Saturday, December 31, 2016

Shakespeare's 400th anniversary / 'Man of Stratford' to be celebrated in 2016

William Shakespeare

Shakespeare's 400th anniversary: 'man of Stratford' to be celebrated in 2016

Death of most performed playwright in the world to be marked in Stratford-on-Avon, London and across the globe

Maev Kennedy
Friday 1 January 2016 10.00 GMT

he world shares him and London claims him, but Stratford-on-Avon intends to spend 2016 celebrating William Shakespeare as their man: the bard of Avon, born in the Warwickshire market town in 1564, and who died there 400 years ago.

Stratford remained hugely important throughout Shakespeare’s life, argues Paul Edmondson, the head of learning and research at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. “People have seen Shakespeare as a Dick Whittington figure, who turns his back on Stratford and his family, goes to London to earn his fortune and only comes back to die,” he said.
“[But Stratford is] where he bought land and property, where he kept his library, where he lived and read and thought. We are going to spend the year re-emphasising the importance of Shakespe
For a man famous in his own lifetime there is little documentary evidence for Shakespeare’s life and times. The plays would scarcely have survived if his friends and fellow actors had not gathered together every scrap of every play they could find – drafts, prompt scripts, scribbled actors’ parts, and 17 plays not known in any other version – into the precious First Folio published in 1623, seven years after Shakespeare’s death.
The actor Mark Rylance has called it his favourite book in the world, and most of the surviving First Folios will be on display – including those belonging to the British and Bodleian libraries, and a tattered copy recently discovered in France.
Some of the most precious surviving documents will be gathered together in an exhibition at Somerset House in London, opening in February and jointly organised by the National Archives and King’s College London, including four of his six known signatures, which are all slightly different.
By Me, William Shakespeare will include his will, the court papers relating to the audacious move when Shakespeare and his fellow actors dismantled a theatre on the north side of the Thames and rebuilt it as the Globe on the South Bank, and accounts showing payments from the royal treasury for Boxing Day performances of James I and Queen Anne.
The outgoing Globe director, Dominic Dromgoole, recently jokily claimed Shakespeare as a true Londoner – albeit conceding “some spurious claim” by Stratford-on Avon. Stratford, however, will be insisting that the town made and educated Shakespeare His old school room is being restored with a £1.4m Heritage Lottery grant, to open as a permanent visitor attraction.

Shakespeare bought the splendid New Place, the second best house in the town, where he died according to literary legend on St George’s Day, 23 April, the same day as his birth. “You don’t buy a house like New Place and not live there,” Paul Edmondson said. “The general public and many academics have consistently underestimated the importance of Stratford to Shakespeare.”

Edmondson believes that after Shakespeare bought the house in 1597, all his thinking time was spent there, and that the late plays, including The Tempest, were at least planned in his library and probably written there.
The Shakespeare Birthplace Trustdescribes New Place as “the jewel in the crown of the 400th anniversary celebrations”, but in truth it is more a mount with a gaping hole where the gem should be.
Shakespeare’s house was demolished 300 years ago, and the house that replaced it, probably incorporating some of the original fabric, was flattened in 1759 by an irascible clergyman, Francis Gastrell, in a row over taxes. He had already cut down Shakespeare’s mulberry tree, under which the writer is said to have sat and worked, because he was irritated by all the tourists peering into his garden.
The gap in the Stratford streetscape has never been filled, but a five-year archaeology project has peeled back the years, and the news that Shakespeare’s kitchen had been found in the partly surviving cellars went round the world. The whole site is being redisplayed for the anniversary, with the foundations marked and the garden restored.
“Without Stratford,” Edmondson said, “There would have been no Shakespeare.

Jean-Claude Carrière / Luis Buñuel

Luis Buñuel
Photo by Man Ray

Jean-Claude Carrière

He said he worked with me because he understood my voice. Everything I said was nonsense, but at least he understood.

Friday, December 30, 2016

How close were Marlowe and Shakespeare?

Shakespeare by Fernando Vicente
How close were Marlowe and Shakespeare?
The editors of the Oxford Complete Shakespeare believe Christopher Marlowe collaborated on the three Henry VI plays … but are they right?

