Sunday, 17 April 2016

History





My bookshelves groan with the evidence of a full and varied education in History and English Literature coupled with a love of reading.  Much of my free time lately has been spent delving into my fat, well-used volume of The Complete Works of Shakespeare.  This has been for research purposes and to help find inspiration for my guest blog. I thumbed my way through Othello, trying to make sense of the notes I’d pencilled in the margins.  Neat, perfectly formed tiny writing from years, nay, decades ago, using a sharp, probably 3H pencil,  page after page.  And my underlining of some text, that must have been significant at the time.  It is lost on me now and the only thing I remember is sniggering inwardly at Shakespeare’s use of the words ‘tupping’ and ‘tupped’. These farmyard words and their meanings are the ones that stick in my childish mind.

I confess, with head bowed in shame that I haven’t always got on with the work of Mr Shakespeare.  I struggled with Hamlet, couldn’t get to grips with Henry V and I’ll never believe that Richard III was the tyrant that Shakespeare made him out to be. This might sound like blasphemy to fans of The Bard and I apologise, for what do I know? I tried my best, backed up with a fair amount of ‘fudging’ and help from caring classmates.  Many years later, something came into my possession which made a world of difference … a boxed set of DVDs with Laurence Olivier playing the lead character in six Shakespeare plays.  His ‘Heathcliff’ had taken my breath away when I was eleven and ever since, I’d had a soft spot for him.

“Now is the winter of our discontent, made glorious summer by this sun of York…” There was Olivier as Richard III, spitting out the words with venomous, clipped delivery. He looked menacing as he stooped and limped, dark eyes glaring from a twisted face. The make-up department had excelled. I was smitten.I wanted to know the truth about Richard III. I didn’t want to believe he was a cruel, vindictive king who ordered the murder of his young nephews and had an incestuous relationship with his niece. Apart from genealogy facts and succession to the throne, his life seems shrouded in a mystery of contradictions. Written accounts by others bearing truth or fiction. Perhaps Shakespeare had it right all along and, was he given information from Elizabeth I or is that another rumour?Laurence Olivier’s acting brought Richard III and other difficult characters to life and helped me to find an acceptable level of understanding in the history plays. It won’t improve my grades, but it’s never too late to learn or improve. I think a visit to Leicester Cathedral is in order, to pay respect to an English king who set me on a knowledge seeking journey that hasn’t ended.

A short poem:

Warwickshire gentleman known as Will
Looking thoughtful with parchment and quill.
Filling the hours of endless days
Composing sonnets and writing plays.
Clever and witty, word after word
But what was his spin on Richard III?

Thank you for reading, Pamela Winning.
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1 comments:

Adele said...

I can hear your voice so well when I read this blog. Lovely Pamela.