Saturday, 22 September 2007

Faustus on the Radio

BBC Radio Three are broadcasting Doctor Faustus, starring the very lovely Paterson Joseph as Faustus and Ray Fearon (who was a hugely impressive Othello at the RSC a few years back) as Mephistopheles. It'll be broadcast on Sunday 23 September 2007, 20:00-21:40, and will apparently be available to listen again online until 30 September.

Details and extra things here:

Monday, 17 September 2007

The Changeling on Tour

The Changeling
Thomas Middleton and William Rowley

On tour: 28 September - 1 December 2007

Beatrice-Joanna wants to marry Alsemero but her father has other plans. Meanwhile, her servant - the hideous Deflores - would do anything to win her. In return for killing the man her father has chosen as her husband, Deflores names his price - Beatrice-Joanna herself. At first repulsed, her desire is ignited and their torrid alliance thrusts them on a journey of lust, lunacy and death.

Often hailed as the greatest Jacobean tragedy, The Changeling is an electrifying mix of violence, family duty and sex.

This new production features period costume designed by Mark Bouman, a stunning stage design by Paul Wills and is directed by ETT's Director, Stephen Unwin.

A co-production with Nottingham Playhouse Theatre Company.

Info. here:

[The Changeling seems to be flavour of the month of late... The recent Cheek By Jowl production was pretty stunning, and I've also seen decent versions from
Mamamissi (at the Southwark Playhouse) and Bristol's Tobacco Factory (at the Barbican). It's easy to see why it's so (comparatively) popular -- it's a fabulous play -- and I don't want to sound ungrateful... or wilfully obscurantist... but... wouldn't it be peachy to see a different Middleton or Rowley for a change? Like A Game at Chess, or All's Lost by Lust (which was rather spectacular in a staged reading at the Globe a couple of years ago), or even a completely different early modern tragedy? One that isn't The Duchess of Malfi, or Faustus, or 'Tis Pity She's a Whore?

Suppose I'll have to wait for that major revival of The Fatal Dowry...

Sunday, 9 September 2007

Library Meme

I have a slight fear of memes - all a bit intimate for this antisocial soul - but I like this Library Meme (as seen on The Little Professor).

Here’s my current hoard:

• Helen Cooper, The English Romance in Time: Transforming Motifs from Geoffrey of Monmouth to the Death of Shakespeare (OUP, 2004)
• Philip Schwyzer, Archaeologies of English Renaissance Literature (OUP, 2007)
• Nicholas Dames, Amnesiac Selves: Nostalgia, Forgetting, and British Fiction, 1810-1870 (OUP, 2001)
• Craufurd Tait Ramage, Beautiful Thoughts from Latin Authors with English Translations (Liverpool: Howell, 1877)
• Henry Thomas Riley, Dictionary of Latin Quotations, Proverbs, Maxims and Mottos, Classical and Medieval, Including Law Terms and Phrases. With a Selection of Greek Quotations (London, 1860)
• Marjorie Keniston McIntosh, Working Women in English Society, 1300-1620 (CUP, 2005)
• Rozsika Parker, The Subversive Stitch Embroidery and the Making of the Feminine, 2ed. (London: The Women’s Press 1996)
• Laura Gowing, Domestic Dangers: Women, Words, and Sex in Early Modern London (OUP, 1996)
• Alice Clark, Working Life of Women in the Seventeenth Century, 3ed. with a new introduction by A.L. Erickson (London: Routledge, 1992)
• Keith Thomas, Religion and the Decline of Magic: Studies in Popular Beliefs in Sixteenth- and Seventeenth-Century England (London: Weidenfeld and Nicholas, 1971)
• Diane Watt, Secretaries of God: Women Prophets in Late Medieval and Early Modern England (Woodbridge: D.S. Brewer, 2001)
Terence Vol.1, trans. John A. Barsby (Harvard UP, 2001)
Juvenal and Persius, ed. and trans. Susanna Morton Braund (Harvard UP, 2004)
• Terence, Comoediae (Londini: excudebat C. Whittingham, 1854)

The (frankly rather horrifying) eclecticism solely to be attributed to intellectual incoherence – though I’m as prone to that as any other butterfly minded early modernist – but a symptom of scholarly editing. A couple of the monographs are related to Book II, but most of this stuff is littering my shelves because I’m trying to write commentary notes on subjects that I know relatively little about and feel the need to rapidly swot up on. (Viz. Beautiful Thoughts from Latin Authors with English Translations, grabbed in the hope that it would help me to track down some Latin quotations. I went to a large, rural comprehensive school. We did six weeks of Latin – that’s half the time we spent doing metalwork... though you should see my welding...)

Editing is a weird activity. It’s also one that increasing numbers of us (especially early modernists, I think, but I’m ready to be corrected) seem to engage in, but few of us really talk or write about. This might be because much of it (collation, glossary notes, etc.) is tedious in the extreme. But at other times it’s oddly compelling – like trying to solve a crossword puzzle with only half of the clue – and it leads you into areas that you never intended to research and books that you never thought you’d need. (Viz. – again – Beautiful Thoughts from Latin Authors with English Translations.)