John Dugdale

Friday 28 October 2016 13.00 BST
By crediting Christopher Marlowe this week as the previously unacknowledged co-writer of Shakespeare’s Henry VI trilogy, the New Oxford Shakespeare’s editors have added another portrayal of Marlowe – the handy helpmeet working with a less experienced writer, and apparently not seeking recognition for the results – to the wildly contrasting other versions of him (and of his relationship, if any, with Shakespeare) offered by novels, plays and screen fiction. Here are some of them:

Seminal but solo

In the conventional account of his career, Marlowe had written at least five plays, starting with his 1587 smash hit Tamburlaine, and the narrative poem Hero and Leander, by the time of his much-speculated-about death in a knife fight in Deptford in 1593 – but, unlike most of his Elizabethan peers, idiosyncratic Kit is not viewed as having added to his CV as a team-writer. Shakespeare, also born in 1564 but a comparatively late starter (he staged his first play in 1590/91), paid graceful homage to him in As You Like It and was clearly influenced by him in choice of subject and individual passages. But there is no documentary evidence of them meeting, let alone pooling resources.

Dream team collaborator

In the Oxford complete Shakespeare, published on 27 October, Marlowe is credited as co-writer on the title pages of all three parts of Henry VI for the first time in a Collected Works; and reportedly is regarded as the lead writer on Part One, the debut covering England’s defeats in France after Henry V’s death that gave the young Shakespeare a deceptive reputation as a jingoistic chronicler of war (hitherto Marlowe has been cited among possible collaborators on it, but with others seen as more likely). How the partnership worked is unclear: the academic editors behind the project have said the playwrights may have written together, or a draft could have been handed on or around (like team-authored scripts in Hollywood today) for additions and rewrites.

 Christopher Marlowe (1585), by an unknown artis

Masterclass mentor

The idea that the playwrights collaborated is anticipated in John Madden’s Oscar-winning Shakespeare In Love, scripted by Tom Stoppard, where Marlowe is Elizabethan theatre’s undisputed No 1 (“there’s no one like Marlowe”, says Henslowe, and almost all the audition scene hopefuls choose the same speech from Doctor Faustus). Yet to pen a single word of “Romeo and Ethel, the Pirate’s Daughter”, Joseph Fiennes’s Shakespeare, a struggling wannabe with writer’s block, is set on the course to greatness when Marlowe, played by Rupert Everett, suggests an Italian setting, romance entangled with a family feud and the death of Romeo’s best friend in a fight. Anthony Burgess’s Marlowe bio-novel, A Dead Man in Deptford (1993), similarly sees them as star writer and occasional sidekick, and specifically as partners on Henry VI Part One.

First advanced in the 19th century, the “Marlovian theory” – that the story of his death in 1593 was a ruse, and he continued writing plays billed as by Shakespeare – was turned into docu-fiction in Ros Barber’s verse novel The Marlowe Papers, winner of the 2013 Desmond Elliott prize. Facing a trial for heresy, Marlowe flees across the Channel and becomes an exile creating works supposedly conjured up by a merchant from the Midlands – and somehow it works. A comparable arrangement is talked about in Peter Whelan’s 1992 RSC play The School of Night (where they are friends but also rivals as both playwrights and suitors of a Dark Lady figure) as a solution to Kit’s arrest for his atheistic views and links to the titular free-thinkers; but in the end the official version of his death turns out to be true.

Bumped off by the Bard

Based on the best-known variant of the so-called “anti-Stratfordian” theory - that the plays attributed to Shakespeare were written by Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, Roland Emmerich’s 2011 film Anonymous posits that Marlowe stumbled on the secret and was killed by the provincial nobody (a boozy, devious young actor paid to be the De Vere conspiracy’s frontman once Ben Jonson declined the role) after confronting him. But not in 1593, apparently, as Kit is seen still alive in the late 90s.


Ben Elton’s BBC2 sitcom Upstart Crow wittily inverts the Marlovian theory, depicting Shakespeare as authoring Marlowe rather than vice versa. Marlowe, a philandering, swaggering Elizabethan 007 resembling Rik Mayall’s Lord Flashheart in Blackadder, needs to be seen as a poet as a cover story for his spying; so David Mitchell’s verbose Warwickshire family man produces plays for the playboy spook who gave him his break in the theatre including Tamburlaine and Doctor Faustus.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The funniest person I Know / Jayde Adams

Jayde Adams: ‘Absolutely Fabulous hasn't aged at all’

The standup and 2016 Edinburgh best newcomer nominee on what makes her laugh the most, from Brooklyn Nine-Nine to YouTubers

Rachel Aroesti
Friday 23 December 2016 13.00 GMT

The funniest person I know

John Sizzle. He’s a drag queen I gig with and he owns a pub called The Glory in Dalston. He’s more than a drag queen. He’s a comedian, but like one who is undercover. He’s also on Netflix in a movie about east London drag queens called Dressed As A Girl.

The funniest TV show I’ve ever seen

Brooklyn Nine-Nine. The Captain alone is very funny. And Ab Fab: it hasn’t aged at all.

