Once upon a time I came across an interview or an article – I wish I could remember – in which a historical novelist gleefully told about placing in his latest novel’s prologue a handful of elements that could easily pass for anachronisms. He gleefully anticipated the mails, weblogs and reviews pointing out his “blunders”, and the joys of answering back that, in fact, a lack of written record for some thing before a certain date could not be taken as proof that the same thing did not exist… Continue reading
Yes – it’s the novel. Again. But the fact is, you see, that there is this rather grim thing happening in June 1594 – historically happening, I mean. I’ve been thinking about it for a while, because while not directly involving my hero, it has two sets of ties to his circumstances – one practical (and historically documented), and one, shall we say, psychological… Continue reading
Some more Julius Caesar, do you mind?
The fact is that, because of Shakespeare in Words, I had a special thrill when, in Act 3.I, the conspirators bathe their hands in dead Caesar’s blood – half barbaric ritual, half preparation to face the angry and upset crowds outside. Very much like actors before a play, they plan to appear with bloody hands and swords, shouting “Peace, freedom, and liberty.” Continue reading
So, the New Oxford Shakespeare credits Christopher Marlowe as co-author of the three Henry VI plays.
Well, actually fourteen more plays get co-authoring credits by someone else, and Arden of Faversham is added to the Canon, as well as one added scene in Kyd’s Spanish Tragedy… But – probably because he is more widely known, and because of the Authorship rumours ever since Ziegler – the idea of Kit Marlowe having had a hand in the Henrys is doing most of the splash.
It’s hard to read the Massacre at Paris without wondering a little at the slightly corner-cutting feel of it. It seems hastily done in its violence and gore, and there is the fact that it is considerably shorter than the average Marlowe play. So it has long be assumed that the Octavo edition we have must be the result of some actor’s imperfect memory.
And then there is the Collier Leaf. Continue reading
Exactly eight hundred years ago, King John of England lay dying in a bed in Newark Castle. He would die in the night, among rumours of poison, or “a surfeit of peaches” – while in truth it was a bad case of dysentery. Then again, most contemporary biographers would be eager to give him a death that was the product of either retribution or gluttony…
Poor John. Continue reading
Oh yes, I teach writing to adults, and some sort of drama classes to middle-graders – or rather a kind of semi-curricular program combining history, writing and drama. It’s a nice little thing, and it usually works well enough, and yet, while the final outcome has always been quite satisfactory so far, each time I arrive to the end confirmed in my certainty that I was not born to be a teacher. Continue reading
So the Times Literary Supplement was in Oxford for the HNS Conference, in the person of Michael Caines, who covered “us” with a nice set of musings about what goes on behind the curtain of historical fiction.
He quotes from an essay of Toby Litt’s, affectionately calling HF a “deeply bogus” oxymoron of genre, in that its trick is done by conjoining “what was with what might have been”. Continue reading
I told you about Bryher’s The Player’s Boy, didn’t I?
Well, to this lovely, melancholy novel my Paris Press edition adds a wonderful afterword, consisting of a letter that Bryher wrote to a friend to explain her fascination with Elizabethan literature and history. It’s a charming little piece about growing up, reading, cultivating one’s imagination, finding strength in literature and history, and being slightly eccentric… It’s well worth reading in its entirety.
My favourite part, though, has to be the final musing on the historian’s perspective: Continue reading
My acquaintance with Bryher‘s work is, I must say, limited to one book – but what a book!
The Player’s Boy tells the story of an apprentice who doesn’t become an actor in the early reign of James VI and I. Bryher had both a researcher’s interest and a passionate fondness for the golden era of Elizabethan theatre, and this novel tells it decline with a kind of haunting intenseness. Continue reading