Friday, 17 October 2014

1564 and 1960 - an Anniversary and a Birthday

15th October 1960

Presents, cards, breakfast, ingredients for a cake

So it was my birthday on 15th October. I was born in 1960 at 2:30pm in the afternoon in the front room of what was then 122 Linton Road on Eastmoor Estate in Wakefield. The house later became a different number because more houses were built.

Be More Molly and Marge

So I had some prezzies and got some great cards from family and friends – thank you, all – and watched the film Fargo in the afternoon, with the family. (“There’s more to life than a little money, you know? Don’tcha know that? And here ya are. And it’s a beautiful day. Well, I just don’t understand it.”)
Frances McDormand as Marge Gunderson

Some films (Fargo is one of them) contain characters that you never forget and the final words of Marge Gunderson played by Frances McDormand capture a universal human impulse that turns the film into a piece of philosophy. It IS hard to understand why some of the characters behave the way they do when the world is essentially such a kind and wonderful place to be. One of my presents is the box set of the TV series of Fargo which I’ve already seen in bits but which I’m sure I’ll watch plenty more times – and for every Lorne Malvo or Lester Nygaard, there is a Molly Solverson or a Gus Grimly. Molly in the TV series is the moral equivalent of Marge in the film – and as I celebrate my birthday I hope to Be More Molly/Marge – I’m sure it’s what Shakespeare’s philosophy espouses.

Alison Tolman as Molly Solverson

450 years ago Shakespeare was born (23.04.1564)

Did Shakespeare know his body of work would contain so many themes? Did he think of his work as having a coherent whole? An overarching style and tone? I think I’m right in saying that the range of ideas in his work had never accumulated in one person’s work before his writing career and has never been surpassed since, by any writer in any language. Shakespeare deals with just about every theme and aspect of human life known in England at the time, all of which are still relevant. 

Antony Sher as Richard III

Every theme under the sun and moon

As a teacher I sometimes challenged students to present a situation to me from a modern TV show or film and 9 times out of 10 I could name the play where the same situation occurs between Shakespearian characters or the same theme is explored in one of the 40-ish plays or in one of his sonnets or poems. Everything’s there:
Kinnear, Lester, Iago, Othello
Every kind of Love and every kind of Hate
Passion, Compassion, Rage and Destruction
Comedy, Wit, Lunacy, Folly, Insanity and Madness
Jealousy, Ambition, Greed, Hypocrisy and Fear
Hope, Mercy, Loyalty, Courage and Strength
Parents and Children, Brothers and Sisters
Husbands and Wives, Friends and Enemies
Neighbours and Strangers, Masters and Servants
Cross-dressing, Gender-bending
Sex and Procreation, Lust and Desire
Violence and Tenderness, Hurt and Comfort
Injury and Healing, Grief and Joy
Art and Nature, Illusion and Reality
Music, Song, Dance and Spectacle
Duels, Fights, Battles, Tricks, Robberies
Disguises, Surprises, Spoofs and Storms
Shipwrecks, Constructions, Weather, Nature
Fields, Flowers, Moors and Cliffs
Hovels, Houses, Palaces and Castles
Ships, Sea, Islands, Deserts, Forests, Beaches
Venice, Verona, Mantua, Vienna, Messina, Milan, Rome, Florence, Padua
Sicilia, Bohemia, Athens, Ephesus, Troy, Tyre, Navarre, Paris
Britain, Scotland, Cyprus, Illyria, Belmont
Miracles and Magic, Dogs and Bears
Gods and Goddesses
Shepherds and Clowns
The Supernatural and the Down-to-earth
Dreams and Nightmares
Prophecies and Curses
The Subconscious and the Light-hearted
The Rude and the Crude
Elegance and Beauty
Disability and Power
Charisma and Humility
Winning and Losing
Revenge and Forgiveness
Glorious Triumph and Abject Failure
Medicine and Gardening
Education and the Law
Health and Happiness
Problems of Self-government and National Government
Rebellion, Riot and Conformity
Freedom and Slavery
Republicanism, the Monarchy,
Totalitarianism, Anarchy
The Price of Fame and the Cost of Responsibility
The Personal and the Universal
The Silly and the Serious
Birth and Rebirth, Murder and Resurrection
The Sadness of Disease
The Inevitability of Death
Youth and Age, Growth and Decay
The way we live our lives as individuals,
as families, as friends, as lovers, as enemies,
as citizens under the same sun
And our search for the meaning of life

Happy 450th anniversary of your birth, Shakespeare (just a couple of years to the 400th anniversary of your death.) Lucky birthday me to have your work as my retirement playground.
Di Caprio, Danes, Thompson, Branagh, Romeo, Juliet, Beatrice, Benedick