated, quotations from Shakespeare's works are from the following edition:
Shakespeare, William. The Riverside Shakespeare. 2nd ed. Gen. ed. G. Blakemore Evans. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997.
All material original to this blog is copyrighted: Copyright 2008-2039 (and into perpetuity thereafter) by Keith Jones.

The very instant that I saw you did / My heart fly to your service; there resides, / To make me slave to it; and, for your sake, / Am I this patient [b]log-man.

—The Tempest