I wonder if it’s possible to identify the play from this list alone? I’d say yes, but its pretty obscure, even by my standards...

Saturday, 28 July 2007

Double Geek

Watched the first two episodes of Heroes on BBC2 on Wednesday. Was obscurely pleased to see that one of the actors is called Thomas Dekker. (Incidentally, the [not wholly accurate] Wikipedia article on the real TD includes this fabulous non-sequitur: 'When Dekker began writing plays, Thomas Nashe and Thomas Lodge were still alive; when he died, John Dryden had already been born.' Well, um, yes. So?)

Wednesday, 25 July 2007

Late Overflowings of Waters

Obviously the devastation caused by heavy rainfall and inadequate water-prevention policies is not a subject for cheap humour. But wouldn't it be so much better if floods in general were reported as they were 400 years ago? Instead of 'Sodden Oxfordshire is Braced for Worse to Come' (The Guardian), 'Flood Peril of 3m Homes' (Daily Mail) or even 'Flood Damage Shocks Queen' (The Sun), we could have:

Lamentable newes out of Monmouthshire in VVales Contayning, the wonderfull and most fearefull accidents of the great ouerflowing of waters in the saide countye, drowning infinite numbers of cattell of all kinds, as sheepe, oxen, kine and horses, with others: together with the losse of many men, women and children, and the subuersion of xxvi parishes in Ianuary last 1607


Miracle vpon miracle. Or A true relation of the great floods which happened in Couentry, in Lynne, and other places, on the 16. and 17. dayes of Aprill last past, in this present yeare of our Lord God, 1607


More strange nevves: of wonderfull accidents hapning by the late ouerflowings of waters, in Summerset-shire, Gloucestershire, Norfolke, and other places of England with a true relation of the townes names that are lost, and the number of persons drowned, with other reports of accidents that were not before discouered: happening about Bristow and Barstable

Or even

Gods vvarning to His people of England, by the great overflowing of the waters or floudes lately hapned in South-Wales and many other places vvherein is declared the great losses and wonderfull damages that hapned thereby, by the drowning of many townes and villages to the vtter vndooing of many thousandes of people

And every disaster would be easier to bear if it came with woodcut illustrations:

The people might be fleeing to the hills and trees -- many of them leaving their babies to see out the flood on their own; the animals, on the other hand, are clearly thrilled by the whole thing. The people who seem to be riding their houses to safety make me suspect that these illustrations are not wholly to scale. The first picture appears on three different flood pamphlets (this is a compact sub-genre, I suspect) in 1607; the other seems to be unique to God's Warning.

Now I come to think about it, though, some things haven't changed. The power of animals to invoke watery pathos was much in evidence on the BBC the other night, including a remarkably insouciant golden retriever paddling its way through an oozy, overflowing Severn; meanwhile, in London, our local "newspaper", the Evening Standard, excelled itself with this:

Picture from

At least (and I realised that I may be speaking too soon) we're not blaming God this time...

Wednesday, 18 July 2007

Incestuous Doings in Cambridge

Young Actors Company presents
Tis Pity She's A Whore
by John Ford
Wednesday 18th - Saturday 21st July
Wed & Thu £8/£6, Fri & Sat £9/£7

Free online booking ( or ring 01223 300085

‘With admiration I beheld this Whore
Adorned with beauty such as might restore’

The Young Actors Company (formerly Whizz Kids) return to the ADC with 'Tis Pity She's a Whore, a tragedy of religious skepticism, incestuous love and revenge. Written by John Ford and originally performed in the seventeenth century, it was the first major English play to take as its theme fulfilled incest between brother and sister.

The play's treatment of the subject of incest made it one of the most controversial works in English literature. Until well into the twentieth century, critics were usually harsh in their condemnations, but since then there has been a better understanding of the complexities and ambiguities of the work.

A unique chance to see this rarely-performed classic tragedy.

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

I wanna thank my supervisor, my agent...

Here's a thing. I've been looking at a few dissertation samples on Proquest, and it's struck me that almost everyone else in the world is better at writing acknowledgements than I am. It's not that I deliberately write dry, dutiful and oddly ungrateful-sounding acknowledgements, I just get overcome by embarassment whenever I start typing. When one's brain seems to be squirming in one's head it's difficult to summon anything better than "I am extremely grateful..." Having looked at pages of acknowledgements that manage to be fulsome (in the good sense) sincere and witty (damn them), I'm suffering from severe acknowledgements-envy.

And I don't think it's a Brits vs. North Americans thing - I do know of one British institution where acknowledgements are frowned on as "pretentious", but I also saw a US dissertation that had none at all. Besides, m' learned supervisor manages to write screeds.

Sigh. Maybe there's some kind of course?