The funniest book I’ve ever read

Yellow Pages. Why are they still printing it?

The funniest sketch I’ve ever seen

The Hobbyist. It was made by a couple of Welsh blokes in 2008 and it won a Virgin Media Shorts award back then.

The funniest thing that shouldn’t be funny

I find this YouTube generation stuff quite funny: these young people vlogging and making millions of pounds from something that essentially doesn’t exist and then flaunting their wealth from that “job” on their channels and thus making this generation of children believe that’s how it’s all meant to be. When I was their age I worked hard at menial jobs and earned no money at all and was treated badly by managers who hated me because I was young. Young people aren’t meant to be millionaires.

The funniest hairstyle I’ve ever had

I dyed it rainbow for my Sky horror short Bloody Tracy and then crimped it. I’m 32.

The funniest word

Ffa Pob. It’s Welsh for baked beans. I’m not Welsh but I lived there for a while. I met Charlotte Church the other day at Sink The Pink in east London and it was like meeting Michael Jackson.

The funniest item of clothing I’ve ever owned

My old Asda uniform that I like to wear in posh private members bars to make the management worry that working-class people have accidentally bought memberships.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Lucia Berlin / Angel’s Laundromat

Angel’s Laundromat

by Lucia Berlin

A tall old Indian in faded Levi’s and a fine Zuni belt. His hair white and long, knotted with raspberry yarn at his neck. The strange thing was that for a year or so we were always at Angel’s at the same time. But not at the same times. I mean some days I’d go at seven on a Monday or maybe at six thirty on a Friday evening and he would already be there.

Monday, December 26, 2016

A Manual for Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin, Reviewed

There is a moment in Berlin’s story, “Strays”:

“The world just goes along,” says Tina, a rehabbing heroin addict, “Nothing much matters, you know? I mean really matters. But then sometimes, just for a second, you get this grace, this belief that it does matter, a whole lot.”

Sunday, December 25, 2016

The 50 best films of 2016 in the UK: the full list

The 50 best films of 2016 in the UK: the full list

Our countdown of the Guardian film team’s favourite movies released in the UK is complete, topped by a strange and wonderful encounter

Tuesday 29 November 2016 13.06 GMT

1 Anomalisa

Charlie Kaufman's piercingly original puppet animation, an ineffably strange account of a motivacional speaker underging an identity crisis and his encounter with a fan.



Son of Saul

Traumatisingly plausible study of the brutalities of a Holocaust death camp, revolving around a Jewish Sonderkommando gas-chamber worker. An astonishing debut from Hungarian László Nemes. Read more


Emotionally intelligent alien-contact sci-fi from Sicario’s Denis Villeneuve,with Amy Adams as the unhappy linguist called in to try and decipher communications from mysterious extraterrestrial arrivals. Read more

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Murder Most Appealing / Black And Rendell

