Friday, April 29, 2011

The Royal Wedding

It's the royal wedding today and as an Englishman I feel I have a duty to say that I don't support this sort of thing. In fact, I feel quite embarrassed about the whole affair. To see grown men and women getting in such a tizz over a wedding between two people they don't even know is just depressing. I can only apologise for the behaviour of my fellow country people.

I recently saw a poll showing that 63% of the British population support the royal family. How sad that so many can support an institution that essentially flies in the face of the notion that all people are created equal. I've come to realise that it's now likely that I'll probably live all my years and die under a monarchy. As a child I never realised just how stagnant Britain is. I had hopes, but when there's so much popular support for the status quo it doesn't offer much room for optimism.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Thomas Lord Cromwell

I’ve just finished reading ‘The Life and Death of Thomas Lord Cromwell.’ This is a play that was once attributed to William Shakespeare, but has since been judged by experts to be the work of someone else.

I really enjoyed this play and found it quite charming. Although the overall feel is quite unlike most Shakespeare and somewhat stilted, I still detected the odd flourish of greatness in its writing style. To me this suggests that it could possibly be an early Shakespeare work, written before the man had found his true craft and confidence. On the other hand, of course, it could have had nothing whatsoever to do with him.

I should also mention that the play is quite populist and clearly has an anti-Catholic sentiment. So it would be quite interesting if Shakespeare had wrote it, as it would go someway to disproving the theory that he was a Catholic. A theory that’s always seemed a bit odd to me, as I’ve never felt a single droplet of Catholicism in all the Shakespeare that I’ve read thus far. In fact, I find it hard to believe that any intelligent man of learning, living in England at that time, could have chosen to be Catholic. Protestant possibly, atheist maybe, agnostic more likely, but a practising Catholic - a bit of a stretch.

Anyway, regardless of all this, I really liked the play and feel it’s a shame that it isn’t more well known. Whoever wrote it, it serves as a window into an important period of English history. Shakespeare or no Shakespeare.

Addendum (Jan 2012):

I recently came across this when I was reading about ‘The History of Sir John Oldcastle,’ another play from the Shakespeare Apocrypha. It concerns Anthony Munday, an English dramatist who was supposedly in part responsible for writing ‘Sir John.’ He lived quite an interesting life and his Wikipedia entry mentions that he and a companion were robbed ‘on the road from Boulogne to Amiens.’
“By 1578 he was in Rome. In the opening lines of his English Romayne Lyfe (1582) he states that he went abroad solely in order to see strange countries and to learn foreign languages; but he may have been a spy sent to report on the English Jesuit College in Rome, or a journalist who meant to make literary capital out of the designs of the English Catholics resident in France and Italy. He says that he and his companion, Thomas Nowell, were robbed of all they possessed on the road from Boulogne to Amiens, where they were helped by an English priest, who entrusted them with letters to be delivered in Reims.”
This reminded me a little of the passage in ‘Thomas Lord Cromwell’ were he and his serving man Hodge get robbed for all their worth by the Banditti whilst on the continent. I couldn’t help but wonder if this true tale served as some type of inspiration for the fictional story. Mind you, saying that I’m sure thievery of this sort was probably quite a common hazard for travellers in those days. Either way I thought it was something worth keeping behind the ear.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Shakespeare Apocrypha

I’ve recently read ‘Pericles, Prince of Tyre’ and ‘The London Prodigal.’ These are both plays that were once attributed to Shakespeare, but are now considered to be the work of other writers. The general opinion is (according to Wikipedia) that ‘Pericles, Prince of Tyre’ was written in part by Shakespeare and in part by someone else and that ‘The London Prodigal’ was entirely the work of another author.

As I’ve now read them I might as well throw in my two cents. To me, ‘Pericles’ feels very much like a Shakespeare play, albeit a poor, unrevised one. Personally I wouldn’t be surprised if this was entirely the work of Shakespeare. ‘The London Prodigal’ on the other hand does seem quite odd and out of keeping with what you’d normally expect from Shakespeare. It seems quite earthy and common, a bit like a British sitcom from the 1960’s. Mind you, most of Shakespeare’s stuff reminds of British situation comedies, and I must admit I read his plays in much the same way I watch episodes of ‘Dad’s Army’ or ‘Black Books.’

Anyway, as you can tell, I’m not really qualified to make a judgement about whether Shakespeare wrote these plays or not, but I should say that I worry about experts making this judgement as well. It seems like we’re discrediting these plays based on nothing but stylistic analysis. To me, saying that Shakespeare didn’t write ‘The London Prodigal’ because it isn’t like ‘Hamlet’ or ‘Romeo and Juliet’ is a bit like saying that the Beatles didn’t write ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ because it doesn’t sound like ‘Love Me Do.’

Personally, I remain open-minded about who wrote these, as well as the other, contested Shakespeare works. Even in ‘The London Prodigal’ I think there’s enough there to suggest that it could have been Shakespeare who wrote it. Hopefully, when I read some of the other apocryphal works I’ll get a clearer picture. Next up, ‘Thomas Lord Cromwell.’

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Two Pence Piece Value

The current scrap value of the copper in a British 2p coin (minted pre-1992) is now 4.04p

The scrap metal value of a 2p coin (pre-1992) is now 4.04p, 13.6% more than at this time last year.
And the value of the (cupro-nickel) 5p coin is now 2.75p, 7.9% more.