Murder Most Appealing: Black And Rendell

John Banville, when he’s not winning the Man Booker Prize and other literary hosannas, has become one of the world’s great mystery men. You might know him better in that vein by his pen name — Benjamin Black, author of four previous Dublin novels featuring the aptly named Quirke, a forensics specialist often enlisted by the Dublin police force in the 1950s.
Benjamin Black
Author John Banville, AKA Benjamin Black. (Photo by Barry McCall.)
A depressive man of uncontrollable appetites for women (mostly of the fatale variety), wine (and anything else with an elevated alcohol content), and food (the unhealthier the better), Quirke’s swagger doesn’t take a back seat to any fictional investigator’s out there. And Black’s literary style doesn’t take a back seat to any other mystery writer out there with the possible exception of Ruth Rendell.
Coincidentally, Black and Rendell both have new books out, Black with “Vengeance” and Rendell with “The St. Zita Society,” though Rendell is so prolific she always seems to have a new book out, sometimes under her pen name of Barbara Vine. To add to his bona fides, Black/Banville also made news recently by signing up with the Raymond Chandler estate to write a new Philip Marlowe book.
Black and Rendell both create worlds that their fans lust to spend time in, as do all mystery writers. What makes Black and Rendell more artful is that the worlds they create also have something to say about our world. Both are sharp observers of the darker recesses of class clashes across the pond, a big issue in both their new books. Rendell, along with the late Patricia Highsmith, is justly praised as a pioneer of the psychological mystery novel. Black is no slouch at investigating the darker recesses himself.
What makes Black and Rendell more artful is that the worlds they create also have something to say about our world. Both are sharp observers of the darker recesses of class clashes.
And in both, storytelling technique trumps detecting technique. You enter these worlds to partake of the authorial vision of the human parade, not because the murders are particularly grisly, the perpetrator so maniacal or difficult to guess, the denouement so tension-filled.
None of those book-selling niceties are on display in “Vengeance.” A successful businessman takes his partner’s lower-born son aboard his boat, pours out his sadness to the young man, takes out a gun and shoots himself. Quirke, whose upbringing allows him to navigate the Irish class structure, is called in to help with the investigation, and eventually figures out the shenanigans that led to this death and a later murder.
It’s not as good or issue-oriented as the two best in the series, “Christine Falls” and “A Death in Summer” — the actions of one or two of the main characters aren’t particularly believable — but it’s still a delicious read. Here’s a father and son — the lower-born partners — at the funeral of the suicide:
Jack Clancy was dragging on a cigarette as if he was suffocating and it was a little tube of oxygen. His son, looking more than ever like a bantamweight contender, was frowning at the sky, as if wistfully expecting something to swoop down out of it and carry him off to somewhere less grim than this balefully sunlit churchyard.
Black describes Ireland with as much detail as he does the Irish. What’s missing here, and in some of the other Quirke books, is a sense of time. You’re forced to remind yourself that the events are happening half a century ago. Part of that is because Black’s characters are timeless, but part of it is his neglect of period detail. No matter. Quirke and his friends and his enemies make for great company. Black is to mysteries what Guinness is to beer — rich, complex, satisfying.
Ruth Rendell
Ruth Rendell (Photo by Jerry Bauer, courtesy of Scribner)
Rendell, meanwhile, has taken to writing Altmanesque books that shift quickly from one character to another without a real central protagonist. It’s a device that usually works beautifully for Rendell, allowing her to survey the new multiculturalism of London with more than a touch of humor worked into the occasional horror.
She’s also as masterful as anyone in any genre of British literature at limning the class differences of her country, evoking little sympathy for the rich or sentimentality for the poor. Each class carries its baggage and Rendell delights in exposing their dirty underwear. Tastefully, of course.
“The St. Zita Society,” in that sense, is the perfect wedding of her new style and her old concerns with class as she focuses on a rich London street that still has an “Upstairs/Downstairs” quality to it. The society is actually a gathering of the servants — drivers, gardeners, au pairs, etc. — who meet regularly at a pub to compare the injustices and other issues of their lives outside of England’s one percent. (St. Zita is the patron saint of domestic servants.) It’s a wonderful stew as far as it goes, but I wish Rendell had gone further and taken a little more time to make those class differences as integral to the story as she has in previous books — notably “A Judgement in Stone” or a more recent multicultural affair, “Tigerlily’s Orchids.”
Still, the Pinteresque power plays that result when one of the servants helps one of the masters get away with murder, the clash between swinging London and Muslim morality, the psychopath who thinks the automated voice on his phone is his guardian angel, make for a good, Rendellian time. Even when the story isn’t hi-test, the literary miles per gallon sets an industry standard.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Top Ten Works of the 16th and 17th Centuries

William Shakespeare

Top Ten Works of the 16th and 17th Centuries

1. Hamlet by William Shakespeare (1600). The most famous play ever written, Hamlet tells the story of a melancholic prince charged with avenging the murder of his father at the hands of his uncle, who then married his mother and, becoming King of Denmark, robbed Hamlet of the throne. Told the circumstances of this murder and usurpation by his father’s ghost, Hamlet is plunged deep into brilliant and profound reflection on the problems of existence, which meditations delay his revenge at the cost of innocent lives. When he finally acts decisively, Hamlet takes with him every remaining major character in a crescendo of violence unmatched in Shakespearean­ theater.

2. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes (1605, 1615). Considered literature’s first great novel, Don Quixote is the comic tale of a ­ dream-­ driven nobleman whose devotion to medieval romances inspires him to go in quest of chivalric glory and the love of a lady who doesn’t know him. Famed for its hilarious antics with windmills and nags, Don Quixote offers timeless meditations on heroism, imagination, and the art of writing itself. Still, the heart of the book is the relationship between the deluded knight and his ­ proverb-­ spewing squire, Sancho Panza. If their misadventures illuminate human folly, it is a folly redeemed by simple love, which makes Sancho stick by his mad master “no matter how many foolish things he does.”

3. King Lear by William Shakespeare (1605). Considered one of Shakespeare’s four “core tragedies”—with Hamlet, Othello, and Macbeth—­King Lear commences with Lear, having achieved great age but little wisdom, dividing his kingdom among his three daughters in return for their proclamations of love for him. Two of his daughters, evil to the core, falsely profess their love, while Cordelia, his good and true daughter, refuses his request. Enraged, Lear gives his kingdom to his evil daughters and banishes Cordelia. Lear pays a dear price for this rash act. The play systematically strips him of his kingdom, title, retainers, clothes, and sanity in a process so cruel and unrelenting as to be nearly ­ unendurable.

4. Macbeth by William Shakespeare (1606). The shortest of Shakespeare’s tragedies, Macbeth runs along at breakneck speed, elevating Macbeth from Thane of Glamis to Thane of Cawdor to King of Scotland in two brief acts. It explores the psychology of ambition, abetted by supernatural forces, as Macbeth and his wife — one of the few successful marriages in the Shakespearean canon — engineer the murder of King Duncan and Macbeth’s usurpation of the Scottish throne. The pleasures of kingship are rare and brief, however, as the past comes to haunt the future, in ways obscurely prophesied by three witches, and Macbeth is brought down with a terrible swiftness matched only by the speed of his ascent.

5. Paradise Lost by John Milton (1667). Recasting the biblical story of Adam and Eve’s fall from grace, this epic poem details Satan’s origins, his desire for revenge, his transformation into the serpent, and his seduction of Eve. The poem extends our understanding of Christian myth in lush and challenging language. Though Milton seeks to explain “the ways of God to man,” he gives Satan — “Better to reign in hell than serve in heaven” — the best lines.

6. The Tempest by William Shakespeare (1610). The happy peace that Prospero, a powerful magician and former Duke of Milan, and his daughter Miranda share on an enchanted island is broken when a group of Prospero’s former enemies and friends is shipwrecked there. Through the services of his two servants, the base Caliban, to whom the island had originally belonged, and the sprite Ariel, Prospero exacts revenge upon his stranded enemies while engineering the marriage of his daughter to a young nobleman. Anticipating themes that would inform colonial and postcolonial literature — usurpation, bondage, rebellion — ­this was Shakespeare’s last play without a collaborator.

7. Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare (1595). The story of star-crossed Veronese lovers, this early romantic tragedy painfully depicts the fatal course of young lovers ruined by circumstances beyond their control, belonging as they do to two families who hate each other for long forgotten reasons. The intense violence at the heart of the play is matched only by the intense passion of Romeo and Juliet, who pay the ultimate price for the brief, intense, and pure love they shared.

8. Antony and Cleopatra by William Shakespeare (1606). One of Shakespeare’s late Roman plays, Antony and Cleopatra has a sense of fading grandeur about it, as the great warrior Antony succumbs to the exotic luxuries of Egypt and the heady sexual powers of her queen Cleopatra, thus neglecting his duties to Rome. The play has a kind of baroque richness to both plot and language as Antony and Cleopatra delight in seclusion while the Roman forces opposing them, led by the sober and ambitious Octavius Caesar, close in on the lovers. Cornered, the emperor and queen bring the play to a suicidal climax that exquisitely fuses sexual pleasure and death.

9. The Plays of Molière (1622–73). Even those who generally find French literature inscrutable enjoy Molière. Tartuffe, for example, the Christian hypocrite who attempts to seduce a young virgin, inhabits the same plane of immortality as Falstaff or Don Quixote. Molière’s comedy ranges from slapstick (The Doctor in Spite of Himself is as silly, and funny, as a Punch and Judy show) to the social satire of his greatest play, The Misanthrope, in which a man’s vow never to lie collides with society’s need for “white lies.” Molière impartially mocks both sides.

10. Henry V by William Shakespeare (1599). The final play in the Second Henriad (with Henry IV, Parts I and II), Henry V is, ostensibly, a celebration of Henry’s victory over his archenemy, the French, at Agincourt in 1415. Henry thus construed is a great national hero. But the play actually subverts, or at least compromises, such a reading. We see Henry collude with the church to prosecute a vicious campaign for nationalistic, rather than necessary, reasons. The brave king broods on the burdens of kingship and the righteousness of his cause, but then casually orders the slaughter of French prisoners. The epilogue looks forward to the reign of Henry VI, who lost all that Henry V gained and more, as if to question the worth of all this killing.

10 (tie). Othello, The Moor of Venice by William Shakespeare (1604). Othello centers on the black general of the Venetian army and his white wife, Desdemona, daughter of a Venetian senator. A brave and successful warrior essential to the security of Venice, Othello is extremely susceptible to jealousy, a weakness exploited by the villain Iago, whom Othello passes over for a lieutenancy in favor of another. Iago’s swift and lethal revenge is as brilliant to behold as it is terrible to watch, as good and innocent people die at the hands of a demonic genius in a play that refuses to satisfy the expectation that tragedy must reward virtue and punish vice.

TOP 10
The best LGBT sex in literature